EAGAN, Minn. — Forget last year, or even last week, the Vikings are focused on the future.
Minnesota (1-2-1) will travel to Philadelphia (2-2) for a 3:25 p.m. (CT) kickoff on Sunday in a rematch of the 2017 NFC Championship Game.
The meeting between the defending NFC North and NFC East champs is prompting questions this week about the 38-7 win by the Eagles en route to claiming the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory in — of all places — Minnesota.
“That was last year. We’re not worried about that game anymore,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said Wednesday. “That game was so last year. We need to worry about what’s going on now, correct the mistakes we’re making each game, and once we do that, we can worry about our goals. Our goals are still key, number one, but right now, we need to take out the fire that’s burning us right now.”
Unlike the Vikings two most recent trips to Lincoln Financial that followed peak moments — in 2016, the Vikings were 5-0 and coming off a bye; and in January, they were still wide-eyed from the Minneapolis Miracle ending that propelled them past the Saints in the Divisional Round — the Vikings are needing a bounce-back effect after a bad home loss against Buffalo and falling 38-31 against the Rams in Los Angeles.
The high-octane Rams had eight pass plays of more than 20 yards, including touchdowns of 70, 47 and 31 yards.
Rhodes said there is a shared responsibility in a Minnesota defense that led the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed in 2017 but ranks 22nd and 21st in the NFL through four games of the 2018 slate (see other comparisons).
“It’s just errors going on in the defense,” Rhodes said. “It was the whole defense. If one domino falls, they all fall. It was one mistake that led to another and another, so we need to be on point. It’s not just one guy that makes the defense. It’s a team game, so by saying that, we made one mistake and another ended up happening.”
Rhodes took responsibility for losing his composure after a holding penalty while guarding Brandin Cooks late in the second quarter. Rhodes kicked the flag and drew a 15-yard penalty that moved the ball to the Minnesota 47. He was taken out of the game for a play, and Cooks caught a 47-yard touchdown from Jared Goff on the ensuing snap.
“I can’t do that. It hurt the team. That’s a selfish penalty,” Rhodes said. “I told the people I spoke to it was one of the heat-of-the-moment type of things. It’s something I’ve got to control.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked to assess the 2018 play of Rhodes, who was an All-Pro for the first time last season.
“I know everybody wants to evaluate everybody after four weeks, but I think if you remember last year, Xavier had some penalties early in the year. We cleaned them up,” Zimmer said. “This isn’t a time for ‘woe is me.’ If people remember, we were 2-2 this time last year. We finished 13-3. We were 5-0 the year before, and we finished 8-8. We were 2-2 the year before that, and we finished 11-5, so all the predictors — this isn’t a good time to predict.”
Rhodes said the Vikings believe they can correct the errors.
“We need to cover our guys, stop making mistakes, making errors because it’s a domino effect,” Rhodes said. “If one guy messes up, another guy does, a guy is open, and the quarterback finds that guy. … Somebody is open in our defense. We just need to play our key, know where we need to be and stop making mistakes.”
McDermott finger injury garners substantial coverage
Long snappers are among the first players to return to the field during halftime, usually returning from the locker room with several minutes left on the clock in order to snap a few footballs.
Kevin McDermott added an additional purpose last Thursday, searching for the tip of his left pinky finger, which was detached after it was caught in an opponent’s helmet during a play — at least that’s what he’s figured out from a film review.
“That’s what it seems like,” McDermott said. “I wasn’t staring at it when it happened, and from the tape, that’s kind of what we’ve been able to figure out.”
David Morgan filled in briefly for McDermott, who didn’t react demonstratively when the injury occurred and returned to action.
“I felt a pain in my hand and looked down and saw, so I immediately kind of just held pressure on it and jogged to the sidelines and went to the trainers,” McDermott said.
McDermott suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at Green Bay in Week 16 last year, but the rarity of this situation has garnered significant media attention from the likes of Deadspin and Barstool Sports. He also talked about the injury on KFAN’s Power Trip this week.
“I’ve been knocked out of a game, obviously last year with the hurt shoulder, but this is kind of a freak accident that some people have gone their whole careers and never seen something like this. But kudos to our training staff – they got me fixed right up.”
Followers of Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take Twitter account voted McDermott as the “Football Guy of the Week.”
Brothers gets back in mix
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center this week after serving a four-game suspension.
The Vikings have a roster exemption until Oct. 8, but if they want Brothers to play on Sunday, he would need to be activated and another player would need to be released so that Minnesota could stay within the 53-man limit.
Brothers said he definitely missed the team during the time away. He had to watch from home and wonder if he could have helped the Vikings, particularly on special teams. Brothers had 16 special teams tackles last season, which was second on the team.
“It was a long four weeks. You guys saw how the games went,” Brothers said. “There’s some certain situations where I feel like I could have helped a couple of ways, but I wasn’t able to. It sucked, but again, I’m here now.”
Brothers also said he’s not assuming he can just walk back into his role.
“My mindset while I was suspended is anybody can take my spot,” Brothers said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. I’ve seen guys come in here that I think are going to be on the team get cut and released, so I’m thinking I have to gain my spot back, I have to work for my spot, get my coaches’ trust and keep it and keep on moving.”
For the Vikings: Trae Waynes (concussion), Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and Everson Griffen (knee/not injury related) did not participate. Tashawn Bower (ankle), Marcus Sherels (ribs) and Linval Joseph (shoulder) were limited. Kevin McDermott (finger), Eric Kendricks (elbow), Laquon Treadwell (finger), Tom Johnson (ankle), Riley Reiff (foot) and Anthony Harris (hamstring) fully participated.
For the Eagles: Derek Barnett (shoulder), Corey Clement (quadriceps), Fletcher Cox (ankle), Alshon Jeffery (chest) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) did not participate. Jason Peters (quadriceps) was limited.