Colts vs. Vikings: Vikings chasing clinch put rebound ability to the test

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — There’s a connectivity and resiliency these Minnesota Vikings have crafted and harvested, helping put them on the brink of a division title despite being cumulatively outscored by their opponents.

It’s time to test that character again.

Allow 400 yards or more for a franchise-record fifth straight game The Vikings lost last week to Detroit (10-3) and will try again Saturday when they host Indianapolis (4-8-1). They will win the NFC North title with a win or loss to the Lions.

Even though the Vikings were much more competitive in their setbacks against Philadelphia & Dallas than they were in previous losses, the loss at Detroit raises doubts about whether the defense is strong enough to sustain a deep run in the playoffs.

“Everybody’s kind of on them at this moment, so I feel like they’ve got a lot to prove,” wide receiver Justin Jefferson said.

Is the art of bouncingback a real ability that a team has, such as the ability to score touchdowns in the redzone or rush the passer consistently? This is up for debate.

“It’s hard to say, ‘Oh, we’ve done that before, so we have a reputation for doing that, so we’ll lean on that.’ I don’t believe in that. I think you’ve got to strap it up every week,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I don’t think the Colts really care what happened last week or what’s happening next week.”

It’s evident that Kevin O’Connell, the first-year coach, has created a positive environment. This is despite the fact that the same players had a 15-18 record in the previous two seasons. The Vikings are also the first NFL team to win more than 10 of its first 13 games with a negative points differential (313-32).

“It’s about the process with which we go about the week, never being in denial of reality,” O’Connell said. “The important thing is continuing to attack each week with the emphasis on what it’s going to take to win this week, and that may involve a lot of corrections and things from previous weeks or the previous game. But ultimately that’s what we try to do, just be consistent in that and make sure we’re very much accountable for what we do.”

STAY AT THE COURSE

Jeff Saturday, interim Colts coach contemplated lineup changes Despite three interceptions, and a lost football in the Cowboys’ 54-19 loss, Matt Ryan, quarterback, remained the starter.

Ryan has an NFL-worst 18 turnovers this season, but Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles — who beat the Vikings for the NFC championship five years ago with the Eagles — will remain as the backup.

With 125 more yards, Ryan — who was in the same 2008 draft class as fellow quarterback O’Connell — will be the eighth player in history with 3,000 passing yards in 13 straight seasons.

“There’s part of his game that has to improve, and we talked about that with a number of different guys,” Saturday said. “If we’re going to win, we need Matt playing his ‘A’ game. That’s my expectation for him. He’s mentally tough.”

GETTING OFF THE GROUND

The Vikings rushed for 22 yards on 17 plays against the Lions. This is the second time in their past three games that they’ve averaged 2.5 yards per attempt. They are looking forward to a block boost after Christian Darrisaw’s return from concussion.

“He’s as good as he wants to be,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “The upside and the potential of him being an All-Pro and a superstar tackle in this league is right there for him. Just keep putting in that work and just keep being him.”

CATCH HIM, IF YOU CAN

Jefferson is a league leader with 1,500 receiving yards. He has the potential to surpass Calvin Johnson’s single-season record (1,964). Although he’s only 23 years old, he believes he can still reach a higher level.

“That’s unbelievable to say, ain’t it? But I feel like there’s always a ‘better’ that I can be,” Jefferson said. “I feel I can catch and hold the ball better. I feel that I can run better routes. There’s always room for improvement in my game.”

MORE GILMORE

Gus Bradley, Colts defensive coordinator, wouldn’t reveal any details about Jefferson’s plan. But this much is certain: Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, must play a crucial role. This season has seen a revival in the health of the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year. It was his best since he won the award with New England.

He is fully aware of the challenges of covering Jefferson.

“He’s fast, he’s shifty, he’s great at the catch point,” Gilmore said. “He’s a great receiver. Kirk Cousins is playing good ball, too, so they’ve got a great offense. It’ll be a big matchup for us.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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