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Vikings Season 'Smash-mouth Success'

View images from 'move out day' as players said their goodbyes and cleared out their lockers at Winter Park.

The eyes of *Star Tribune *beat writer Matt Vensel turned to Teddy Bridgewater, Captain Munnerlyn and Everson Griffen sitting side by side in the Winter Park locker room.

They appeared ready for anything except what looms next: watching teams they played well against like Arizona, a team they split with in Green Bay and a team they should have beaten in Seattle compete for the NFC Championship and berth in Super Bowl 50.

At this point, the sudden end and shock of Sunday's 10-9 loss to the Seahawks is a blinder to the progress this team made in year two under Mike Zimmer, but Vensel writes that there is plenty of good to review.

Once they can step away far enough for the big picture to come into focus, the Vikings will see that the 2015 season was *a smash-mouth success. With a fast and physical defense and a punishing running game, they improved by four wins from 2014, went 11-5 and won the NFC North for the first time since 2009. *

The Vikings, who were one of four new participants in the playoffs this season from the one before, know that nothing is guaranteed moving forward.

*Sure, they have a talented, young core with a developing quarterback. They have a demanding coach in Mike Zimmer who will try to keep them humble and hungry. And All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be back in 2016. *

But parity reigns in the NFL, where there are plenty of one-and-dones.

*There were five new playoff teams in 2014 and four new ones this past season. Two of those 2014 playoff teams will be picking in the top six in the 2016 draft. *

Teddy's next step

Bridgewater has tied the Vikings franchise record for wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons in Minnesota (17 by Hall of Famer Warren Moon and likely enshrinee Brett Favre) and did so in fewer starts (28).

Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *writes that Bridgewater has another round of improvements in mind for 2016.

*Bridgewater, who completed 17 of 24 passes for 146 yards, took the loss hard. On Monday, he vowed to better next season. *

"It's just time to take that extra step, and I'm going come back next year with the same intensity, the same focus and be even better," Bridgewater said.

*Under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Vikings ran a low-risk attack built around NFL-leading rusher Adrian Peterson. As far as backup quarterback Shaun Hill was concerned, Bridgewater did well in the only statistic that really counts. *

"There's a lot of emphasis placed on a lot of stats on paper, but the guy does what we need to do to win, and that's the most important stat out there," Hill said. "He's got a bright, bright future."

Another run

ESPN.com's Ben Goessling noticed how Vikings veterans — Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway and Brian Robison — emphasized the significance of making the playoffs to younger players last week. Goessling wrote that those same players want to make another run in Minnesota.

*Other than Adrian Peterson, the two Minnesota Vikings players imploring younger teammates not to take the team's playoff berth for granted last week were linebacker Chad Greenway and defensive end Brian Robison, two players who'd been in four playoff games with Peterson during their nine seasons together in Minnesota. *

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