Green with envy
Vikings will spend bye week looking to halt poor play
Updated: Monday January 01, 2001 2:53 PM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- For now, the Minnesota Vikings have only themselves to worry about, which should keep them busy for two weeks before their NFC playoff game.
It might take an entire offseason, however, to solve all their problems. And they will get just that unless they can figure out how to stop the run without giving up the pass. Or get their running game going again. Or get quarterback Daunte Culpepper and offensive tackle Korey Stringer as healthy as possible.
No team has ever lost its last three regular-season games and won a Super Bowl. None of head coach Dennis Green's teams have ever gone winless in December, much less given up 34.7 points and 451.0 yards per game while doing so. Yet, Green said the Vikings are "very confident" coming off a 31-10 loss Sunday at Indianapolis.
For positives, Green turns to his team's record inside the Metrodome (7-1 this season) and coming out of bye weeks (9-1 during Green's tenure). They only know that their playoff opponent will be New Orleans if the Saints beat St. Louis on Saturday or, if the Saints lose, the winner of the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay game.
"You don't want to spend a lot of time on a team we might not play," Green said. "When we find out who we're playing, then we'll get very specific about that team. Up to then, our emphasis will be on our own short-yardage goal line offense and defense, on our red zone, things that we know are going to apply."
Culpepper and Stringer are expected to be able to play. Culpepper participated in 19 plays on a sprained ankle against the Colts. Stringer's right knee was hyper-extended on a freak play when he was hit while standing out of bounds on a kickoff return.
"I'll definitely be ready for the first playoff game, no question," said Stringer, who might not practice until Sunday. "It was a scary thing for a minute, but fortunately it was nothing serious. I guarantee you that won't happen again."
Wide receiver Matthew Hatchette (hip muscle) and defensive tackle Tony Williams (pulled quadriceps) also are expected to be back. Punter Mitch Berger might not kick off, after pulling a groin before Sunday's game.
The key for Culpepper will be increasing his tolerance for pain.
"Daunte will continue to get better, but we don't expect him to get totally healthy for our next game," Green said. "That's just not going to happen.
"He's not going to be able to run with the kind of speed and forcefulness that he has in the past, but he can do a good job of running the offense and, I think, lead us to victory. That's why it was important for him to play so he can see how he can play with an [ankle] that's not 100 percent."
Culpepper left the game in a grimace after taking a shot from the Colts, but Green said he showed the sort of toughness the Vikings were hoping to see.
"I wanted him to play enough that he knew how he'd have to play with it," Green said. "He had pain and then the pain went away. That was the key thing. He did not re-injure it. If he had to come back in or had wanted to come back in, he could have gone out and played with it."