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Presser Points: Zimmer on Vikings WRs, Keenum, Playing With a Lead

Posted Nov 13, 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Vikings have a number of offensive threats in their arsenal.

At Washington on Sunday, Case Keenum threw for four touchdowns to four different players, three of which were wide receivers, en route to the Vikings 38-30 win.

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs each scored a touchdown and combined for 244 yards. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that a healthy Thielen-Diggs tandem is helpful in challenging an opposing defense, but he added that it isn’t just the two of them who make Minnesota’s offense this season dynamic.

“Yeah, I mean, they’re two pretty good players, so it helps,” Zimmer told Twin Cities media members on Monday. “The good thing about not only those two guys, but [Laquon] Treadwell and Jarius [Wright], Michael Floyd and even [Stacy] Coley, they can play a number of different positions, whether they’re outside, inside, on the slot. We can line them up in a lot of different places.”

Zimmer said the flexibility of the Vikings receivers makes them more difficult for defenders to prepare for.

“You’ve got to do an awful lot of studying because typically guys like to do certain things out of certain spots,” Zimmer said. “Guys are out of position in one spot and out of position in another spot, and then they do different things out of those areas. Then you’ve got to figure out all your man coverage rules and your zone coverage rules. Yeah, it makes it a lot more complicated and difficult.”

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

1. Learning to play with the lead

Following Sunday’s win and again in a media session on Monday afternoon, Zimmer emphasized that the team must “learn to play with the lead.”

When asked specifically to expand on what Zimmer felt the Vikings need to improve on to achieve that, Zimmer offered a multifaceted response.

“A little bit of it is the clock became our friend there. We’re in field goal range and throw a bad interception. That one was probably worse than the second [interception],” Zimmer recalled of back-to-back turnovers in the second half. “We’re in field goal range, we got a chance to go up three scores (18 points). At that point in time, the clock is kind of starting to become our friend now a little bit – using a little bit more time on the clock, understanding the situation.”

Added Zimmer: “The game is basically over if we just take care of things and take care of the football, continue to keep the clock running, continue to get first downs – things like that.”

2. A couple of thoughts about Case

Zimmer was incredibly pleased with Case Keenum’s performance throughout most of the game at Washington, but he said the consecutive interceptions put the team in a precarious position.

“The two turnovers were bad. Back to back, and we had the game pretty much in hand,” Zimmer said. “The rest of the game, he played pretty darn good. He moved in the pocket well, threw the ball [well].”

Zimmer said that Keenum has “started slow” in the past couple of games before finding a rhythm down the stretch, whereas it seemed to work almost in the opposite manner on Sunday.

“He’s a very excitable guy,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes he gets off the reservation a little bit. I talked to him a little this morning about understanding the situation of the game and where we’re at, and sometimes a throw-away is a good thing.”

When reflecting on the decision to sign Keenum as a backup quarterback in free agency, Zimmer commented on his character and dedication to the game.

“Case just loves to play football,” Zimmer said. “Our guys upstairs do a great job of finding the right kind of guys to bring here. I think we have a great locker room.”

Keenum started his seventh game in Purple, while it was Teddy Bridgewater’s first time dressing for a non-exhibition contest in nearly two years. Zimmer was asked during his presser if he has made a decision on the starting quarterback for this Sunday’s game against the Rams. He said, “Yes.”

“I haven’t sat down and talked with everyone yet,” Zimmer said. “I’m going to wait until Wednesday.”

3. Diving into the defense

Zimmer was initially frustrated with Minnesota’s defensive performance at Washington in allowing the Redskins to score 30 points.

After reviewing the film, however, Zimmer had changed his tune a bit.

“Defensively, actually, we didn’t play as bad as I felt yesterday,” Zimmer said. “[Washington was] 3-for-5 on fourth downs. Usually we’re pretty good in those situations. They made some plays. [But] overall, it was a good road victory.”

The Vikings were without starting defensive end Everson Griffen, who had 10 sacks through the first eight games of the season. Zimmer said there were positive takeaways from the defensive line’s performance in Griffen’s absence but that mistakes also were made.

“We hit the guy a lot. We had some really good rushes against their good offensive linemen,” Zimmer said. “Tom Johnson rushed well, B-Rob (Brian Robison) won some, Danielle [Hunter], Linval [Joseph].

“We made some mistakes – the second third down of the game we get a roughing the quarterback, which allowed them to continue to drive. We had a couple of those things happen,” Zimmer continued. “We fell down and misaligned on the wheel-route to the back, and we fell down on I guess it was fourth-and-3 or something like that. So there were some errors that we can correct. We should have played better, but for the most part it was good.”

4. Offensive line observations

The Vikings offensive line again did not allow a sack of Keenum on Sunday.

In addition to the line keeping its quarterback upright, Zimmer said the unit has played a big role in the versatility of the offense. He has commented before on the athleticism of this season’s offensive linemen and said it’s enabled some of them to get farther down the field and block.

“I think that they can get to the second level a lot better,” Zimmer said. “It helps when they can get off the double team or get to the second level and get to the linebacker; that’s how you can get some big runs.”

He added that communication on the offensive line has been strong, which enables the unit to make an adjustment or correction quickly in a game or in practice.

Zimmer said that rookie Pat Elflein has played well this season and helped Keenum by being able to quickly read the defense, and that other positions also play support roles.

“The first thing about that is picking up the blitz. We’ve done a nice job protection wise,” Zimmer said. “Jerick [McKinnon] had a couple of nice blocks in there. Latavius [Murray] did as well, and we’re changing up protections, and I think that has helped Case quite a bit, as far as if we end up seeing some blitzes and being able to change protections to different things – I think that’s helped quite a bit.

“I think Pat does a good job of understanding the tendencies of the team that he’s playing and working either man-beaters or zone-beaters or maximum protection things,” Zimmer added of Elflein. “It’s been good.”