EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings don't want to be fooled again.
Last season, Minnesota looked at the positives during its first three games -- when it held big halftime leads before letting wins slip away during disastrous second halves -- and was convinced cleaning up a few areas would turn the season around.
That turned out to be fool's purple and gold, and the Vikings aren't falling for it in 2012.
Minnesota lost, 23-20, last Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts, dropping its record to 1-1 in two games that both went down to the last minute. The similarities through two games of 2011 and 2012 are obvious, but the Vikings are trying to make sure this season doesn't have the same finish.
"We've got to shore things up in a hurry," linebacker Chad Greenway said this week. "No excuses. No explanations. Go to work and get it right. We got into this last year. 'Well, we did this good and that good. We didn't finish, but we had a really good first half.' Well, you're losing, so it doesn't really matter.
"At the end of the year, you're 3-13 and all you have is a bunch of excuses. We're not trying to do that again this year. We're really not. We know we're capable of being better, and we've got to get it done, now. We can't wait until, 'Well, hopefully by Week 6 we'll figure it out.' We'll be right back where we were."
With an NFC Super Bowl favorite, the San Francisco 49ers, coming to town this weekend, the sense of urgency among the veterans is already clear.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, in his 14th NFL season, doesn't want to waste the few remaining years of football he might have left. So, on Monday, the three-time Pro Bowler got up in front of his teammates, coaches and even general manager Rick Spielman during a meeting and made an impassioned speech, something he says he's done only a few times in his nine seasons in Minnesota.
Winfield had something on his mind, and had the full attention of the organization for what he said was about 10 minutes.
"I only stand up and say stuff when it's coming from the heart," said Winfield, who would admit only to talking about football. "I thought a little bit about it the night before, but everything else was off the dome."
Everyone took the message to heart.
"He's one of our leaders on the team, the oldest guy on the team, so what he had to say was very pertinent," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We'll leave it at that. What's said in that team room is for our ears only. But it was good. Antoine's a hell of a player, and he has every right to call it as he sees it. And everybody agreed with him."
The Vikings don't want to be lulled into believing everything is going to be OK. Losing 17-7, 17-0 and 20-0 halftime leads in last year's 0-3 start made losing a late lead to the Colts tough to swallow.
"You don't want to give games away, especially this early in the year," Winfield said, later adding: "It's hard to win in this league. We could easily be 0-2. Like I said, games like that when you have a chance to win, you need to find a way to win."
Minnesota knows it won't be easy this week with San Francisco (2-0), who was one game from the Super Bowl last year and is coming off wins against two other playoff teams, Green Bay and Detroit. But Coach Leslie Frazier doesn't want to trade urgency for panic, either.
"It's still so early," he said. "The thing I've tried to stress to our guys is there's no reason for us to panic. We're playing at home this weekend. We should be excited and looking forward to this. There shouldn't be a sense of panic at all. Not where we are right now, at all."
Every team in the NFC North is 1-1 after two weeks. There is time. But Winfield, Greenway and the Vikings don't want to blink and be headed toward another 3-13 season again.
"Obviously, we didn't play good enough (last week), and I think if you look at it that way you're sort of splitting hairs and trying to find positives," Greenway said. "'Well, we did this good, but we didn't do that good.' You get into that, and you giving yourself excuses, and we can't afford to do that. We're just not good enough to be able to do that for ourselves. So it's about going out there and just getting better and getting the win."
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