EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- Byron Chamberlain played for two Super Bowl winners in Denver, so he knows what it's like to be a part of a championship team.
He can tell something in Minnesota just isn't quite right.
"I think there, we were a little bit more steady," said Chamberlain, who spent his first six NFL seasons as a tight end for the Broncos before joining the Vikings this year. "But that just came with the type of leadership we had and the veterans we had in our locker room. I really can't put my finger on why it's like that here, why we can go from such an emotional win over Green Bay to such a letdown in Tampa Bay."
After pummeling the Packers, who at 4-1 were on top of the NFC Central at the time, Minnesota was beaten badly by the Buccaneers -- 2-3 and floundering in fourth place when they played last Sunday.
The Vikings, their once-potent offense still struggling to get in sync and their defense coming off an embarrassing effort against Tampa Bay, bring a 3-4 record into their bye weekend.
After that, a difficult schedule looms: at Philadelphia; New York Giants at home; Chicago at home; at Pittsburgh; Tennessee at home; at Detroit; Jacksonville at home; at Green Bay; at Baltimore.
"The people we have to beat to get into the playoffs, we are going to play," said coach Dennis Green. "Which means that the opportunity will be there for us."
In Green's 10 seasons, Minnesota has missed the playoffs only once, in 1995. But this year might well be the second unless the enigmatic Vikings can find some consistency.
"It seems like it's kind of been a long three months since we started," said center Matt Birk. "We're going to have to come back a little fresher and regroup and put a run together. It's not going to be real enjoyable off time."
As guard Corbin Lacina, who is suffering from a strained calf muscle, put it, "There's never a bad time for a week off in the NFL."
It's possible Pro Bowl strong safety Robert Griffith can return Nov. 11 against the Eagles after missing five games with a broken leg. It's even more likely running back Michael Bennett will be ready to play after a sprained ankle caused a two-game absence.
And generally, byes have been viewed positively by the Vikings and Green, who frequently points out his team's strong record in games immediately before and after. Entering this year, Minnesota was 9-1 going into and coming out of its week off.
But in this case, the downtime might not be the right tonic for the Vikings' troubles. The last time they had two weeks between games -- because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- they played their worst offensive game of the season and lost to Chicago.
"I think we'd like to get back on the field as soon as possible and make right what went wrong," said fullback Jim Kleinsasser. "We're not scrambling or anything. We know what we've got here and we know what we've got to work on."
That includes playing better away from the Metrodome, where Minnesota is 0-3.
"We have always felt we could go on the road and play a decent brand of football," Green said. "That has not been the case this year. You have to play with a lot more emotion. You have to be able to play as an underdog and respond as an underdog."
Playing more as a team would help, too. The training camp death of Korey Stringer is surely still a heavy burden, and it's clear this team is less talented than in the past.
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