The Vikings sit at 3-0 and are one of five undefeated teams left in the league thanks in part to a stout defense and contributions from players throughout the roster.
But Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback wrote that man patrolling Minnesota's sideline might be the biggest reason for the hot start.
Vrentas said Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer's simple yet no-nonsense approach has helped Minnesota to its first 3-0 start since 2009.
The identity that Zimmer wanted to establish when he took over the team in 2014 started with the simple idea that winning is the result of playing fundamentally sound football. A deep roster and an aggressive trade for Sam Bradford helped the Vikings withstand critical personnel losses, but Zimmer's philosophy has been the driving force behind their early-season success.
"We are going to be technicians, and we are going to do our job better than anyone else in the league," says defensive line assistant Andre Patterson, who has coached with Zimmer at four different pro and college stops since 1988. "It doesn't matter who is out there, your technique and doing your job is going to allow us to be successful. So when somebody goes down, and the next guy goes in, we all believe that guy is going to do things correctly. Your players don't panic, and no one thinks, 'I've gotta make more plays because someone is missing.' "
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph spoke with Vrentas about Zimmer's team-first mentality, saying that Zimmer taught him to contribute something on every play, even if it didn't mean catching a lot of passes.
Rudolph said Zimmer's leadership and coaching style are a key reason why the Vikings sit atop the NFC entering Week 4.
In a league where style is often valued over substance, it took Zimmer 14 years working as a defensive coordinator before getting a head-coaching gig. You can't always see good coaching, but you can see the results. Zimmer inherited a team that won just five games the season before he arrived in Minnesota, but his record is now 21-14.
"You obviously know he is a great defensive mind and was an unbelievable defensive coordinator through his whole career," Rudolph says. "But I don't think other teams were able to see the way he leads men and the way he gets us to play on Sunday. It's hard to figure that out through the course of an interview; I don't know that other teams could see that deep into him as a person over a couple hours."
If people couldn't see it before, it's become clear over the first three weeks of this season.
Joseph developing all-around game on defensive line
Zimmer challenged Linval Joseph at training camp, saying he wanted the nose tackle to improve his pass rush skills to go along with his run-stuffing prowess.
Joseph has responded to the call, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, with 3.0 sacks through the first three games.
*He got former Heisman winner Marcus Mariota of Tennessee in the first game, two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay in the second and on Sunday sacked Carolina's Cam Newton, who has MVP and Heisman trophies. *
"I'm doing my job," Joseph said. "I'm delivering."
Joseph, who was named the Vikings' Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, had 0.5 sacks last season. His career-high is 4.0, which he recorded for the Giants in 2012.
Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison pointed out Joseph's strength as a big reason for his increased sack total.
"We call him 'Big Goon' for a reason," Griffen said. "He's probably the strongest dude I've ever met in my whole life. He can run. He can hit. He's just a monster, pure monster."
Added Robison: "The son of gun throws people around like they're rag dolls. He just imposes his will. At the end of the day, you look at a lot of the rushes he's got, he's just pushing guys out of the way."
Joseph will go up against his former team on Monday Night Football when the Vikings host the Giants at 7:30 p.m. (CT) on Oct. 3.