'We like our guys': no sell off for Vikings at NFL trade deadline

Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 18, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

What a difference a week, and a road win over a division rival, makes for the Minnesota Vikings.

All was quiet at TCO Performance Center on Tuesday as the NFL trade deadline came and passed at 3 p.m. The only deal the Vikings made came over their bye week, sending defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2021 third round draft pick.

At the time, the thought was it might be the start of several moves. The Vikings were 1-5, the defense is without several starters and seven rookies were on the field one point against the Packers. Now after a 28-22 victory over their rivals, the Vikings are 2-5 with four of their next five games at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We like our guys. We’ve got a bunch of good guys on this team and we just need to continue to get better and play better. I don’t think there was much movement at all at the trade deadline,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday.

He’s right, there was very little action on the trade front Tuesday. That’s despite a few weeks of rumors involving Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. Veteran players who could’ve been sent to contending teams to stockpile draft picks, and build for the future.

But that didn’t happen, and all is as normal as it can be as they take the practice field on Wednesday. Smith said it’s part of the business.

“You always hear rumors and stuff on social media all the time. Not really much extra thought, I’ve got games to get ready for and that’s really all I can control. That’s all I care about really,” Smith said.

A road win over a division rival is always big, and it now has the Vikings believing they’re still alive in the NFC Playoff hunt. Only two teams since the 1970s have started 1-5 and made the playoffs, the 2018 Indianapolis Colts and 2017 Kansas City Chiefs.

“I think this is a win that we needed to get us over the hump. We’ve known our record doesn’t reflect how good of a team we are. But the thing is to believe, so for us to go toe-to-toe, go to Lambeau despite all the injuries we had and still win a game tells you that we got some pretty special young guys here and we have a bunch of fighters,” defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo said.

“That’s definitely a step in the right direction. Building on that is important, but we can’t get all giddy and happy about one win,” Smith said.

To get back in the playoff picture, the Vikings will need to do something they haven’t done yet this year: Win at U.S. Bank Stadium. They’re 0-3 at home, with losses to the Packers, Tennessee Titans and the inexplicable effort against the Atlanta Falcons before the bye week.

The Vikings have started slow at home, and have had trouble without the energy of their home fans. In their last home game, the first offensive play was a Kirk Cousins interception.

“The best way to have energy and avoid being flat is to play well. Start fast, and then sustain that throughout the game,” Cousins said.

The Vikings haven’t had any fans at home games this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only family of players and team staff have seen games as fans, and that will remain the case this Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Zimmer wants his team to play like there’s 65,000-plus fans in the seats every Sunday.

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have our fans there. The last time we played in the stadium it was completely dead,” Zimmer said. “We need to bring our own energy, we need to bring our own excitement, we need to play like the fans are there. Hopefully they can do it through osmosis or something.”

“That’s an important thing that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet or scouting report. We got so used to all the juice that comes with playing at U.S. Bank with all our fans and getting it real loud, especially as a defensive player. That’s just not how it is right now, so we have to create our own,’ Smith said. “As players, that’s on us, that’s our responsibility.”