That’s not the case anymore.
Minnesota (4-5) looks to end a three-game losing streak and stop Miami (3-6) from earning a third straight victory when the teams meet at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday.
While turnovers have slowed the Vikings’ offense during the skid, the Dolphins have generated momentum behind a refocused defense.
“It’s going on Week 11, so we’ve got to make some things start happening,” Vikings receiver Travis Taylor said. “The season’s getting short.”
This was supposed to be the easy part of the Vikings’ schedule, but they haven’t been able to build on their 31-13 win at defending NFC champion Seattle on Oct. 22.
Their slide started with a 31-7 loss to New England on Monday night the next week, and then they fell 9-3 at San Francisco before last Sunday’s 23-17 home defeat to Green Bay. Of the 17 Vikings’ turnovers this season, nine have come in the last three weeks.
Quarterback Brad Johnson has thrown five interceptions over that span, but first-year coach Brad Childress says the poor play is a team problem.
“We need to play better around Brad Johnson,” Childress said. “Again, I’m not going to stick that on him. Are there plays that maybe he would have liked back? Sure there are, but I think basically those other 10 need to play around him better.”
Running back Chester Taylor needs to play better. He has not rushed for 100 yards or scored a touchdown in the last three games, totaling 193 yards on 56 carries in that stretch.
Johnson has also lost three fumbles in the last two contests, and has thrown one touchdown pass and been sacked eight times in his previous three games.
“We have to cut out the stupid stuff,” Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Safety Dwight Smith said the defense needs to avoid letting the offense’s lack of scoring divert its focus.
“We have to stop worrying so much about what’s going on the other side of the ball and get back to detailing our work,” he said. “If they don’t move the ball or get a three-and-out, then we have to go right back. We can’t run out there with our head hanging down.”
The defense has provided a lift for the Dolphins, who had lost four straight before forcing six turnovers in a 31-13 win at previously undefeated Chicago on Nov. 5. Miami held a second straight opponent to fewer than 300 yards last week when it beat Kansas City 13-10.
“We’ve gotten two wins in a row against two pretty good teams,” said Nick Saban, who won six straight games to conclude his first year as Dolphins coach in 2005. “We’re playing with more confidence. That’s important for us to be successful.”
The Dolphins rank second in the NFL in total defense with 277.0 yards allowed per game and are eighth in scoring defense, giving up 18.7 points a contest.
“It’s exciting to play the kind of defense we know we’re capable of playing,” linebacker Zach Thomas said. “It’s fun. It’s coming together. You hate to wait this long, kind of like last year. But let’s just have fun.”
The offense, however, is still struggling to put up points. Miami averages 318.7 yards of total offense per game, but is scoring just 16.2 points.
Harrington surpassed 200 yards for the fourth time in five starts last week and didn’t have an interception for the first time this season. He threw a season-high three touchdown passes against the Bears despite throwing for just 137 yards.
The Vikings, who haven’t lost four in a row since 2003, have won three straight in this series—all at home—since a 24-7 defeat at Miami on Oct. 2, 1988.