[size=10pt][/size]Vikings grind away loss to Bears

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/sports/football/15624982.htm

BY DON SEEHOLZER
Pioneer Press
Win six, lose four. A 5-1 start followed by a 3-7 finish. A 7-2 finish following a 2-5 start.

That has been the story of the past three seasons for the Vikings, who have had more ups and downs than gas pricing but seem bent on shedding their streaky reputation.

In years past, a loss like Sunday's 19-16 heartbreaker to Chicago might have been enough to send the team into one of its patented tailspins. But these Vikings are confident that this season will be different.

In fact, they say they've already kicked that last game to the curb.

"That one's out the window," right guard Artis Hicks said Wednesday. "In this business, if you let a game like that linger, you find yourself losing another. You've got to get it out of your system and move on."

Safety Dwight Smith said he has done just that, purging the Bears game from his memory banks.

"I don't talk about last week," he said. "It's Wednesday. My mind's gone from there. We're not going to talk about last week or a week ahead. We're going to talk about Buffalo and show up and play. What happens happens."

One thing that could work in the Vikings' favor heading into Sunday's game at Buffalo is a new grind-it-out offensive style that is less spectacular but perhaps more dependable than their former big-play, feast-or-famine attack.

The offensive results haven't always been pretty, but combined with a solid defense, this team is built to avoid stretches of streaky play. Or so they would like to believe.

"That's the way we played last year," quarterback Brad Johnson said, referring to the 7-2 stretch run. "Then the way we've been playing this year, we've been in every game. I can't speak for the past. I just think we're a solid team in every phase. Hopefully, we keep giving ourselves chances to win and we'll be there in the end."

The Vikings have been a model of consistency this season, playing three games in which both teams scored in the teens, with each game decided by three points.

Like it or not, that apparently will be this team's style, and safety Darren Sharper said people should get used to it.

"We're built as a team that's not going to allow too many points," he said. "And we're explosive enough on offense to make teams have to prepare for us. I think you'll see a lot of games like these because we're not going to allow teams to run the scoreboard up on us."

That combination has worked two of three times this season, and the Vikings like their chances in that kind of game.

They also believe it's a formula that should help short-circuit any long losing streaks.

"We want to be focused on winning streaks," Sharper said. "I think just the way we prepare and the intensity of how we prepare will make us not have too many of those streaks on the bad side."

As disappointing as their first loss was, if the Vikings win Sunday at 1-2 Buffalo, only 0-3 Detroit will stand between them and a 4-1 record heading into the bye week.

Considering the first two games after the bye are a road trip to Seattle and a Monday night home date against New England, that makes this an important game.

There's also the question of how the Vikings will respond to their first loss under coach Brad Childress, but there have been no signs of panic this week in the locker room or on the practice field, where it has been business as usual.

That wasn't always the case in the past.

"It is good to come back and just show, like coach says, how you come back from adversity," Sharper said. "That you're mature enough to bounce back and play hard the next week. You'll see us come out against Buffalo and definitely play that way."