NFL: Zimmer seeks to cure inconsistent Vikings
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- With his team at 1-1 and a game behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made it clear that it's time for him to clamp down on the steering wheel while this team is heading in the r...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - With his team at 1-1 and a game behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made it clear that it’s time for him to clamp down on the steering wheel while this team is heading in the right direction.
“This is a good week to be demanding,” Zimmer said before repeating those words for effect.
The Vikings, who play at home against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, are 6-3 overall in their second and final season at TCF Bank Stadium, the team’s interim home.
It’s not the home-field advantage that the claustrophobic Metrodome was, but it beats the road, where Zimmer is 2-7 in his second season.
San Diego also has been up and down. The Chargers rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat the Lions 33-28 at home in Week 1 and then lost at Cincinnati 24-19.
But the Chargers still have the kind of well-balanced offense that can easily knock the Vikings’ defense out of sync.
For Minnesota defensively, everything starts with the run defense, which ranked 25th a year ago and has been the most wildly inconsistent part of the team through two games.
“Night and day,” is how Zimmer described it. “But I’m proud of how our guys responded.”
With Chargers star Philip Rivers more than enough to worry about at quarterback, the Vikings must not forget about rookie Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead carrying the ball out of the backfield. They averaged 5.5 and 5.1 yards, respectfully, on 16 and seven carries against the Bengals.
“It’s always been if we stop the run, we can get after the quarterback,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “(Sunday) we did that the way we’re supposed to. So we showed we can get the job done.”
In a 26-16 win over the Detroit Lions, the Vikings allowed only 38 yards on 16 carries. No Detroit running back had more than nine yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the way with 20 yards on four scrambles.
Only six days earlier, the 49ers crushed the Vikings with 230 yards rushing on 39 carries, a 5.9-yard average. But it could help the Vikings’ preparation that Cincinnati runs the same defense it ran two years ago when Zimmer was its defensive coordinator.
The “night and day” description could describe the Vikings’ two offensive performances.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was jittery and under siege in San Francisco, yet well-protected and calm against Detroit.
Running back Adrian Peterson was a non-factor with 10 carries at San Francisco, but very much a factor with 29 carries for 134 yards, although he did fumble twice officially and had a third fumble negated by a Detroit penalty.
“We had a good mix (Sunday),” Peterson said. “It worked.”
The Vikings can be encouraged by the fact the Bengals had a similarly well-balanced effort against the Chargers.
The running game pounded out 175 yards on 36 carries (4.9), allowing quarterback Andy Dalton to play a turnover-free game while posting a 126.1 passer rating.
But the overall question facing the Vikings is whether they can handle success. Before the season, they were a popular surprise playoff pick.
Minnesota responded with its worst clunker of Zimmer’s tenure. Then, with everyone questioning their legitimacy, the Vikings bounced back with a convincing win.
So can this young team handle a week’s worth of success?
“We don’t have any choice,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “If we think we’re a good team, which we do, we have no other choice but to handle it.”
--Left guard Brandon Fusco (concussion) missed practice on Wednesday. Filling in for him was Jeremiah Sirles, the second-year player who was acquired in a trade with the Chargers earlier this month.