Ascending Vikings have winning formula figured out
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have topped 30 points once this season, the only time they've won a game by more than 10.
As tough of a defense as they've developed, they're in the middle of the pack in the NFL in sacks. They haven't forced many turnovers not scored a touchdown on that side of the ball.
Adrian Peterson leads the league with 758 yards rushing, but he's just 18th with an average of 4.5 yards per attempt.
The only number that matters, of course, is 6-2. The record is sharp, even if the results haven't looked pretty.
''I'd much rather have some big wins, but hey, a win is a win,'' coach Mike Zimmer said, the day after a 21-18 decision in overtime against St. Louis.
''I think the more you win, the more you learn how to win. It's important. It does a lot of things, for not only the team and the franchise but for the fans and everything else. We've still got a long, long way to go before anybody tells us anything. We're still kind of the guys in the low-rent district. We've just got to keep fighting.''
Half of their remaining games, including two against rival Green Bay, are against teams that are also 6-2. Three of those are on the road. The schedule also includes matchups with defending NFC champion Seattle. This weekend, they'll take a West Coast trip to play improved Oakland.
The Vikings haven't picked up many style points, so they'll still be considered underdogs to overtake the NFC North from the Packers despite being tied at the top of the division at the midpoint of the season.
But this team's ability to win without those aesthetics ought to also be a reason to take them seriously as a contender.
''We're probably not going to go up and down the field like the `Greatest Show on Turf,''' Zimmer said, alluding to the nickname given to the high-scoring Rams teams from 1999-2001. ''This is how we're built to win right now.''
The Vikings are tied for second in the NFL with an average of 17.4 points allowed per game. They're also second on third downs, with an opponent's conversion rate at 29.7 percent. No team in the league has taken fewer penalties. The special teams have been superb.
''It's important for me that, this football team, when our fans watch us on Sunday they say, `Wow, I can't wait to get back and watch this team again, the way they play, the way they fight, the way they do things right,''' Zimmer said. ''I think they're starting to believe in us a little bit. We've still got a long way to go, but at least we're in the hunt.''
One of those keys to remaining relevant, of course, is beyond any team's control: staying healthy. The Vikings suffered some concerning injuries against St. Louis, starting with a concussion for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Zimmer said he believes Bridgewater will be ''good to go'' against the Raiders. The coach said the same about middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who sat out against the Rams because of an injury to his ribs.
His backup, Audie Cole, broke his right ankle on Sunday and will be out for the season. The original starter at that position, Gerald Hodges, was traded to San Francisco a month ago.
''Guys come in and step up, and that's what we're here for,'' said rookie T.J. Clemmings, Loadholt's replacement. ''Everybody's here. If you're not a starter, you're a backup being ready for when your name is called. So that's what it comes down to.''
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter account: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL