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Here they go

Vikings take on Tice's tough-guy personality

Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Mike Tice made a living as a tough, intelligent -- if not as talented -- tight end in the NFL for 14 seasons.

His three years as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings have been challenging and hardly satisfying, but he has clearly made an impression on this team.

"There have been a whole lot of games the guys left it all out there," Tice said. "They've left a lot of guts on the field the whole season. It's just sometimes they didn't play so smart and sometimes they didn't play with the confidence you need to win those close games. But they've certainly left a lot of guts on the field for me, and I appreciate that."

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The Vikings visit Philadelphia on Sunday in a wild-card playoff game. After a trying 8-8 regular season, a loss in the quarterfinals of the NFL playoffs would hardly be a disappointment. But expectations were much higher at the beginning of September, and a 5-1 start certainly suggested this team could do a lot better than the lowest seed in a weak NFC field.

With seven losses in the final 10 games, Minnesota offered little hint it was capable of going into Green Bay and upsetting the streaking Packers.

Amid national furor over the latest antics of wide receiver Randy Moss, who walked off the field two seconds early at Washington in frustration, Tice brought his bunch together with a week's worth of training camp-style practices and motivational techniques designed to instill in the Vikings the underdog mentality they needed to win.

It worked. They jumped to 17-0 lead at Lambeau Field en route to a 31-17 victory.

"It shows the heart and desire we've got," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs ... Coach Tice always tells us it's not going to be easy."

Sounds as if the message is getting through.

"I always felt that the team should take on the personality of the coach," Tice said, "whether it's a position coach or a head coach. I wonder why it took so long, I guess, is what I kind of think about.

"I wish they could've done that the last 10 weeks, but they didn't and we'll have to evaluate why that was. I know we lost some tough, close games, but I'm just proud of the guys because they accepted the challenge ... and stepped up to the plate and performed like they're capable of playing."

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The attitude, in everyone's mind, starts at the top.

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