Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer's Monday press conference sounded like the echoes of what we heard on the same day from Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
Both were looking for bright spots after suffering through the first four games with breakdowns on defense, stall-outs on offense and big plays by their opponents.
The result: A 1-3 won-loss record for the Vikings, and 0-4 for the Lions going into Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
"There are a lot of things throughout the course of these four games that we haven't done enough, but we're darn close," Zimmer said at his press conference.
"I keep seeing with my eyes – the offense, how good they can be. And the defense, how much they've improved and they're playing together.
"We were giving up 30-some points per game the first two weeks. Last week it was 17, this week 14.
"I see the progress we're making. It may not show up in the wins and losses. If you stick to the grindstone, it will.
"I still feel good about where these guys are and what they can do. All of them basically said, 'Stick to the process. We believe in the process."
View photos of the starters for the Minnesota Vikings.
While the Monday message from Zimmer and Campbell was similar, the Vikings and Lions are in vastly different situations. Campbell is four games into his tenure as head coach of the Lions, and barely at the beginning of a major roster overhaul.
This is Zimmer's eighth season as head coach of the Vikings. The Vikings have won two NFC North titles under Zimmer and made the playoffs a third time as a wild card.
Last season's 7-9 record is his only losing season. The 2021 season is supposed to be a bounce-back year.
"It a veteran group -- smart players," Campbell said. "They've been running that system for a long time. They also have young, explosive players."
Here are some issues facing the Vikings, who seem to be on the verge of putting things together to make a playoff run:
Defense: Defense is Zimmer's calling card, going back to his days as a highly respected defensive coordinator and position coach.
The Vikings are getting back to Zimmer's preferred style, which means putting pressure on the quarterback. The Vikings have 13 sacks in the first four games, led by Danielle Hunter's five.
Everson Griffen, a long-time Viking who spent part of last season with the Lions, has two.
The pass rush is key to any success the Vikings will have. That is proven in the stats.
With a defense ravaged by injuries, the Vikings gave up 475 points with 23 sacks in posting a 7-9 won-loss record in 2020. That's compared to 303 points allowed with 48 sacks in 2019, when the Vikings made the playoffs at 10-6.
Hunter, who missed all of 2020, led the 2019 team with 14.5 sacks.
The Vikings gave up a combined 61 points in starting the season with two losses – 27-24 to the Bengals and 34-33 to the Cardinals. They've given up only 31 points in the last two games – a 30-17 win over the Seahawks and a 14-7 loss to the Browns.
Big plays: The Vikings gave up a 33-yard run to Kareem Hunt on a third and 20 with 35 seconds left in the first half to put the Browns in position to kick a field goal that extended the Browns' lead to 11-7.
"That was a big play in that drive," said Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson. "When a team does that (runs a draw), they pretty much surrender."
Offense: The Vikings have talented playmakers in running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and a solid quarterback in Kirk Cousins. They have not maximized their talent level.
Cousins has thrown nine TD passes against one interception with a 68.8 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 105.6.
Cook, coming off career highs of 1,587 yards rushing and 16 TDs, has 226 yards and a TD in three games. He missed the win over Seattle because of an ankle injury.