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Monday Morning Mailbag: Pushing For The Playoffs

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This team is looking great. I believe the Vikings are flying under the radar and really could win this division. If the Vikings could just get their offense going a little more, I think with the defense we have we are a legit contender to be in the playoffs. What are your thoughts? -- John  San Diego

The Vikings are just one of five teams in the NFC with five or more wins and they are one game behind the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers. By definition, they are contenders for the playoffs. But the playoffs don't start for a long time, and right now the team's focus must be solely on the next game – and that is a home game against the 4-3 St. Louis Rams on Sunday. If the Vikings want to reach their goals for the season, then all three phases need to keep improving. The defense has been great, no doubt, but I wouldn't give them a pass from having to improve just as the offense has to improve. The offense stepped up big time in Chicago by putting together a game-tying TD drive after Jay Cutler and Co. drove 74 yards in 14 plays to take the lead.

It's nice for a long-time fan to see us pull off close wins like that! But what's going on with Teddy Bridgewater? He missed on at least a half dozen throws on Sunday and has been up and down from game-to-game. -- Tyrone New York

The key takeaway for me from Bridgewater's performance on Sunday is that he played his best at the most critical time. He led two scoring drives in the final two minutes to put 10 points up on the board and help send the Vikings home with their first win at Soldier Field since 2007. Sure, it'd be great to see an air-tight performance for all four quarters in every game. But this is the NFL, and that's a very hard standard to reach. Often times, things don't go the way you intend and then it's all about surviving, adjusting and seeing if you can come out with a win at the end. That's what Bridgewater did on Sunday. I think Sunday's game will be a step forward for him because he made some mistakes he can learn from and he also came through in the clutch. Coaches and players strive for consistency, but the up and down from game-to-game performances are just a part of life in the NFL. There are a lot of good teams and the margin between good enough and not good enough is razor thin, and that's why it's hard to author consistent performances from week-to-week.

Is it just me or did the Vikings run the ball a lot better against the Bears? -- Randy Washburn Sioux City, IA

It's not just you. The Vikings did run the ball much better on Sunday and a lot of credit goes to the offensive line for that. Adrian Peterson registered his 45th career 100-yard game and Jerick McKinnon chipped in with two runs for 18 yards. All told, Vikings RBs combined for 126 yards on 23 carries and eight of the team's 17 1st downs were picked up on the ground. Credit also goes to the offensive line for the way they protected Bridgewater. After allowing 16 sacks in their first three road games, the Vikings offensive line allowed just one sack on Sunday.

How has TJ Clemmings done in games so far? I haven't really noticed offensive line play since the plays are focused on running backs or the receivers. -- Mitch Friesenborg

We have to remember, Clemmings is a rookie. The original design was for Clemmings to learn behind veteran Phil Loadholt. But then during the preseason Loadholt was lost for the year and Clemmings was thrust into action. Given those circumstance, Clemmings has done a nice job. He's gone against some very good players, too – Kansas City's Justin Houston, Denver's Von Miller and Chicago's Pernell McPhee. We are never talking about Clemmings after games, and that's a good sign because it means the players he's defending aren't doing things to disrupt the offense that would cause us to talk about the offensive line.

Do you think the Vikings are reaching out to Cleveland regarding the rumored availability of some of their offensive linemen? Or is it too late in the season to try to bring in new linemen? -- Rob Walker United Kingdom

I don't know if the front office is working the phones in advance of Tuesday's trade deadline, but right now the team can be pleased with the way the offensive line is playing. Matt Kalil was outstanding in Chicago and is off to a great start on the season, it's probably no coincidence that Kalil is playing well now that Brandon Fusco has moved from RG to LG, Mike Harris has done a nice job filling in at Fusco's old spot, Joe Berger has filled in admirably for John Sullivan at center, and rookie TJ Clemmings is doing a nice job holding down the RT spot in place of Phil Loadholt. I guess I wouldn't rule anything out with GM Rick Spielman, but I don't sense anything imminent on the trade front.

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