The Browns don’t have much in common with the Minnesota Vikings, but they’re in the same boat in at least one notable way.
Both teams started this season with an 0-2 record.
Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 0-2 teams have earned a postseason berth just 11.6 percent of the time, according to NFL.com. No 0-2 team has made the playoffs since 2008, when the Vikings were one of three to accomplish the feat.
But just because the Browns and Vikings, who lost 34-24 at the Detroit Lions and 31-30 at the Chicago Bears, share the same record doesn’t mean they’re on the same level.
The Browns went 5-11 last season and will likely start either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer at quarterback Sunday in Minneapolis because Brandon Weeden has a sprained right thumb.
The Vikings went 10-6 last season and earned a wild-card spot. They also have running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player who rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns last season despite suffering torn ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 24, 2011.
Chip Scoggins covers the Vikings for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He discussed the team and Peterson’s determination to bust loose against the Browns in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: What are the main reasons the Vikings are 0-2?
A: “Against Detroit, they just laid an egg. They didn’t play good in any area really. [Quarterback] Christian Ponder was the big unknown, his development going in, and he had four turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble, in the Detroit game. The offensive line didn’t play well at all. Everyone thought that would be one of their strengths. Adrian Peterson had a 78-yard touchdown run the first offensive play of the game, and then after that, he had 15 yards on 17 carries. Detroit’s defensive line just dominated that matchup. Defensively, the Vikings didn’t stop the run. [Running back] Reggie Bush killed them out of the backfield on passes. So it was just a complete no-show for them. And then Sunday, they played a lot better in Chicago. They created four turnovers. They scored on one of them. Their rookie wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee, returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. The game was there for them. They were up six with three minutes to go, and Chicago drove the field and scored a touchdown pass with 10 seconds left, and [the Vikings] had at least two communication issues on defense on that drive, including the last play.”
Q: After running for the 78-yard touchdown, Peterson has gained 115 yards on 43 rushes (2.7 average). It’s unheard of for him to struggle, so what gives?
A: “A lot of that was just from the Detroit game. His last 17 carries in that Detroit game, he only got 15 yards. The offensive line didn’t block at all. They just got dominated. There was no room for him to run in that one. Sunday, he finished with 100 yards, his best run was a 36-yarder, but he was pretty frustrated after the game. He said he was hesitant. He wasn’t attacking like he normally does. In the first half, the running game really went nowhere. But in the second half, they started getting into a rhythm. He started getting those 5-yarders, 6-yarders. So I thought his second half was better, and the offense started to function more like they want it to. But he was not very happy with his performance, and he even said he has to do some soul searching this week. So I’m guessing that’s not going to be good for the Browns. When he’s mad and talking like that, he’s already the most motivated athlete I’ve ever covered, but I got to think he’s going to want to have a huge game Sunday.”
Q: What will be the top keys to the game for the Vikings?
A: “The Metrodome is loud. It’s a tough place to play. They’re just a completely different team there. The crowd noise helps the pass rush. I think that’s going to be a major factor. When [defensive end] Jared Allen is at home and has that extra split-second to get off the ball, he’s tough to handle, and Brian Robison is on the other side. Jared and Brian, I thought, played really well in Chicago and had a huge impact on that game. So the two things: I think Peterson is going to have a big game just judging by how he was acting after the game, and I do think that pass rush is just so much different when they’re inside the dome.”
Q: How would you assess where Ponder is at in his development?
A: “He was the one big unknown coming into the year because last year was just a roller coaster for him. He started off pretty good, then was just terrible in the middle of the season and then he finished strong. So that was the big question coming into this year: How much has he grown from his first real full year as the starter? Was he going to take a step? The first game was just a disaster. His worst play was an interception with about four minutes to go in the Detroit game in the second quarter, which completely turned the game around. He threw another pick-six Sunday in the second quarter. At that point, you’re thinking there’s a very real possibility they could switch quarterbacks and go with Matt Cassel. But he came back the next drive and made some plays and actually threw a really nice touchdown pass to [tight end] Kyle Rudolph, and then he played pretty well the rest of the game. But until he does it consistently, he’s still going to be a guy that people are grumbling about. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction he gets in his first home game. If he gets off to a slow start or has some mistakes or throws an interception, this place is going to turn on him quickly, I think. Last week was a rough week for him in town. He was public enemy No. 1 and people were wanting [the Vikings] to go ahead and bench him and go to Matt Cassel already. So he needs to have a good start Sunday or fans will turn on him for sure.”
Follow Chip Scoggins on Twitter: @chipscoggins. Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.