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NOTEBOOK: Vikings Have to 'Live in the Moment' for Playoff Run



EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —An incredible opportunity lies ahead for the Vikings.

But those within the walls of Winter Park know chances like this don't come around too often.

The Vikings wrapped up a 13-3 season on Sunday to go along with an NFC North title, No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff field and a first-round bye. Yet as Minnesota awaits its Divisional playoff matchup next Sunday at home, the message from now until then will be to seize the moment that is in front of the organization.

"A lot of guys in this locker room have never been in this situation. I've only been in this situation really once, as far as having a first-round bye," said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. "Me and (Terence Newman) have been talking about it. It's understanding that you have an opportunity to do some great things and have to take advantage of that opportunity. 

"If you don't, you'll probably regret it for the rest of your life because at the end of the day, there's no guarantee you're going to be back in this position next year," Robison added. "I was in this position in 2009, and it's taken this long to get back, so you have to live in the moment, and when you have an opportunity like this, you have to grab it and go with it."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has a Super Bowl title on his résumé from when he was a defensive assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. But that was 22 years ago, back when some members of Zimmer's current team were in diapers.

Zimmer said Monday that he'll rely on the Vikings leadership group — including captains such as Newman, Riley Reiff, Kyle Rudolph, Robison and Everson Griffen — plus other players who have postseason experience, to help instill the belief that the Vikings can make a serious postseason run.

"The captains … I think they have an opportunity to talk about the belief that you can get there," Zimmer said. "Like Linval [Joseph], he's won a Super Bowl. Just being able to try to keep these guys on point, some of these younger guys. 

"The problem is, a lot of young guys come in and they expect it's going to happen every single year," Zimmer added. "Really, you never know. The last time I won the Super Bowl was [after the] 1995 [season], so it's been awhile."

Robison, an 11-season veteran, has played in five career postseason games, two of which occurred in 2009 when the second-seeded Vikings lost in the NFC Championship.

He offered his take on playoff football, nothing every little thing is amplified. 

"I think the team has to understand that when you get in the playoffs, everything is a little bit different," Robison said. "The game moves a little bit faster, the stakes are magnified, so some of the mistakes you get away with in the season and are able to pull wins out, they're magnified when you get in the playoffs, and sometimes you're not going to be able to overcome those mistakes.

"The game moves much, much faster," Robison said. "Everybody is fighting for their lives, so that's the way it's got to be."

The NFC playoff field features all new division winners from a year ago, as five of the six teams vying for a Super Bowl spot did not make the playoffs in 2016.

Robison said that fact alone highlights the importance of seizing the moment the Vikings have right in front of them.

"Every year stands on its own merit, so there's no guarantees that teams that were there last year were going to make it this year, and there's no guarantees that the teams from this year will make it next year," Robison said. "I think that's a hard thing for young guys to grasp. There's no guarantees in this league.

"Just because you make the playoffs this year, just because you are 13-3 this year doesn't mean it's going to happen next year," Robison added. "You have to really live in the moment and make the best of your opportunity."

Zimmer: Barr's play was 'exceptional'

There was plenty of praise to go around for a Vikings defense that only surrended a field goal in Sunday's 23-10 win over Chicago in the regular-season finale. 

But one player in particular caught Zimmer's eye. 

"After watching the tape, I thought defensively we played very well," Zimmer said. "Obviously, we played the run game really good, [we were] good on third downs. I thought our corners covered well in that game. Linebackers played well … (Anthony) Barr (was) exceptional."

Vikings coaches credited Barr with a team-high eight tackles on Sunday, including five solo stops. He also had a tackle for loss on Chicago's second running play of the game when he chased running back Jordan Howard to the sideline for a 4-yard loss.

The Vikings linebacker was recently named to his third Pro Bowl, but said Monday he likes how dominant the defense has been while nobody cares who gets the credit.

Minnesota finished first in the NFL in both points (15.8) and yards (275.9) allowed per game, and also had the best third-down defense in NFL history, as opponents converted on 51 of 202 opportunities (25.2 percent).

"I think we started to figure it out toward the end of the season. All season, really, we played pretty well," Barr said. "But I think toward the end, we had a little more focus knowing it's going to be a stretch run. I just want to play well at all times, so I'm proud of the way that we played all season and hope that we can continue that going into the postseason.

"We're very close, a very cohesive unit. We complement each other really well, and we're a pretty unselfish group," Barr added. "So it all works together, and I'm happy to have these guys as my teammates."

A peek ahead

The Vikings know when they will play their second-round playoff game, as U.S. Bank Stadium will be in a frenzy for a 3:40 p.m. kickoff on Jan. 14.

And while Minnesota won't know its opponent until after this weekend's games, the Vikings will spend this week focusing on themselves and potential opponents.

"We're going to practice a couple days this week and then get working on some things we need to work on," Zimmer said. "Coaches are going to start working on the three possibilities that we're going to play, and then we'll go from there."

The Rams and Falcons play Saturday in the first NFC Wild-Card game. A Rams win means Los Angeles would come to Minnesota in the next round.

An Atlanta win, however, means the Falcons would be on their way to Philadelphia, which is the NFC's top seed. That would mean the Vikings would see the winner of this Sunday's matchup between NFC South foes New Orleans and Carolina.

The Vikings have faced all three potential opponents, beating the Saints and Rams at home while falling to the Panthers on the road.

Zimmer downplayed the notion of the benefit of a repeat game, noting Minnesota will hopefully gain an edge by being at home.

"I mean they played us, too, so it's the same," Zimmer said. "We get to play at home. That's a good thing."

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