If Mike Zimmer had it his way, five minutes after Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs flung his helmet into the air following his remarkable walk-off touchdown to stun the Saints on Sunday night and send Minnesota to the NFC Championship, he probably would have liked to lock every one of his players into a dark, windowless room.
No telephones, no TVs, no connection to the outside world.
This way, the Vikings head coach could keep his players from becoming distracted by the euphoria of Minneapolis and the tantalizing talk of them becoming the first team in NFL history to play in its home stadium for the Super Bowl.
The mere thought is delicious to Vikings fans, who still are awaiting a first Lombardi Trophy, and the city of Minneapolis, which already is ready to burst with its anticipation of hosting Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.
But it’s those very thoughts that Zimmer has been in overdrive trying to suppress with his players since they reconvened on Monday to prepare for Sunday’s NFC title game against the Eagles.
And from the sounds emanating from the Vikings’ locker room on Wednesday, just three days removed from that improbable and crazed ending at U.S. Bank Stadium, Zimmer’s message has been soaked in by his players.
“We definitely can feel it,’’ Vikings receiver Adam Thielen told The Post. “We could feel it before this past game. The excitement, just for the second round of the playoffs, was just off the charts. It was like I’ve never seen before in this city. And then after Sunday’s win, it’s even on a different level. I didn’t think it could get any crazier. Vikings fans are excited. They’ve been waiting a long time for this.
“Hopefully we can continue to get better and take care of business Sunday.’’
Sunday’s game against the Eagles is in Philadelphia. If the Vikings win that game, they’ll have earned the chance to run through the tunnel from their own locker room in their own stadium for a Super Bowl.
“As an athlete and a competitor you’re going to think about it, but the biggest thing is just knowing that, hey, you’ve got to prepare at least the same if not more than the last week making sure that you’re not forgetting how tough it is to win in this league,’’ Thielen said.
“It’s always human nature [to think ahead], but you have to understand that it doesn’t matter what your thought process is if you don’t win this game,’’ defensive end Brian Robison said. “What we have to understand is how we won all season, and that’s by putting stuff behind us after Monday and moving onto the next one. So we can’t sit here and dwell on what happened last week. We’ve got to move on and get ready for Philly.’’
Former Jets punter Ryan Quigley, playing his first season in Minnesota, said players will “try as hard as we can to treat it as any other game.’’
“Obviously, we know what’s at stake, we know how close we are,’’ he said. “Yeah, obviously we’re thinking about [the Super Bowl at home], but none of that comes if you don’t win the game. Zim’s done a great job getting us prepared. All of our focus is on Philly. We’re locked in on Philly. All of that other stuff will take care of itself.
“Live in the moment, enjoy what’s in front of you and put the best effort on the field and hopefully we’ll come through.’’
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur said, “Human nature, I’m sure everyone is excited, but the most important ingredient for us right now is to stay focused and not lose sight of what’s in front of us and what’s at stake. It’s not like we don’t know what’s at stake. We know what we’re shooting for.’’
They’re shooting for history. And only until they accomplish that will Zimmer sleep easy.
“We understand the magnitude of this football game and [the win over the Saints] is three days ago, so it’s time to get on to Philadelphia and understand the things we have to do,’’ Zimmer said. “I think our players are smart enough to understand what’s going on, so I don’t see any problem. I feel like I have a pretty smart, level-headed football team.’’
Tight end Kyle Rudolph related a powerful story Zimmer told his players Wednesday morning.
“He talked about his first year in Dallas [when] they go to the NFC Championship in 1994 [and] then go back in 1995,’’ Rudolph said. “He hasn’t been back since 1995. I think I was just out of diapers in 1995. It teaches us that we can portray that message — especially to the young guys. This doesn’t happen all of the time. We have a great opportunity and we should make the most of it.’’