EAGAN, Minn. – It's been 15 days since the Vikings last played a game.
A brief reprieve during the bye allowed players and coaches to step away and recharge mentally and physically, but they also spent time self-scouting before getting back to work over this past week.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said following Minnesota's win over Denver that pass defense needs to improve, and he told Twin Cities media members that he and the coaching staff have "spent a lot of time with it" since.
"Spent a lot of time in the past couple of days on fundamentals, re-teaching the things that we feel are important going forward in these last five ball games," Zimmer said Wednesday.
In the past two games against the Cowboys and Broncos, the Vikings have allowed 15 pass plays of 20 yards or more. Minnesota allowed plays through the air of 29, 31, 38, 43 and 48 yards by Denver.
The Vikings came out on top in both contests, but Zimmer acknowledged that it's inacceptable to give up such significant chunk plays.
Asked if the problem is an issue with technique or "coverage and bigger picture," Zimmer responded that "it's always a little bit of both."
He added: "It's never just one thing."
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes spoke with media Tuesday and also addressed Minnesota's pass defense.
"We're there. We just have to finish. That's the key [and] that's what we're working on," he said. "We're in coverage; we're just not finishing. We're not picking the ball off … we miss the ball in the air, and the receiver ends up catching it. Or we tip the ball, and the receiver still ends up catching it. It's stuff like that.
"If we hit the ball and the ball's in the air, knock it down – don't tip it in the air," Rhodes continued. "Be aggressive with the receiver. Dive for the ball. Do whatever you can [to] not allow the receiver to touch the ball."
The Vikings know they'll especially have to be on their Ps and Qs tonight when they take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on the road.
Wilson has 27 completions of 20-plus yards so far this season, which ranks first in the NFL ahead of Dak Prescott (26) and Aaron Rodgers (24). Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has 19 such completions, which is tied for 10th in the league.
"He throws it great. I mean, last week I watched some of the film … it was a perfectly thrown deep ball. You can't get any better," Rhodes said of Wilson. "All his deep balls are pretty great. All his passes are pretty accurate. It's not just his deep balls; he's just a great quarterback. And with a great quarterback, they make great decisions, they make throws.
"We have to be – in this game – we have to be not only good but great in coverage. We have to be great in our rush lanes. We have to be great in every situation that we can [be in] to stop these guys," Rhodes continued. "He's going to make stuff happen for his team. We have to be disciplined in our coverages, be disciplined in our rush lanes, minimize the things that hurt our defense and minimize our penalties, and once we have a chance to get him off the field, we have to get him off the field."
The Vikings on Saturday ruled out linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion). Minnesota also listed safeties Harrison Smith (hamstring) and Anthony Harris (groin), defensive tackles Linval Joseph (knee) and Shamar Stephen (knee) as questionable. On Sunday, the team announced that receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) had been downgraded from questionable to out and that Jalyn Holmes (not injury related) also is out.
If we continue to be a Wild Card seed, would we still have to go to Cowboys/Eagles versus them coming to us, even though we beat them during the regular season?
The issue here is that the winner of the division always hosts, so if the Cowboys (who currently are leading the NFC East) earn a division title, then yes, the Vikings (if a Wild Card) would play on the road in that matchup.
Dallas currently is the No. 4 seed; if it stays there, Minnesota would need to be the No. 5 seed to play in Dallas.
The Vikings are currently the No. 6 seed and in line to visit Lambeau Field because Green Bay is in the No. 3 spot.
"I am pleased. I think it's been a real positive, the way we've run the football and protected and thrown the ball. We've gotten multiple skill players involved, but now is not the time to pat yourself on the back or look at rankings. The fact of the matter is, you're only as good as your last game. If the Broncos and the Cowboys had hit those two passes at the end of the game, everybody would be telling us how much we aren't good enough, and our offensive production would be the exact same, so I don't get too caught up in that stuff. I just want to go win. Winning is the name of the game, and it's going to be a big challenge to go into Seattle Monday night and get a win."
—Kirk Cousins on Vikings ranking No. 8 in overall offense
Stat of the Week
Ball security is the name of the game.
The Vikings are 4-1 this year in games where they committed no turnovers and 4-2 in games with at one turnover. In games where Minnesota has given up the ball two or more times, that record drops to 2-2. As noted in this week's Skinny Post, Seattle has caused an impressive eight turnovers in the past two games, and the Vikings will need to focus on protecting the pigskin.
Play-by-Play: Joe Tessitore
Analyst: Booger McFarland
Sideline Reporter: Lisa Salters
KFAN (100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber
Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 5:30 p.m. (CT)
KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.
Play-by-Play: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Kurt Warner
Sideline Reporter: Ryan Harris
Sirius: MIN 81 or Streaming 819; SEA 83 or Streaming 828
XM: MIN 225 or Streaming 819; SEA 226 Streaming 828; National 88 or Streaming 88; Spanish Streaming 970