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NOTEBOOK: Zimmer, Vikings Not Focused on Playoff Picture

Posted Nov 13, 2017


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Here is where the Vikings stand more than halfway into the 2017 season:

They are 7-2 and have won five consecutive games to find themselves in sole possession of first place atop the NFC North.

Minnesota’s offense just put up the highest point total of the season in a 38-30 win over Washington, and the defense ranks in the top five in yards and points allowed per game.

The Vikings face a stiff test this week as they welcome the Los Angeles Rams, who are also 7-2, to U.S. Bank Stadium.

What does it all mean to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer?

Nothing.

“Not really yet, too early,” Zimmer said Monday when asked if he pays attention to the standings. “We just try to take it one game at a time and win that game.

“It will all take care of itself eventually anyway,” Zimmer added. “There’s nothing we can do about what some other team does or wins or loses or anything else.”

Philadelphia has the NFC’s best record at 8-1, and three teams (Vikings, Rams and Saints) all sit at 7-2.

Minnesota has the tiebreaker based on conference record, but Vikings players said they’re hardly looking around the league to see what other teams are doing.

“I really don’t know a lot of people’s records and stuff like that,” said Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t pay attention to numbers and things like that.

“I kind of just focus on what I have going on myself and what we have going on with this team,” Kendricks added. “I don’t even know what the Redskins record was. We just played them, so I’m just going to keep playing like I always do.”

Added Vikings safety Harrison Smith: “I don’t think we really care week-in and week-out [about] who or what the standings [say]. They all count as one. That’s how we play.”

While the Vikings are riding a five-game win streak, the Rams have won six of seven games and are in first place in the NFC West.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said Minnesota’s sole focus will be on securing win No. 8 by the end of regulation Sunday afternoon.

“Honestly, this game’s no different than the first game of the season. In this league, every win and every loss is important,” Thielen said. “So we have to make sure that we’re bringing our best foot forward and we’re forgetting about this game now. We watch the tape now, we learn from our mistakes, and now it’s on to LA. This is a big game, but every game is big. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, what their record is, a win is a win. 

We know that we can’t relax. We know that we have to put as many wins on the board as possible because there’s a lot of games left, and you just don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” Thielen later added. “You don’t know what team’s going to get hot, you don’t know what team’s going to get cold. So for us, it’s just focusing on L.A. and making sure that we’re taking care of our game plan and the things we’ve been doing that have helped us win games in the past.”

Morgan showcases all-around game

David Morgan won’t soon forget about Sunday’s game in Washington, not after he scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard catch late in the second quarter.

But when Zimmer mentioned the Vikings tight end at his Monday afternoon press conference, his blocking ability was the topic of conversation.

“Morgan blocked really well [Sunday],” Zimmer said. “I thought that was his best blocking game he’s had. That was an improvement to get the running game going.”

The Vikings had 103 rushing yards and a score on 31 carries in Sunday’s win, a gritty effort that saw Minnesota eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground for the sixth time this season.

Morgan, who now has five career receptions, said he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in the running game.

“Oh yeah. Being a tight end, you’re asked to do a lot of things,” Morgan said. “We’re asked to be receivers, fullbacks, blockers on the O-line. Being in that position, you’re asked to do a lot of different things.”

As for his touchdown catch, Morgan said his phone was filled with congratulatory messages.

“There were a lot of friends and family giving me congratulations,” Morgan said. “It was cool to see the support from a lot of people.”

Quick turn of events 

Mackensie Alexander’s first career interception came at the perfect time for a surging Vikings offense.

Minnesota had just scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Thielen that gave the Vikings a four-point lead when Washington took possession with just under two minutes left in the second quarter.

Alexander stepped up and picked off quarterback Kirk Cousins on the first play of the ensuing drive, returning the ball to the 23-yard line.

The play set up Morgan’s touchdown before the Vikings scored on their first possession of the third quarter. 

Minnesota scored 21 unanswered points in five minutes of game time to grab the lead for good.

“It was awesome to see that,” Kendricks said. “He made a huge play right before the half that set us up for a score.

“We came back and scored at the beginning of the next half, so that’s crucial football,” Kendricks added. “That’s big time.”

Smith said he’s like the way Alexander, who didn’t have an interception in college at Clemson, has progressed since being a second-round pick in 2016.

“Plays came his way, [and] he made them,” Smith said. “We all know what he’s capable of. That’s what he’s put on tape.

“[He’s] just learning and getting better each week … picking things up,” Smith said.