Vikings' high expectations stunted by 0-2 start

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings found out last year how difficult it can be to crawl out of a deep hole.

They spent this training camp stressing the importance of a fast start to set the tone for what was expected to be a breakthrough season following owner Zygi Wilf's offseason spending spree.

Two weeks into the season, here we go again.

An 18-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at home on Sunday dropped them to 0-2 and has the team trying to regroup with challenging games against Carolina, at Tennessee and at New Orleans in the next three weeks.

"Obviously it's not where we want to be. I don't think anybody visualized us being 0-2," linebacker Ben Leber said. "I think the hardest part is, I think the locker room kind of feels like we played down to their level and lost. Good teams don't do that. You go out and beat the teams you're supposed to beat."

With the passing offense struggling mightily, the team had to settle for five field goals against the Colts, and the defense allowed Peyton Manning to rally the Colts from a 15-0 third-quarter deficit.

Only five teams in the Super Bowl era have made the playoffs following an 0-3 start, and only three since the NFL adopted its current postseason format in 1990, according to STATS, Inc.

"It's a situation you really don't want to be in," wide receiver Bobby Wade said. "If you can get ahead of the eight-ball by winning your first couple games, then it gives you a jump start."

Could the boost come from a quarterback change?

Coach Brad Childress has been steadfast in his support of Tarvaris Jackson since he was drafted in 2006 and said after the Colts game that Jackson is "definitely our quarterback next week."

Dropped passes and play calling that limited his opportunities to make plays, especially in the first half, didn't help Jackson in a 14-for-24, 130-yard day.

Childress continued to spread the blame around on Monday, saying that "everybody has a backyard to clean up." But he also was as noncommittal as he's ever been on the two-year starter's job security.

"You just need to make sure you're doing the right thing there and so we're chewing on a bunch of things right now and making sure that he's the best guy for us to go forward," Childress said.

A move to backup Gus Frerotte this week against the Panthers is unlikely, but there are signs that the notion is at least being contemplated if the aerial problems continue in the coming weeks.

"I'm always looking at what's giving us the best opportunity to win," Childress said. "If it's Tarvaris, it's Tarvaris. If it's Gus Frerotte, it's Gus Frerotte. J.D. Booty, it's J.D. Booty. As I look through the thing and analyze it ... That's something that is ongoing."

The Vikings are speaking from experience when they talk about the importance of getting off to good starts. Last year they began the season 2-5 and needed to win six of their next seven games to get back into contention.

Even after winning five in a row to improve to 8-6, the Vikings were still part of a jumbled NFC playoff race they ultimately let slip away by losing their last two games.

"We know it's still early in the year, but we wanted to start out of the gates quick," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "You don't want to wait until the end of the season and say, 'Oh if we would have won that game, we would have made the playoffs.'

"We just have to get on a run right now."

The combined record of the next three teams they face is 5-1, but the Vikings say they can't afford not to win at this point.

"We don't want to be in here again at the end of November or December saying we want a team to lose for us or we need to do this or do that," safety Darren Sharper said. "We've got to win the games we're supposed to win. It starts again on Sunday."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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