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Monday Morning Mailbag: Concerns From Pittsburgh, Bradford's Injury

Posted Sep 17, 2017

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Discipline and penalties were a gigantic problem this week, but I'm actually not worried about that. Zimmer can fix that pretty easily. What I'm more worried about is the shocking lack of turnovers in the first two games. What concerns you the most with two in the books?
-- Ray Bustos
The Dalles, OR

It is hard enough to win games in this League when you play well, so beating yourself is a cardinal sin. The Vikings beat themselves on Sunday, with 11 penalties for 131 yards called against them to go along with other self-inflicted wounds and mistakes. That, for the moment, should be the top concern, along with the health of quarterback Sam Bradford.

Creating turnovers is an important part of playing defense, but I believe creating turnovers is also a function of playing soundly on defense. The Vikings have played soundly on defense, and so I also believe the turnovers will eventually come.

Tough loss! How long do you think Sam Bradford will be out?
-- Cullen Dillard
Reno, NV

Head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t interested in establishing a time line for Bradford’s return, and I’m not about to be the one who steps out of line there. I would expect to not know what to expect on that topic this week, even leading all the way up to game time. Obviously, Bradford not playing on Sunday adversely impacted the Vikings chances of winning, but I don’t look at the loss to Pittsburgh as simply a quarterback problem. Even if it had been Bradford playing in Pittsburgh, it’s still important to play well around the quarterback, and the Vikings didn’t play well around the quarterback in Pittsburgh. The focus this week inside Winter Park will be as much on improving around the quarterback as it will be about which quarterback plays.

How can this team play so GREAT one week and then play so badly the next?
-- Dan Fitzpatrick
Rahway, NJ

That is life in the NFL. You have to remember, the other team is getting paid, too. Also, the Vikings played a higher quality of opponent this week compared to last week, so that would explain the difference in performance for the Vikings. Also impacting the performance were Bradford’s absence and playing on the road. Those are not excuses for poor play, rather they are factors that can help explain the discrepancy in performance from one week to the next.

I have never understood why coaches think they have to go in at halftime to regroup instead of just showing confidence in the players before halftime. To me, it demonstrates a lack of confidence in your players to get something done with time on the clock.
-- John McGuire
Lone Pine, CA

I’m guessing John is referencing Zimmer’s decision at the end of the first half on Sunday to run out the clock rather than try to advance the ball down the field. At that point, it was 1st and 10 for the Vikings from their own nine-yard line with 35 seconds to play. To that point, the Vikings had generated only 60 yards of net offense and five first downs, yet they were only trailing by 11 points. To me, the odds of something bad happening are far greater in that scenario than the odds of moving the ball 60-65 yards in 30 seconds to be in position to tack points on the board. To turn the ball over at that point or be sacked in the end zone and increase the deficit would be a significant blow to the team heading into the locker room. So I agreed with Zim’s decision to sit on the ball there and get to the locker room; it was a wise game management decision.

Penalties, penalties and more penalties! We were going into a fight with one hand tied behind our back to begin with since Sam had to sit out and then everything went sideways. Fortunately, this is only one game and we play again next Sunday. Let’s all hope Sam is back and we regain the form and discipline that we know this team is capable of. Skol Vikings!
-- John Stephens

That is the right perspective to have, John. Last week after a huge win, Zimmer was quick to turn the page and starting thinking about the next opponent. The same philosophy should hold true after a loss. Dissect it, learn from it and move on so you are ready to play what was a good-looking Tampa Bay Buccaneers team this week.