MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings are looking to avoid another September swoon.
Starting in Week 2 last fall, the Vikings started slowly in three straight September games. After going 0-2-1 in the stretch, they played catch-up the rest of the season and officially missed the playoffs in a season-ending loss to Chicago.
Had they not stumbled in September, the Vikings already would have clinched a playoff spot.
“That’s just a situation that we want to avoid this year,’’ safety Jayron Kearse said Friday, Sept. 20.
Last Sunday, the Vikings fell behind 21-0 at Green Bay and lost 21-16. In Week 3, they will try to stop history from repeating in a noon kickoff against Oakland at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“You don’t want it to be a trend because that’s a horrible trend. We don’t want that to be the case again,” defensive end Stephen Weatherly said. “The best way to counteract that is for us to get to our brand of football as quickly as possible.”
After winning the opener at home San Francisco in 2018, the Vikings fell behind by double digits in each of their next three games. They trailed Green Bay 20-7 in Week 2 before coming back to force a 29-29 tie. They fell behind Buffalo 27-0 at home in a 27-6 loss, then spotted the Rams a 28-17 lead in a 38-31 loss in Los Angeles.
In Week 1, the Vikings sprinted to a 28-0 lead and defeated Atlanta 28-12 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Their start at Green Bay was vastly different.
The Packers scored touchdowns on their three first possessions against Minnesota’s usually rugged defense. The offense didn’t help; on its first two possessions, Dan Bailey missed a 47-yard field goal and a fumble by quarterback Kirk Cousins led to Green Bay’s third touchdown.
“They came out with guns blazing, and we didn’t play as fast as we wanted to,” said cornerback Xavier Rhodes. “So we can’t let that happen again.”
Obviously, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer agrees.
“We talk about starting fast every week,” he said. “So, let’s go out and play, play like we can play — play fast, play hard, play with great heart, play with great effort, good technique.”
On defense, the Vikings are determined to slow down Oakland rookie running back Josh Jacobs, fifth in the NFL with 184 rushing yards. On offense, they want to continue to ride running back Dalvin Cook, first in the NFL with 254 yards.
The Vikings also hope to improve the passing game. Cousins was 14 of 32 with a touchdown and two interceptions at Green Bay.
“When you have the ability to run the football like we can right now, you have to capitalize on the few opportunities that you’re going to get in the passing game, and those plays are usually going to be big plays,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
During last year’s three-game funk, it was the running game the Vikings couldn’t get going. In the stunning loss to Buffalo in Week 3, the 16K-point favorites ran for just 14 yards.
The Vikings are a nine-point favorite in Week 3 against the Raiders, and Kearse said they’re determined to not let history repeat.
“We let that slip away last year at this same point,” Kearse said. “So, we’re trying to avoid the same fate.”