Adam Thielen: To take next step, Vikings need to quit talking about it

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What do the Vikings need to do to finally get to the next step and compete for a championship? Receiver Adam Thielen made a likely inadvertent Fight Club reference when addressing that topic earlier today.

“I think it really comes down to, ‘Quit talking about it,’ right?” Thielen told Bruce Murray and Bruce Gradkowski of SiriusXM NFL Radio on Saturday. “Like, we can talk about in the offseason how great we feel about our team, how great we feel about all the weapons we have and our defense and our defensive scheme, and our offensive scheme, how great all that is. Well, that’s great on paper, but that doesn’t win you games.

“What wins you games is going out there and executing and using your playmakers and making the plays when the ball’s in the air. And that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to go out there and make those plays. You know, again, we did enough to make the playoffs and get to the second round, things like that. Which is great, and that’s a successful season. But at the end of the day that’s not our end goal.

“And so we need to figure out how to make those happen, and go back to work. Take advantage of every rep. Whether it be these walk-throughs we’ve been having because we can’t practice yet. The teams that are taking advantage of those and getting better on a daily basis, those are the teams that are gonna make a run and have a chance when it comes [in] February.”

If all of that sounds overly simplistic, well, that’s because it is. Plenty of teams are doing exactly the same thing the Vikings are doing, with the same final goal in mind. The teams that will have a chance when the calendar says “February” will have something else, something more, something (for at least one season) special.

It can be sheer physical dominance from wire to wire. It can be playmakers who clearly have a higher level of skills than their peers. It can be finding a way to stay the healthiest, especially in a pandemic. It can be rising to the occasion in those handful of moments during a game when victory or defeat is determined. It can be the right break, the right bounce of the ball, the right call (even if the call is wrong) at the right time.

But he’s definitely right about one thing: Teams probably shouldn’t talk about getting to the next level, because that’s definitely not one of the ways to do it. And they definitely shouldn’t talk about how losing in the divisional round of the playoffs in the prior campaign counts as a “successful season.” Although lasting that long in the postseason generally is better than the alternative, one of the ingredients in getting to the top of the mountain surely will be an unrelenting desire to make it there — which necessarily includes having an attitude that anything short of the top of the mountain does not count as success.

We addressed this dynamic as it relates to the Vikings a few weeks ago, on PFT Live. Some Vikings fans hated the take. Others agreed with it. It goes like this: The Vikings seem to be content to be consistently close, in a sport where close simply doesn’t count.

The clearest, simplest evidence to support this view comes from Minnesota’s reaction to being overpowered by the 49ers in the postseason and Green Bay’s. The Vikings have, by all appearances, done their best to tread water from 2019 to 2020. The Packers, in lieu of focusing on making an improvement here or an improvement there that could boost them if/when they face the 49ers in the elimination round again, have taken a step back now in the hopes of taking multiple steps forward in the future.

For 2020, that could mean that the Vikings will have a more successful season than the Packers. But it won’t help either of them get past a 49ers team that seems to be built to dominate for years to come.

That said, there’s only so much that can be done in any one offseason. And it would be interesting to know whether the Vikings would have handed out so many financial rewards (with the exception of Dalvin Cook) if the Saints had found a way to win at home in the wild-card round.

For now, the Vikings seem to indeed be happy to be on the porch, periodically rapping lightly on the door. They have yet to show that they have an overwhelming obsession with kicking the door in.

At least we now know that won’t be talking about kicking the door in, either.

Adam Thielen: To take next step, Vikings need to quit talking about it originally appeared on Pro Football Talk