Their defense was gashed without their three best players. Adrian Peterson was rendered irrelevant in a lopsided game, and in four days they have to do it all over again.
Smith and Barr left during the second series and the Vikings were outgained by the Seattle Seahawks 433-125 in a 38-7 wipeout on Sunday. It left coach Mike Zimmer hinting at a lack of effort in practice the previous week and Peterson questioning the play calling for the second time this season.
Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher, had just eight carries for 18 yards, with a 21-0 halftime deficit removing the running game from the equation for the Vikings (8-4).
"They were just a better team," Peterson said after registering the third-lowest number of carries in a game in his career. "They were more aggressive, played more physical and they outcoached us as well."
"In so many different areas," Peterson said. "And outplayed in so many different areas for us players as well."
When asked if eight carries were too few for him, Peterson offered one of his favorite rebuttals.
"What you think?" he said.
The biggest loss since a 34-3 defeat by Chicago on Nov. 25, 1984 dropped the Vikings behind the Green Bay Packers (8-4) in the NFC North race. The Packers won in Minnesota on Nov. 22 and the teams meet in the season finale at Lambeau Field, which could decide the division.
Of greater concern for the Vikings is a game against the Cardinals on Thursday night, offering precious little time for the injured players to heal before heading to Arizona on Wednesday. Smith left with a hamstring injury and Barr aggravated a groin injury that had him listed as questionable for the game.
Those who remained healthy on Sunday were completely overwhelmed by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (7-5), who have won three straight to start to climb out of a 2-4 hole.
Wilson was 21 for 27 for 274 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 51 yards and another score. Doug Baldwin had five catches for 94 yards and two TDs. Thomas Rawls overcame an early fumble to rush for 101 yards and a touchdown on a day when the Seahawks' defense looked as close to the dominant unit that headlined two straight trips to the Super Bowl as it has all year.
"We've had our times where we played well, but this was definitely more complete," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "Both sides were in rhythm today."
Teddy Bridgewater struggled mightily when the offense was placed on his shoulders and the Vikings produced the fewest number of yards by an offense in a game this season. He was 17 for 28 for 118 yards, and his interception to Earl Thomas in the second quarter set up Wilson's 20-yard strike to Baldwin that put the Hawks up 21-0.
"We're not quite as good as we think we are," Zimmer said.
In two of the past three weeks, the upstart Vikings have been dominated by the NFC's established powers. The Packers and Seahawks outscored Minnesota a combined 68-20, with Cordarrelle Patterson's 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter the Vikings' only score on Sunday.
Twice in his postgame press conference Zimmer alluded to a dissatisfaction with the team's approach in practice last week, a sense that some were feeling too good about themselves after a 20-10 victory in Atlanta.
"Usually when there's an issue I address it when I see it," Zimmer said.