An indicator of what separates teams from the rest of the pack in the NFL is the ability to come out victorious in close games.
The Minnesota Vikings have exemplified this trait in the past few weeks, winning two consecutive games with a field goal.
Eight games into the season, the Vikings are knotted at the top of the NFC North division (6-2) for this exact reason.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer told the media in his press conference on Monday that his team is starting to understand how to perform in these critical areas of the game.
"I know some of its confidence and some of it's believing that we can get it done," Zimmer said. "I just think we have a lot of resiliency to fight through a lot of these things. I got a text last night from a friend of mine and he said, 'You continue to win these games and this is kind of who you are right now, you're going to be in a lot of them.' He said, 'but you can still win them.' That's kind of who we are right now."
Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune wrote about how Zimmer's team continues to win these close games.
Coach Mike Zimmer knows his players don't provide the "Greatest Show on Turf." Instead, they're still the guys in the "low-rent district" he said, despite their 6-2 start for a share of first place in the NFC North.
Most of the Vikings' wins don't have a lot of flash, including Sunday's 21-18 overtime victory against the St. Louis Rams. The past two victories had game-ending field goals, and the combined margin of victory during the current four-game winning streak is just 21 points.
"I'd much rather have some big wins, but hey, a win is a win," Zimmer said. "I think the more you win, the more you learn how to win. It's important.
"The last three or four ballgames, this kind of shows what kind of team we are as far as how we are on offense, how we are defensively, and how we are on special teams. We're probably not going to go up and down the field like the 'Greatest Show on Turf.' This is how we're built to win right now."
Another grinded-out victory over Rams
The Vikings are 30th in the NFL in passing yards per game, but that hasn't stopped the team from winning in each of the past four games.
Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com wrote about how the Vikings and the defense continue to win grinded out football games that make the Purple People Eaters proud.
*They won't make many highlight reels, but the Vikings continue to win grinding football games that make the Purple People Eaters proud. *
*Led by a defense stripped of Sharrif Floyd and Eric Kendricks, and then Audie Cole and Terence Newman during the game, the Vikings ground out another low scoring, close win. *
*Unlike defenses of Vikings' past, this group successfully adapted with what they could work. The fill-ins plugged the gaps and the starters, such as nose tackle Linval Joseph and linebacker Anthony Barr, made the difference against a one-dimensional Rams offense that struggled to find much through the air on the arm of Nick Foles. So, Zimmer showed Foles little respect as the Vikings often crowded the line of scrimmage against Todd Gurley, the stud 10th-overall pick, and Tavon Austin, the eighth-overall pick in 2013. *
After allowing 18 points and 320 yards, the Vikings rank 2nd in scoring (17.5 points/game) and 7th in yardage (332 yards/game).
Vikings confident they have winning formula figured out
A piece from the Associated Press followed the same storyline on how the Vikings have figured out how to continue to win games without compiling flashy offensive statistics.
The Minnesota Vikings have topped 30 points once this season, the only time they've won a game by more than 10.
As tough of a defense as they've developed, they're in the middle of the pack in the NFL in sacks. They haven't forced many turnovers not scored a touchdown on that side of the ball.
Adrian Peterson leads the league with 758 yards rushing, but he's just 18th with an average of 4.5 yards per attempt.
The only number that matters, of course, is 6-2. The record is sharp, even if the results haven't looked pretty.
"I think the more you win, the more you learn how to win. It's important. It does a lot of things, for not only the team and the franchise but for the fans and everything else. We've still got a long, long way to go before anybody tells us anything. We're still kind of the guys in the low-rent district. We've just got to keep fighting."
Half of their remaining games, including two against rival Green Bay, are against teams that are also 6-2. Three of those are on the road. The schedule also includes matchups with defending NFC champion Seattle. This weekend, they'll take a West Coast trip to play improved Oakland.