The Vikings’ reward for beating the 13-3 Saints in New Orleans on Sunday is a Saturday game in Santa Clara, against the 13-3 49ers. Hooray?
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer realizes that it’s a difficult challenge. He’s not whining about it, however.
“It is,” Zimmer told reporters when asked how tough the turnaround is, logistically. “I’m not saying it’s not. It’s similar to playing a Monday night game and then you have to get ready for a Sunday game. Obviously, we’re going out to the West Coast, so that’ll be a little bit different, but, hey, it’s playoff time. It’s big boy football now.”
The Vikings had an even more extreme experience, in 2018. After facing the Bills at home on a Sunday, where the Vikings lost despite being double-digit favorites, Minnesota had to travel to L.A. to face the Rams on a Thursday night. And they gave the Rams, the eventual NFC champions that year, everything they could handle.
As Zimmer said, it’s big boy football now. And the task is no different than the one the Vikings faced 32 years ago, when their reward for beating the 12-3 Saints on a Sunday was a game at San Francisco six days later. Minnesota won that one, somehow, as 11-point underdogs. This time around, the spread is only 6.5 points, an acknowledgement of the reality that the Vikings are good enough to keep it close.
And they’re experienced enough to know that the overtime win over the Saints means nothing if they fall flat in the next game, like they did in the NFC Championship against the Eagles after beating the Saints in the Minneapolis Miracle game.
“A lot of the guys that are here were here before, and so I feel like they’re a veteran team, they understand,” Zimmer said. “We actually had a couple of guys saying, ‘Hey, calm down’ in the locker room. We got to get ready to go play again. So I’m hopeful that it’s like that.”
Zimmer said that he’ll know whether the team has moved on from the win over the Saints “[p]robably Saturday night.” So will the rest of us.