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Handling 'Wild Swing' Part of NFL Life

Only one team in the NFL is already guaranteed of a postseason trip. Carolina (12-0) clinched the NFC South after outlasting New Orleans in a wild one.

The Vikings would be a Wild Card team and visit Washington (5-7) for the first round because the Redskins hold a three-way tiebreaker with the Giants and Eagles.

With four games remaining in the regular season, including a visit to 10-2 Arizona on Thursday, much movement can happen for Minnesota in the race for the playoffs.

The Vikings exceeded expectations of some in opening 7-2 but have dropped two of their past three, including a 38-7 home loss to the Seahawks Sunday.

Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *noted there's been plenty of past teams with similar losses:

*The Vikings probably aren't a Super Bowl team. But don't let Sunday's debacle quash all hope. *

*For starters, getting to and winning a Super Bowl doesn't require sustained greatness. Good teams that get hot and healthy at the right time have gone to Super Bowls and even won them. *

Craig pointed out a Colts team that gave up 375 yards and four touchdowns to Jacksonville in December 2006 before winning Super Bowl XLI; a 7-5 Steelers team that won eight straight, including Super Bowl XL after making the playoffs as the AFC's sixth seed. Craig also noted the 2011 Giants who won XLVI, the 2008 Cardinals that made it to XLIII and the 2007 Giants who opened the season 0-2.

*NFL players get used to the wild swings, knowing that it happens to every team. *

"You have to be able to move on, move ahead and understand that there's another team coming to do what everybody else wants to do: Take advantage of us," Sharrif Floyd said.

Three of the past four Super Bowl winners have lost a regular season game by at least 25 points:

--2011 Giants 49-24 at New Orleans to fall to 6-5 with their third of four straight losses

--2012 Ravens 43-13 at Houston to fall to 5-2; also lost 34-17 at home against Denver in a stretch where Baltimore lost four of its final five games to finish 10-6

--2014 Patriots 41-14 at Kansas City to fall to 2-2 before winning 10 of their final 12; this game is most notable in this market for helping Paul Charchian win the Preposterous Statement Tournament VII on KFAN.com

Still reeling about penalty

The fisherman in Brian Robison didn't want to let hard-to-catch quarterback Russell Wilson get away during a sack. Robison's attempt to make sure the play was over, however, drew a flag from officials. From Tim Yotter of Viking Update:

*With the Seahawks up 7-0 and driving inside the red zone, Robison hauled down quarterback Russell Wilson for an 8-yard sack. But as Wilson appeared to be on the ground but struggling to keep running, Robison maintained his grip around Wilson's legs. The quarterback got up and ran into the end zone when Robison heard a whistle and let go. Robison was flagged for unnecessary roughness and was still bothered by the call. *

After having time to stew on the penalty, Robison maintained he *wouldn't have changed anything about his actions on that play. *

"Absolutely not. I did everything I was supposed to do," he said. "I didn't feel like he was down and obviously he didn't feel like he was down because he tried to take off running. I felt that he was taking off running and I didn't let go until I heard a whistle. So when I heard the whistle I let go. That's the refs call. They thought they made the right call and it's just what we've got to roll with."

Robison referenced a play from the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game when Bucs QB Jameis Winston scrambled on third-and-19 late in the fourth quarter, got 10 yards downfield and was met by two defenders. Winston landed on top of one, braced his fall by putting a hand down, was knocked backwards by a third defender and onto his feet, then weaved through traffic for a 20-yard gain and a first down. Four plays later, the Bucs scored the game-winning touchdown.

Protection a focus

Protection of the pocket is a shared responsibility that can be impacted by multiple factors, but the offensive line is shouldering a load this week. Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press wrote:

To be sure, there are too many moving parts in the scheme to heap all the blame on the feet of the offensive line. [Teddy] Bridgewater has been hesitant and indecisive in the pocket. Receivers have failed to get open. Defenses are deploying an eighth defender into the tackle box, typically a safety, to spy Peterson out of the backfield.

"As an offensive line, we're taking it personally that we're not giving Teddy enough time to develop plays and make his reads," left guard Brandon Fusco said Monday. "It's going to have to be an emphasis the rest of the season.

It's got to be a lot better. We'll put it on our shoulders and see where it takes us."

*According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater has been pressured on 47.4 percent of his dropbacks -- more than any NFL quarterback. *

Yards before contact problematic

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com noted the correlation between teams who have beaten the Vikings this season and success running the football. Missed tackles by Minnesota early in plays created bigger gains for Seattle.

*The teams to beat the Minnesota Vikings this season have generally been the ones that have been able to exploit their run defense. With four defensive starters out for the Vikings by the midpoint of the first quarter on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks had little trouble doing just that. *

Seattle rushed for 173 yards on 36 attempts on Sunday, taking advantage of a depleted Vikings defense that couldn't handle battering ram Thomas Rawls or the fleet-footed Russell Wilson, who added 51 yards on nine attempts to Rawls' 101 yards on 19 carries. The Vikings allowed 110 yards before contact on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and missed a total of 13 tackles as a team, according to Pro Football Focus.

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