The fact of the matter is that Sunday’s game between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints is not just another game. It’s the NFC Championship game and it pits the conference’s 2 best teams against one another for the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.
At this level of the game – just 1 step away from the NFL pinnacle – it’s typical to find elite teams with elite talent. In an environment such as that, the competition is intense and the desire to make a difference or standout or perform at an even higher level is natural.
But sometimes one must take the approach of mind over matter in order to properly prepare for crucial moments such as championship games. While the urge to dial it up a notch is there, the result of such a strategy might actually be counter-productive.
It’s a mind over matter situation at this point for teams, players and coaches still alive in the chase for the Super Bowl. While Sunday’s game is not just another game, that’s exactly how the Vikings are looking at it.
“That’s one of the things I pointed out to them this morning in our defensive meetings,” Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Thursday. “You really just want to be able to perform at the same level you’ve performed throughout the year. It’s been good enough. And just be on the details of the work, and things will work out just fine. Just don’t feel like you’ve got to do anything out of body, just do what you’ve been doing.”
One of Frazier’s defensive stars – CB Antoine Winfield – is a playoff veteran who understands the gravity of playoff and conference championship games. But while he has a grasp on the gravity of the game, he’s also embracing Frazier’s message of preparation.
“You can’t get too uptight in this game,” Winfield said. “You have to take it like another game. Although we know it’s the Championship, if you lose you go home. But, we’re all excited. Everyone’s studying, we’re ready to go out there and compete.”
Another Vikings player – WR Sidney Rice – has performed at an elite level this year. He finished the regular season 2nd in receiving yards and he was also named to his 1st career Pro Bowl. Rice set a new franchise playoff record with 3 receiving TDs last week against Dallas. But he’s not letting that record-setting performance go to his head or cause him to place added pressure on himself to perform at an even higher level this Sunday.
“We’re going to treat it as a regular game,” Rice said of Sunday’s upcoming clash with the Saints. “We know what’s at stake here. We know that if you lose, you go home and I feel like there’s no one in our locker room that wants to go home, so I feel like everybody is going to come out and compete and do what they’re coached to do.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Leslie Frazier, Sidney Rice
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