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Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - This weekend, the Minnesota Vikings head to Seattle to square off for a week nine match up where both teams will take the field trying to get back to the winning ways that they had experienced earlier this season. Having already played eight games in 2012, this week's game represents the beginning of the second half of the season in which both teams heading down the home stretch looking to make a serious playoff push. A reality that Leslie Frazier and the Vikings are well aware of.
"It's really a new season for us," head coach Leslie Frazier said Monday afternoon. "It's the second half of the season, this is a break point for us and we have to approach it the right way. This first game is like coming out of a half and that's what I've talked to our team about. You want to start off the second half of the ball game the right way, whether you're receiving a kick or kicking it off, or whether you're going out on offense or defense and that's how we have to approach this game with Seattle. We want to start it off right and there are some things that we have to do in order for that to happen, we'll get into that on Wednesday, but that’s how we're looking at it. We want to start this second half the right way."
Earlier this season and then again on Monday, Coach Frazier has discussed how the Vikings, like most teams in the NFL, break up the 16-game season into smaller 4-game quarters. En route to what they hope to be a playoff push, the Vikings have focused on "winning" these 4-game quarters, smaller goals that will in turn create success for the larger 16-game season.
So far, through two quarters of the 2012 season, the Vikings have experienced two vastly different scenarios play out. The first quarter of the season went 3-1 in favor of the Vikings while the second quarter was split at 2-2. Despite on-field records that only differed by one game, there has been a night and day difference in the moods that have surrounded the success of these two quarters.
Coming out of the first quarter of the season, the Vikings were sitting at 3-1. Tied atop the division with Chicago, Minnesota had narrowly defeated Jacksonville but did it in dramatic comeback fashion, they lost on a last second field goal to the Indianapolis Colts, they completely dominated the NFC's favorite for the Super Bowl (San Francisco) and then convincingly defeated a division rival at their house (Detroit). Heading in to week five, the Vikings were the talk of the town across the NFL.
It took a turn for the worse shortly thereafter.
Week five saw the young season peak in the form of a 30-7 dismantling of the Tennessee Titans but then the Vikes headed to Washington DC where RGIII and the Redskins picked apart an overconfident Vikings team in week six. Week seven against the cardinals ended in victory, but was still soured by a 58-yard passing performance by Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense. And then week eight hit and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran through, passed through and thoroughly embarrassed the Vikings on the national stage. Again, while the records only differed by one game, the let down in the second quarter of the season has left the Minnesota Vikings with a much different taste in their mouth as they prepare for quarter number three.
Preparing to enter the third quarter of the season, much of the public worry stems from the idea that the Redskins, Cardinals and Buccaneers may have put on tape the perfect game plan to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. The locker room does not share that same level of worry. To them, the answer to their struggles is much simpler, yet difficult in itself.
"If you really want to get down to it, guys are in their gaps and then we're missing tackles," defensive end Brian Robison explained Monday. "In all seriousness, we've got to quit missing tackles and we've got to execute the defense. That's kind of what we haven't done the last two weeks."
Robison's message, likely echoed from that of the coaching staff in film study, seems simple but at the same time is difficult enough where all 11 guys on defense were struggling to accomplish it last Thursday night.
"It's called the ultimate team sport," Robison continued. "[If] one guy's out of the gap, then it messes the whole defense. It's a ripple effect, kind of a snow ball effect because if ten guys are playing their gap but one guy gets out of his gap, now you've got a guy who's running north and south while everybody's running east and west...we literally have to rely on every person to do their job."
The Vikings task won't get much easier this week as they face off against Seattle and Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has rushed for over 100 yards in each of Seattle's last two games and is currently second in the league in rushing yards, 18 yards behind Adrian Peterson. Lynch has entered the zone that he has coined "beast mode" and is licking his chops as he studies up on a Minnesota defense that has allowed 468 yards and five touchdowns rushing over their last three games.
To help sure up their recent errors, the Vikings took advantage of the long week adding in an extra practice Monday morning, a day that on a normal week is set aside for film review.
"One of the things today that we did was we did a review on some of our run fits," Leslie Frazier said. "Whether it was seven-man fronts or eight-man fronts, just to make sure we all understand where we have to be and where we have to fit up runs. We have to improve in that area."
Looking to "get right" once again, the Vikings have done the work to identify the problem. They've studied the tape and devised a plan to correct the problem. Now, it's up to them to prepare and execute their plan and attempt to turn their season around as they head into the third quarter and the second half of their 2012 season.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN