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Annual Zimmer-Rodgers Chess Match Still Riveting Entering 14th Battle


EAGAN, Minn. — Yes, there will be a football game played Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But when the Vikings and Packers square off in Week 11, there will also be the usual chess match going on between Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The two know each other well, and have gushed over the years about the mutual respect each has for the other.

"Well, you know, playing Rodgers twice a year is never fun," Zimmer said Wednesday.

This will be the 14th time the two have met since Zimmer became the Vikings head coach in January of 2014. Minnesota is 5-7-1 in the previous 13 games in which Rodgers has started for the Packers.

And as Rodgers alluded to Wednesday, Zimmer seems to always have something up his sleeve when the teams meet.

"Every time we play them, they present something new," Rodgers told the Green Bay media Wednesday. "They can throw a number of different things at you and they always have some special wrinkle."

Zimmer was asked about the chess match that will ensue Sunday, and noted that he's picked up on little tricks over the years.

Zimmer explained what could be in store for Sunday. For example, if Rodgers and the Packers offense goes up-tempo, the 11 Vikings defenders on the field are staying there.

"We just don't substitute," Zimmer said. "When they don't substitute or the ball doesn't go in, I tell the team every week, 'We will never substitute unless they substitute.'

"So, I think you've played him as many times as we have that you understand that and hopefully our guys understand that Sunday," Zimmer added.

Zimmer and Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson noted this week that no team can afford even a single lapse against the future Hall of Famer and three-time NFL MVP.

"Well, he's really hard to fool. He's extremely smart. He takes all the time at the line of scrimmage that he can, especially on third down," Zimmer said. "Obviously, he's got great vision and can put the ball anyplace that he wants to.

"Every play is a fight," Zimmer added.

Patterson said: "He's good at what he does. He's the best. He can run their whole offense from the line of scrimmage. You get him in the run-and-play, you get him in the right pass play, he does a great job of reading coverages. And he has the ability to make you miss with his feet and get on the edge and make explosive plays down the field. He's very tough to defend, and it'll be a tremendous challenge for us."

Overall, Rodgers is 14-9-1 in his career as a starter in the Border Battle.

The league's all-time leader in touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 4.61-to-1 mark, Rodgers has fared even better over the years against the Vikings in that stat.

He has 50 career touchdown passes against Minnesota compared to just seven interceptions, good for a ratio of 7.14-to-1.

Yet Zimmer's defensive creativity has found a way to rattle the star quarterback at times, as the Vikings have recorded 33 sacks against him since the start of the 2014 season.

"Sometimes it's just getting a feel for what they're doing, the new things they're doing and how we can adapt to it," Zimmer said. "And guys making plays, that's a lot of it. Guys have to make plays.

"We try to put them in the best position we can to make a play, and it's up to them," Zimmer continued. "But I think mostly it's about kind of getting a feel for what they're doing and countering it with what you can do."

He later added: "You're fighting, scratching, the entire game."

As Border Battle No. 122 looms Sunday, expect both grandmasters to be at their best.

Rodgers, in his 18th season, is trying to keep Green Bay (8-2) atop both the NFC North and the conference standings, and eventually capture a second Super Bowl that has eluded him over the years.

Zimmer, meanwhile, is trying to get his squad to .500 and guide it to a fourth playoff appearance in eight seasons. Minnesota is 4-5 and has endured a roller-coaster ride so far in 2021, but any season is sweeter if you can get at least one win over Green Bay.

Neither figure will be around forever, meaning each matchup between the two should be cherished each time it happens.

"We have a great deal of respect for him and his talent, but we don't fear it. That's the difference, right?" Patterson said. "You've got to respect his talent and respect who he is, but you've got to go in there and fight with him."

Rodgers said: "Coach Zim is a great coach, and he always has something special for us."

Zimmer reciprocated: "Rodgers is one of the best of all-time."