NFL: A day later, Zimmer even more baffled
By Brian MurphySt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Adjectives and invective remained plentiful Tuesday when autopsying the Vikings' humbling 20-3 loss the previous night at San Francisco. Many were familiar, but most unprintable in mainstream m...
By Brian Murphy
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Adjectives and invective remained plentiful Tuesday when autopsying the Vikings’ humbling 20-3 loss the previous night at San Francisco.
Many were familiar, but most unprintable in mainstream media.
After reviewing the ugliness on tape, coach Mike Zimmer said Minnesota had “a lot of soul searching to get done.” He also was at a loss to explain the flustered play of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or identify the team that barely showed up at Levi’s Stadium.
“I told the team at halftime, I said, ‘I don’t even know who’s out there today. I don’t know who this team is,’ ” Zimmer said during his late-afternoon news conference at Winter Park. “I’ve never seen this side of us before. Never.”
Then he recalled last year’s 42-10 bashing by the Green Bay Packers Week 5 at Lambeau Field, another nationally televised meltdown that spawned a three-game losing streak.
Zimmer and Vikings fans can only hope Monday night’s flop was an anomaly and not the foreshadowing of a lost season after the 49ers exposed weaknesses and sowed doubts throughout the lineup in Minnesota’s 2015 debut.
“It was a poor performance, disappointing,” Zimmer said. “We did not play good together as a team in most all phases and (have) got a lot of soul searching to get done.”
It was a collective failure, forcing a top-to-bottom evaluation during a short week as the Vikings prepare to host the Detroit Lions on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Pass protection was poor. Adrian Peterson admitted being tentative with the ball, but he had no running lanes to exploit. Defensively, the Vikings’ front seven could not shed blocks and subsequently was gashed for 230 rushing yards, including 168 from Carlos Hyde in his first NFL start.
Blair Walsh missed another makeable field-goal attempt.
But Bridgewater’s performance was most alarming. The second-year quarterback was sacked five times, unstable in the pocket, slow to pull the trigger and wildly inaccurate, showing a lack of poise he rarely exhibited as a rookie.
He finished 23 of 32 for 231 yards and an interception.
“This is the first time I’ve really seen him like that,” Zimmer said. “Usually he’s got so much composure, but he did seem that way. When it’s third down, and he goes and slides and almost doesn’t get the first down instead of going head first and getting the first down. Things like that that is not typical of what he’s done and what we’ve done in practice, as well.”
Zimmer had no inkling Bridgewater or the rest of his team was poised for such a fiasco.
A week’s worth of high-tempo practices closed out an extended but largely successful preseason in which the Vikings won four of five games with Bridgewater confident and precise.
“I do not think that Teddy’s going to throw another clunker,” Zimmer said. “I’ve never seen that side of him. I think it’s probably just an enigma that this happened. But we’re going to have to find out with what we see.”
“Heck, when we came back (to practice) on Thursday, he was humming the ball and he was pumped up. You could tell. I even walked over to (backup quarterback) Shaun Hill and said, ‘Man, he’s humming it today isn’t he?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty fired up.’ ”
Meanwhile, Peterson had a paltry 31 yards on 10 carries in his much-anticipated return following a yearlong layoff.
“I don’t think he looked tentative,” Zimmer said. “I think he was aggressive trying to get to the hole and maybe trying to get to it a little bit too fast at times.”
Zimmer insisted Peterson is improving his pass protection despite whiffing while trying to block a blitzing cornerback on the Vikings’ first drive. Later in the first quarter, he was steamrolled along with center Joe Berger on third-and-5 at their 17 when the 49ers blitzed two defenders and sacked Bridgewater for a 14-yard loss.
“The one blitz they run, the one that they sacked Teddy at about the 2-yard line, they see that exact same blitz every day in practice, so I’m like, ‘Come on!’ How does that happen?” Zimmer said.
“They see that blitz every single day in practice and we probably run it better. But we didn’t touch two guys, so that’s when I say, ‘I don’t even know who this team is.’ ”
The 49ers manhandled the Vikings at the line of scrimmage. Defenders uncharacteristically were pushed around, unable to shed blocks, and yielded huge chunks of yardage on the perimeter.
Zimmer said players became tired, frustrated and sloppy tacklers, getting caught overpursuing that ball and out of position to defend against cutbacks.
“You’ve got to give San Francisco a lot of credit,” he said. “They out-executed us and outplayed us.”
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