EAGAN, Minn. – The hole has gotten deeper, but a tenacious Vikings team hasn't given up on climbing out of it and finding success this season.
Minnesota fell to 0-2 Sunday after losing to Arizona by a single point.
Moral victories aren't really the type you can hang your hat on for long, but it's impossible to deny the strong improvement the Vikings showed from Week 1 to Week 2.
The offense showed its potential when eliminating penalties, and the defense largely played well with the exception of a couple costly lulls inside the final two minutes of the first half. Greg Joseph made two 52-yard field goals for the team earlier in the game but missed a 37-yard attempt wide right on the final play.
Minnesota certainly left a handful of plays on the table, and there are more things to correct this week. But what Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer saw from his team is that its capable of making those changes, and his players are a scrappy bunch.
"This team looked like the team I expected us to look like," Zimmer told Twin Cities media members Monday afternoon. "So I think we know the formula now. You know, what we have to do, the areas we need to correct. But, you know, I was encouraged by what I saw yesterday. I was encouraged by the effort, the fight and the toughness that we had, from the quarterback all the way down to the defensive linemen."
Vikings center Garrett Bradbury described the game as "a lot more fun," prior to the heart-wrenching loss, than the previous week's matchup in Cincinnati. He noted the balanced offense and credited Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak with doing an "unbelievable job" with the play calls.
For the most part, Minnesota's offense executed throughout the afternoon.
"Like we've all said the past week, when we don't hurt ourselves, we're a really damn good offense," Bradbury said. "[Offensive line coach Phil] Rauscher did a great job this week; he was hammering details and technique, getting our hands inside, moving our feet. I think that showed up on the film after watching it a few times.
"We're in better positions – third-and-1, third-and-2, third-and-3 – and you're going to convert that at a lot higher rate than third-and-15, third-and-20," he continued. "There were a lot of times where we weren't even in third down; we were just first down, second down, first down. That's the mentality we have to have. When we're playing like that, we're hard to stop."
Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who scored the second of three offensive touchdowns on the day for Minnesota, emphasized "focusing on the process rather than the results," which he also acknowledged is much easier said than done.
But there's a method to the perceived madness, so hear him out.
"It's so hard to do because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is wins and losses in this league," Thielen said. "That's what gets you to the playoffs. That's what gets you the opportunity to get to that ultimate goal. But when you really focus on the process of, 'Man, every week, every practice, keep getting better. Keep working your butts off,' [you start to see results].
"Guys played their hearts out yesterday, and we didn't have the result," Thielen continued, "but the process … I think when the team is able to do that, the coaching staff is able to do that, the management is able to do that – instead of just being so result-driven and focus on the result, just focus on that process and where we are and where we're going – that's what I think can take us to the next step."
Bradbury also stressed the importance of following the process and stringing the positives together.
He also said it's important for he and his teammates to "remember who we are" as a team.
"We have really good players in our locker room; we have really good coaches, really good personnel," Bradbury said. "It's a long season, and each week is very different. So trying to be better this week than we were the week before, having that 1-0 mentality is huge. Having a short memory, building off the good things and correcting the things we can do better."
There is a sense of urgency, yes. If there wasn't, there would be a bigger problem at hand. The sky isn't yet falling, though, with 15 regular-season games still on the horizon – beginning with Sunday's home opener against the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"It'll be good to be back in front of our fans this week," Zimmer said, "and try to get a win."
Safety Xavier Woods is new to the Vikings locker room but quite familiar with the roller-coaster that is an NFL season. He also realizes it's possible to recover from a poor start. In 2018, Woods was part of a Cowboys team that lost three of its first five games but ended up advancing that season to the Divisional round of the playoffs.
"It's not really a panic button, but we're still desperate for a win. That's the bottom line," Woods said. "You either win or you lose, and when you lose, it's not a good thing. We all just want to win … and get that bad taste out of our mouths."
As the Vikings turn the page to Week 3, Thielen emphasized executing every play, no matter how "minor" it may seem in the big picture.
Maybe it's one block, he noted, or a single tackle, that could have changed the course of the game.
"There's so many times throughout a game [where it's] one critical moment … But it's hindsight. You go and correct those things, but they're going to happen," Thielen said. "So you've got to find a way. And we talk about that a lot within this locker room – just find a way.
"It could be ugly, but we've got to find a way," he added. "And I feel like we've been getting close to that, but we're, as Vikings fans are, we're sick of getting close. We've got to go and finish it because we've got to find a way."