EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer isn't panicking, but he isn't resting on his laurels, either.
Zimmer spoke to the Twin Cities media Monday and discussed Sunday's overtime loss in Cincinnati. He acknowledged mistakes, shouldered responsibility … and he also emphasized that he hasn't lost faith after a bungle against the Bengals.
Zimmer relayed a defensive player had visited the coach's office following the team's film review and meeting and said, "I think we can be really good."
The coach agrees, but emphasized, "We can't be second-and-20, and we've got to be smart in these situations. It all comes down to that.
"But I have the same feeling. I think we can be good," Zimmer added. "But we've got to go out and show it."
As noted, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to address after an outing pockmarked by a dozen penalties.
"We've just gotta clean up the penalties. When you have 10 penalties in the first half – 14, I think, and four of them were turned down, you put yourself in a bad situation where you have to throw the ball, and that's not how we're built," Zimmer said.
He pointed out that of Minnesota's eight punts, six were on fourth-and-9 or longer. All day, the Vikings worked to dig themselves out of a hole. And when they had nearly righted the ship, a controversial fumble call on Dalvin Cook in overtime led to a Bengals game-winning field goal.
Asked if the second-half rally provided Zimmer any satisfaction, he couldn't quite feel that positive about things.
"I don't know if 'satisfaction' is the thing. We fought back," Zimmer said. "I think we played a lot better about midway through the third quarter offensively. We had a big stop defensively."
Eleven of the Vikings 12 accepted penalties were committed by the offense, including five false starts. Three of them happened in the first series alone, and all five occurred in the first half.
Zimmer said he spoke with the respective offenders, including fullback C.J. Ham, who had just one career penalty (a holding call last season) entering the game but committed two false starts at Cincy.
"They said it was just on them," Zimmer said. "You would never guess C.J. Ham would ever jump on the first play of the game. He would be the last guy I would think about.
"We've got to do a better job focusing this week with the crowd noise and everything," he added. "We played it last week all day, but obviously maybe the first game getting out there with fans and things like that, probably a little more hyped up."
Zimmer additionally addressed the costly pass interference penalty charged to cornerback Bashaud Breeland. The flag moved the sticks 26 yards in the Bengals favor and set up Cincinnati for an easy red zone touchdown just before halftime.
The play was described by Zimmer as "really just about a technique of turning and looking at the ball as opposed to turning over the other shoulder."
He explained further:
"Typically, if you turn into the receiver and if there's any kind of contact, they call that. I've seen them slack a little on that lately, but they call that almost exclusively now," Zimmer said. "Officials don't believe that you can look over your outside shoulder and look for the ball, which is incorrect. But it is what it is."
Breeland did some good things, as well, Zimmer noted. Among them were "some really good plays" in the run game and a play in the third quarter when Breeland and Eric Kendricks stopped the Bengals from converting on third-and-16.
"[We just need] consistency with him," Zimmer said.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Sept. 21, 2021.
The same goes for the rest of the team.
In closing his media session, Zimmer recognized "a lot of things" that need correction before the Vikings face the Cardinals Sunday afternoon. But he certainly isn't throwing in the towel.
"I think we still have a chance to have a really good team," Zimmer said. "I know we didn't show it really in all three phases the other day, but there's a lot of things I see that are pretty darn good."