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Presser Points: Zimmer on Vikings Offense, Defending the Run

Posted Sep 25, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer isn’t too concerned about statistics, but he is happy with the performance of Minnesota’s offense.

Zimmer told Twin Cities media members that the unit “played outstanding” en route to the Vikings 34-17 defeat of the Buccaneers Sunday afternoon.

“I think they’re doing a really nice job,” Zimmer said. “I think they’re executing, I think the plans that they have each week are very good.”

The Vikings rank second in the league for total offense, having racked up 1,201 total yards. They are averaging 400.3 yards per game, behind only the Patriots (440.7).

“We don’t really look at the statistics yet; I know everybody else does,” Zimmer said. “But it’s a long season, and we’re just trying to get better each and every week.

“It’s three weeks. We typically don’t look at stats until Thanksgiving,” Zimmer later said with a chuckle. “So we still got a long way to go. But it’s great – I’m happy that they’re executing, they’re putting points on the board. A lot of things we worked on in the offseason, the team has been doing. I think it’s all about the team as we continue to go forward.”

Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed during his podium session:

1. Coaches communication

Zimmer complimented Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur’s game plans and the team’s execution of them.

He also said the offensive coaches as a whole communicate effectively with each other.

“I’m listening to them during the game,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got guys upstairs communicating coverages and tendencies, things that we’re doing and ways to attack it. Pat, he asks, ‘Hey, you guys like this? You guys like that?’ It’s a collective effort, I think the offensive staff has done a nice job.

“When I say ‘plans,’ I’m saying they’re executing the things. You can have a great plan and not execute. I think the team’s been executing,” Zimmer continued. “Obviously, we’re throwing the ball good, we’re protecting good and we’re running the ball good. That all goes hand in hand.”

2. A case for Keenum

With Case Keenum now having two consecutive starts in Purple in place of the injured Sam Bradford, Zimmer was asked the biggest difference in Keenum between Week 2 and Week 3.

“You know, I think a lot of it had to do with the timing of when he knew he was going to play, changing the plan,” Zimmer said. “I think he was confident going in [against the Buccaneers]. He felt good about the plays.”  

The head coach added, however, that it’s important to “give all the guys credit” on offense for the way they supported Keenum throughout the game and made plays.

“They executed … we ran the ball well, [Dalvin] Cook had some really good runs, the offensive line blocked and protected well, we made some really great catches. [Adam] Thielen had a great catch, [Stefon] Diggs had a great catch,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes that’s just how it goes. It’s week to week, we just try and do as best we can each week.”

Zimmer is confident in Keenum’s ability to step in and said that Bradford’s injury continues to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

He did specify, “Once Sam is ready, he’s the quarterback.” 

3. Restricting the run

Minnesota’s defense has done extremely well against the run thus far.

Through three games, the Vikings rank third in the league for holding opposing teams to an average of 62.7 rushing yards per game. Minnesota did not allow Tampa Bay a run longer than four yards.

Zimmer said the success starts with the defensive line but that all levels of defense have been effective in keeping teams from getting going on the ground.

“The guys up front have done a nice job, really all of them. The secondary has tackled pretty well as well,” Zimmer said. “Shamar [Stephen], I thought he’s played well these last three weeks. Linval [Joseph], the two ends (Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter) have done a nice job. [Anthony] Barr and [Eric] Kendricks, [Ben] Gedeon when he’s been in there has done a nice job. That’s part of it. Just good players.” 

4. Growing the ground game

While restricting their opponents rushing yards, the Vikings in turn have demonstrated a much more dynamic run game to start the 2017 season than they did in 2016.

The Vikings are averaging 115 rushing yards per game, and Zimmer said the success on the ground helps to open up the passing game, as well.

“It definitely helps a lot,” Zimmer said. “When you can run the football the way we’ve been running it, it helps. It helps get more people down in the box, it gives more single coverage on the outside.”

He later said that teams aren’t able to ignore the mark Cook is making early.

“I think they’re respecting him a lot,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know how much they’re changing their coverages and pressure packages and things like that, but I have a pretty good idea they’re respecting the run with him.”