EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It's no secret that every NFL team wants to get off to a quick start and get an early lead on Sundays.
Playing from ahead is certainly a better recipe for success than falling behind, a mantra that coaches preach each and every week.
The Vikings likely will place an extra emphasis on snagging an early advantage on the scoreboard Sunday against Washington.
Minnesota has struggled at times in the first quarter this season, as its 16 points are tied for the second-fewest scored in opening periods. Buffalo has only totaled six points in eight first quarters.
Washington's defense, meanwhile, has been stingy early. The unit has allowed just 16 first-quarter points, which is tied for the third fewest in the league.
"I think it's going to come down to who has a faster start," said Vikings running back McKinnon. "I know sometimes this year we've started faster than other times.
"We've got our hands full," McKinnon said. "We'll have our work cut out for us, so it's going to be all about coming out and executing, not getting behind the sticks and not giving them any advantage. It's going to be a good one."
The Vikings have scored just one first-quarter touchdown this season, a 1-yard run by rookie running back Dalvin Cook in Week 3 against Tampa Bay. Minnesota has settled for field goals in three other games and has been shut out in the opening quarter four times.
Washington has been especially strong on the opening possession, as it has allowed just one score on the first drive all season — a 58-yard touchdown pass by Philadelphia in Week 1.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur stressed the importance of playing well from the opening kickoff.
"I think for us, we obviously want to start fast and finish strong and keep scoring all the way in the middle," Shurmur said. "I think that's the challenge. They are a fast-starting team, and we're aware of that. We just got to do all the right things early to try and put points on the board."
While the Vikings rank near the bottom of the league in first-quarter points, Washington has scored 40, which is tied for 12th in the NFL. Washington has scored on all but two of its opening possessions.
"And they've scored 40, I know. They've been good," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "They've scored six out of eight possessions offensively.
"Defensively, I think they've given up three points or something on the first possession," Zimmer added. "Last week we didn't start very well, so I think that will be important."
Minnesota knows firsthand how well Washington usually fares in the first quarter. The Vikings trailed by seven points after the opening period last year at FedExField in an eventual 26-20 loss.
They're determined to have a better start this time around.
"The second half of the season is go time," McKinnon said. "The first half of the season was good, but this is a critical time right here.
"These are the games we really need to win to be able to make that other run that everybody wants to make at the end of the season," McKinnon said. "It's been emphasized to have a fast start, and everyone is ready to take on the challenge."
Forbath on another streak
Kai Forbath made quite the first impression when he joined his new team, as he made his first 21 field goal attempts with the Vikings, a stretch that spanned from the middle of the 2016 season to early in the 2017 campaign.
Although the Vikings kicker's streak came to an end with a miss in Week 4 against the Lions, Forbath has started another run, and he has now made 15 consecutive field goals.
Forbath is 21 of 22 on field goals this season, and is 36 of 37 since joining the Vikings midway through the 2016 season.
If Forbath had made all 37 of his attempts, he would have the Vikings franchise record, which is set at 35 by Gary Anderson. Forbath's streak of 21 kicks ranks third all-time.
"That's all great, but I'm just trying to help the team as much as I can," Forbath said of any potential records. "If those records come, then they come. But that's not something I'm concerned about.
"I'm just confident right now … I go out there and tell myself I'm going to make every kick," Forbath added.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said earlier this week that he was impressed with Forbath's seamless transition to the team last season, noting most specialists are always working at their craft even when not on an NFL roster.
"It's like that for all the kickers, punters, snappers, different positions," Priefer said. "Those guys are always working out, always prepared, always ready for any type of workout that could help them make a team down the line.
"You can tell the guys when they come to workouts if they haven't been working out a lot lately because they just don't go out and perform very well. Especially kicking and punting, even snapping, too. It's like golf, it's like any kind of specialty type of sport," Priefer added. "You've got to do it a lot. You have to continually work on that if you're going to be good."
Forbath will be in action this weekend as the Vikings take on his former team. The kicker broke into the league with the Redskins in 2012 and began his NFL career with a streak of 17 straight successful field goals.
Forbath said he's eager to be back where his career began and feels comfortable at FedExField.
"It's been a while now, but that's just another game," Forbath said. "It'll be good to see some old teammates and whatnot, but it's just another game.
"Every game is different there … the grass isn't the best," Forbath added. "Luckily, I've played in enough games there where I feel comfortable. I'm not too concerned about it."
View images of Vikings new running back Mack Brown from his days with the Redskins.
Brown returns to Washington
Forbath won't be the only Vikings player facing his old team, as recently added running back Mack Brown spent parts of the last two seasons in Washington.
Brown, who was added to Minnesota's roster last week, had 16 carries for 11 yards and a score for Washington.
Zimmer said he likes what he's seen from the former Florida running back.
"I like him," Zimmer said. "He's got some wiggle to him, looks like he's got some power, good vision."