After authoring one of the most memorable finishes in NFL playoff history Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings have to refocus. They have to come down from their emotional high, remember that they haven’t won anything yet, and focus on their next opponent.
It’s fair to wonder if that will be a difficult task.
After all, it’s not often that a playoff game ends with a walk-off 61-yard touchdown.
“I think it’s certainly a difficult ask,” former Vikings linebacker and current Minnesota sports host Ben Leber said on Taz & The Moose. “Whether they can accomplish that, I don’t know. I’m pretty confident they can. If we know anything about Mike Zimmer, it’s that he is no-nonsense. Of course he enjoyed the win just like everybody else, but he was already in his press conference on Monday saying, ‘Listen, we made a lot of mistakes.’ And he’s going to point that out to his players.”
Minnesota led New Orleans 17-0 at halftime this past Sunday but needed a last-second touchdown from Stefon Diggs to escape with a win. It was exciting, yes, but the Vikings have a lot of work to do before their NFC Championship showdown with the Eagles.
“This is not a time to rest on your laurels,” Leber said. “It’s not a time to feel good about a win and sweep some things under the rug. That’s just not (Zimmer’s) personality. If anything, he’s going to do the opposite. He’s going to grind those guys down on Monday in film study and make them realize that they left a lot of plays out on the field, they made a lot of mistakes, and he’s going to make them hungry again for this weekend. So I think they’re going to do a pretty good job of refocusing.”
Minnesota went 7-1 at home this year, but Leber thinks it’s a good thing that the NFC Championship will be in Philadelphia.
“As much as you want to play a home playoff game,” Leber said, “I think in this special circumstance, it’s going to be beneficial for these guys to get on a plane on Saturday and just shut their mind off, get away from the Minneapolis Miracle, get away from U.S. Bank Stadium and just get to a hotel room and just kind of refocus in Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia advanced after a 15-10 win over Atlanta, as the Eagles held the Falcons scoreless after halftime.
Leber expects another close contest Sunday.
“I think it’s going to be one of those grinder games,” he said. “I think 17 points gets you the win. I could see a 17-14 type of game. As much as Nick Foles is not a downfield threat, they run a very efficient offense with him as long as the run game gets going. I’m pretty fearful of that offensive line, to be honest with you. I don’t think the Saints have a formidable offensive line. I don’t think they’re known as a bunch of grinders and a big, physical group. I think the Vikings defensive front got handled a little bit. They controlled the line of scrimmage, they pushed them around a little bit, they had them on their heels. If Philadelphia is known for one thing, they have attitude up front. They play sort of like the reputation of the city, and if they do that and the Vikings can’t control it in the front seven defensively, it’s going to be a long day for them.”
Kickoff is at 6:40 p.m. ET.