Minnesota Vikings' Mike Zimmer quickly switches focus to Lions - Kogonuso


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Nov 22, 2016

Minnesota Vikings' Mike Zimmer quickly switches focus to Lions

By The Sports Xchange 
Minnesota Vikings head football coach Mike Zimmer. UPI/Bill Greenblatt
| License Photo

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings won a game for the first time in 42 days, but coach Mike Zimmer took only moments before fixing his sights on what was coming four days later.
"I had 'Victory 10 Minutes,'" Zimmer said after Sunday's 30-24 win over visiting Arizona ended a four-game losing streak and allowed the Viking to keep pace with Detroit at 6-4 in the NFC North. "Now, it's time to get on to Detroit."
With so little time to plan for a team that beat Minnesota three weeks earlier on an overtime touchdown pass, Zimmer started preparations for the Thanksgiving game at Ford Field as soon as he finished his post-game press conference.
Zimmer normally meets with the media the day after games, but that was moved to Tuesday while players were sparse around the facility on Monday.
The Vikings began the season assuming the Packers would be the greatest challenge to the NFC North crown they won by unseating Green Bay a year ago. Now, with the Packers struggling at 4-6, it's the Lions -- winners of five of their past six games -- that stand in the way.
On Nov. 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium, Detroit got the early upper hand by kicking a 58-yard field goal as the fourth quarter expired and then winning 22-16 when two missed tackles allowed Golden Tate to score on a 28-yard touchdown reception.
All six of Detroit's wins this season have featured fourth-quarter comebacks. The Vikings helped them out when Blair Walsh missed an extra point, had an off-line 46-yard field goal attempt blocked and botched a kickoff near the end of regulation. Walsh has since been released, but his replacement, Kai Forbath, had a PAT blocked in his Vikings debut on Sunday.
The inconsistent run defense also disappeared in the first half Sunday as the Cardinals rushed for 110 yards and a 5.0-yard average. And the offense gained only 217 yards and needed scoring help from Xavier Rhodes' 100-yard interception return and Cordarrelle Patterson's 104-yard kick return.
But all the bad tends to be forgotten in victory -- especially a victory that has been so long awaited.
"It's been a long, long, long month," Zimmer said. "It's good to feel this again. It's good to see the fight that the players had, to see that hard work. I talked to the team a lot the past few days about, it's a long season, there's going to be a lot of ups and downs. There's going to be a lot of different things that can go on. If you just keep fighting and keep your nose to the grindstone and keep going and keep working and paying attention to the little details of your work, we can pull out of this.
"So it was nice to see them have some reward of being able to get some of that, because there's a lot of negativity when you lose four games. It's actually a credit to our football team that we didn't let it seep into us because it can go south really fast."
The corner hasn't been turned entirely for Minnesota. There's no long rest after the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. The Vikings return home to face Dallas -- the hottest team in the league -- at home the following Thursday night. After that, it's games at Jacksonville, home against the Colts, at Green Bay and home to Chicago.
But for at least 10 minutes, players got to enjoy a victory.
"(The losing streak) was weighing on everyone," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "You could feel it just at practice and in the locker room. That feeling we had [Sunday], I think it solved a lot of problems."
PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Sam Bradford threw for only 169 yards, but he only had eight incompletions (20 for 28) with a touchdown and no interceptions. The decimated offensive line held up fairly well with T.J. Clemmings back at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles at right tackle. It gave up only two sacks, but one of them was a strip-sack turnover in Vikings territory late in the game. Sirles also had two aggravating penalties: illegal hands to the face that negated a red-zone touchdown (although the Vikings still scored a touchdown on that drive) and a false start at home on third down. Receiver Adam Thielen continues his evolution as an NFL player. On the opening drive, he had a 22-yard catch and a beautiful 16-yard touchdown in which he had the athleticism and body control to get a second foot down inbounds. The official originally ruled him out, but the play was overturned upon review. Cordarrelle Patterson also continues to grow. He had a 30-yard reception on third-and-1 on a shallow crossing route on the drive after the Cardinals took their only lead, 10-7.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Vikings were far, far from being dominant. But they didn't post another F-minus performance. Jerick McKinnon had only a team-high 44 yards on 16 carries (2.8), but he did have an eight-yard run on the opening touchdown drive, a 12-yarder on second-and-1 later in the game, and also a five-yarder out of the Wildcat formation. The Vikings ran for only 72 yards, but there were more encouraging signs, such as Matt Asiata scoring on a 2-yard touchdown plunge and also gaining three yards on a dive play on third-and-1.
PASS DEFENSE: A-plus -- It doesn't get much better than what the Vikings did to Carson Palmer and a dangerous Cardinals passing game. Clinging to a 13-10 lead and facing a Palmer pass from the Vikings' 9-yard line, the Vikings posted a 14-point swing in a blink when cornerback Xavier Rhodes returned an interception a franchise-record 100 yards for a touchdown. Rhodes had another interception in the second half on a deep ball. The Vikings also finally re-ignited the pass rush that led them to their 5-0 start this season. End Danielle Hunter had two of the team's four sacks, both coming in the final two Arizona possessions. The last one was the game-clincher on fourth down in the closing seconds.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- One of the reasons this remained a close game was the Vikings' inability to stop the run in the first half. The Cardinals had 110 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries (5.0) in the first half. On the drive that led to a field goal and their only lead of the game, the Cardinals started out with David Johnson runs of 10, 9 and 11 yards. A couple snaps after that, he ran for another 10-yard gain. The second half was much better. The Vikings didn't allow a first down in the third quarter, and Arizona had only 25 yards rushing on six carries for the entire second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, Marcus Sherels returned a punt 23 yards to set up a short field for the first touchdown of the game, and Jeff Locke boomed a career-high 72-yard punt with no return in the closing minutes when a drive stalled at the Vikings' 15-yard line and Arizona trailing by only six points. That sounds like A-plus material. But let's stop short of the top grade since new kicker Kai Forbath, who was signed five days earlier to replace the embattled Blair Walsh, had a PAT blocked. He did make his other three PATs and his only field goal, but the team's fifth missed PAT of the season means the kicking issues aren't quite solved yet. Ironically, Forbath's field goal attempt was from 27 yards. Vikings fans know that length well because it's the same distance that started Walsh's downfall when he missed the game-winning try in the closing seconds of the 10-9 playoff loss to Seattle last season.
COACHING: B -- This is a game the Vikings should have won, being at home against an underachieving Cardinals team that was .500 and had beaten teams with a combined 8-20 record. But Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff deserve credit for holding everything together during a month-long slump and ending a four-game losing streak. Interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was in his third game since Norv Turner resigned, came up with some impressive wrinkles, including a flea-flicker pass out of the Wildcat formation. It wasn't completed, but it did draw a 29-yard pass interference penalty down to the Arizona 2. He also finally designed a third-and-short passing package that paid off on a well-designed shallow crossing route that Patterson turned into a 30-yard gain on third-and-1 in the first half. Defensively, Zimmer still needs to figure a way to get his defense to play stouter against the run. The first half was atrocious, but the third quarter was dominant with two three-and-outs and a takeaway. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer continues to be a leader in return blocking designs. Patterson ran untouched through a giant hole on his 104-yard kickoff return.

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