Vikings have gone from weaklings to warriors on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings have been getting warnings this week about Philadelphia's notorious fans. Fullback Zach Line said in a team meeting Wednesday, coach Mike Zimmer offered his take on what the Vikings will see Sunday at Lincoln Financial ...
MINNEAPOLIS - The Vikings have been getting warnings this week about Philadelphia's notorious fans.
Fullback Zach Line said in a team meeting Wednesday, coach Mike Zimmer offered his take on what the Vikings will see Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We were told it was a pretty hostile crowd,'' Line said Thursday.
Line even has had his father warned. He said a family acquaintance who lives in Philadelphia recommended to Joe Line it might not be a good idea to wear his usual Line No. 48 jersey in the stands.
"He told him not to wear a Vikings jersey in the stadium,'' Line said. "My dad said he's going to wear it, but he's going to bring a change of clothes just in case.''
Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it's much less of one now. After being one of the worst road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they're now one of the best.
When Zimmer arrived as coach in 2014, Minnesota was coming off an 0-7-1 road season. Even Zimmer wasn't immediately able to drastically turn that around.
Zimmer's Vikings began 2-8 on the road. But since an Oct. 25, 2015 win at Detroit, they've gone 7-1, and the one defeat was by a scant 23-20 margin last December at Arizona, then one of the NFL's top teams.
Since that Detroit win, the Vikings actually have a better record on the road than at home, where they've gone 6-3, including a playoff loss.
"If you execute, it doesn't matter where you play,'' Zimmer said. "That's our mentality.''
Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That's the main reason the road record has gotten so much better.
Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments.
"Learning Coach Zim's style of play, the type of coach he is and the type of players he wants to put on the field (helps),'' said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. "It's Year 3.''
The Vikings have three of their next four games on the road, a stretch defensive end Brian Robison called "very important.'' Following Sunday, Minnesota plays Oct. 31 at Chicago, faces Detroit on Nov. 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium and then is at Washington on Nov. 13.
Nobody seems too worried about the schedule.
"Going into a hostile environment, I think this team thrives on that,'' Line said.
Linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Andrew Sendejo both said they're willing to play anywhere, including "in a parking lot.'' Sendejo saw only one disadvantage to that being a possible venue.
"We would just have a lot more road rash,'' he said.
Robison remembers well when Minnesota really struggled away from home. He was on the 2013 team, which marked Leslie Frazier's final season as coach.
The Vikings went 2-6 on the road in 2014 and 5-3 in 2015, including winning five of their last six. This season, they're 2-0, having defeated Tennessee 25-16 in the opener and Carolina 22-10 in Week 3.
"We've just been playing disciplined,'' Robison said. "We haven't been committing penalties that are shooting ourselves in the foot.''
The Vikings won the last time they played at Philadelphia, 24-14 on Dec. 28, 2010 in a game moved from Sunday to Tuesday night because of a snow alert. Robison is one of just four players on the 53-man roster remaining from that season.
Munnerlyn has played once before in Philadelphia, where his Carolina Panthers won 30-22 on Nov. 26, 2012 on "Monday Night Football." Despite the hostile atmosphere, he's looking forward to going back.
"Those fans are crazy,'' Munnerlyn said. "They're diehard Philadelphia fans. ... They will say anything to you. They'll try to get in your head. ... It's OK. I'm a guy that loves to play on the road. I want the fans on the opposite team to know who I am by the time I leave that stadium.''
When Minnesota is at Philadelphia, Munnerlyn said quarterback Sam Bradford, who played last season for the Eagles, "definitely will get booed.'' Munnerlyn said Bradford will be ready for that.
The Vikings lately have been ready for just about anything on the road.