Vikings' Robison wonders if players ‘checked out’ during loss to Packers
By John Shipley St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Robison was mic'd up for part of the Vikings' nationally televised game against the Packers on Thursday night in Green Bay, so his reaction to missing Eddie Lacy in the backfield on an 1...
By John Shipley
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Brian Robison was mic’d up for part of the Vikings’ nationally televised game against the Packers on Thursday night in Green Bay, so his reaction to missing Eddie Lacy in the backfield on an 11-yard touchdown run was clearly audible.
“Dang it!” the veteran defensive end said as he walked back to the huddle, his team about to go down 35-0 with more than 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Robison, the ranking member of the Vikings’ defensive line, was more specific when assessing the team’s performance the morning after its 42-10 loss at Lambeau Field.
“I just felt like at times last night, that they had more of a will to win that game than we did, and that can never happen when you’re playing in a game,” Robison said Friday.
The loss dropped Minnesota to 2-3 with 10 days until their next game, an NFC North match-up against Detroit at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 12. None of the players who braved the locker room during media access Friday were happy, but Robison appeared more agitated than his teammates. Or at least more open about expressing his feelings.
“I did not like the mood of our locker room at halftime,” he said.
The Vikings were down 28-0.
“The mood,” Robison added, “was almost like some people had checked out, and you know what? I’m just going to be blunt and say it: It can never be that way. This is the team I’ve felt like, all along, has fought and scratched no matter what type of adversity we have faced, and I felt like we didn’t have that last night.”
It was a bold statement from one of the Vikings’ longest-tenured players - only long snapper Colin Loeffler and linebacker Chad Greenway have been here longer than Robison’s eight seasons - and clearly meant to send a message.
Coach Mike Zimmer, in his first season in Minnesota, wasn’t quite ready to go that route. As he told reporters, “We’re 2-3, not 0-5.”
“I respect Brian’s opinion, but when I watched the tape, I didn’t see that,” Zimmer said. “And I looked for it, hard.”
But, the coach added, “Defensively, I think what he’s talking about is we maybe lost the fire a little bit.”
If the Vikings weren’t demoralized Thursday night, they hid it well. Green Bay virtually had its way with the Vikings, going up 42-0 on a rainy night when Minnesota was without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Stand-in Christian Ponder, the former franchise quarterback who spent the first three games inactive behind Matt Cassel and Bridgewater, started for the first time since Dec. 1, 2013, in Chicago. The Vikings won that game 23-20, but only after Cassel replaced an injured Ponder and threw for 243 yards and a touchdown.
On Thursday, the Vikings didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter.
Ponder completed 22 of 44 passes for 222 yards and no touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, including one that Packers linebacker Julius Peppers intercepted and returned for a touchdown to put Green Bay up 21-0 with 6:51 left in the first half.
That, Robison said, seemed to be the beginning of the end for the Vikings. The Packers scored touchdowns on two of their first three dives, but punted on their next three, and Minnesota had a first-and-5 at their own 39-yard line when Ponder’s throwing arm was hit as he tried to find Cordarrelle Patterson down the left sideline. Instead, the ball floated gently to Peppers, who ran 49 yards virtually untouched into the end zone.
“I thought defensively we did a great job when they went up 14-0 of just getting back and fighting and getting back into it,” Robison said. “I felt like when they got the pick six, with Peppers, and went up three scores, I felt like it started there.”
On the Vikings’ next drive, Ponder was intercepted in Vikings territory by Jamari Lattimore, setting up Aaron Rodgers’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Adams.
“When we went down by 28, I think it was downhill from there; you could see it on guys’ faces,” Robison said. “You could see it on the sidelines. Everyone was quiet. There was no longer that chatter that we normally have on the sidelines. That’s just not the way you win ballgames, and it’s definitely not the way you try to make the best of the situation and make a comeback win.
“If guys aren’t in tune to it, we might as well have shut it down at halftime.”
Zimmer said the tape revealed a team still trying, but his final assessment was succinctly negative.
“That performance is not acceptable,” he said.
On that, coach and veteran agree.
“Bottom line is, no matter who’s up and who’s down, we’ve got to come out and play ball and try to win a ballgame,” Robison said. “I think it boils down to we have to have more of a will to win than our opponent does.”
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