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Presser Points: Zimmer on Decision at Kicker & Vikings Improved Defense

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that he has not made a decision on whether or not Dan Bailey will kick Sunday against the Bears.

Zimmer said he plans to talk with Bailey on Tuesday or Wednesday, and that he'd prefer to address the team before making the decision public through a press conference.

Bailey missed three field goals and an extra point Sunday against Tampa Bay, and he has missed seven total kicks (three extra points and four field goals) in the past two games.

The Vikings have kicker on the practice squad in Tristan Vizcaino. Zimmer said if the team does make a change at that spot, it wouldn't necessarily be with Vizcaino, who made 12 of 17 field goals as a senior at Washington in 2017.

"It wouldn't have to be [Vizcaino]. It takes six days [with COVID-19 testing], so just whatever it is," Zimmer said. "I'd prefer to address the team about these things as opposed to throwing it out there in the media."

Zimmer was again asked about Bailey at the end of his videoconference with the Twin Cities media and delivered an extended response about whether or not Bailey will be the Vikings kicker going forward.

"You have to look at history, you have to look at past performances, you have to look at the person," Zimmer said. "Sometimes you write bad articles, does your editor come in and say, 'Hey, either write this one better or I'm going to fire you'? Or does he look at what you've done in the past? It's all the same stuff.

"[Bailey] is a solid kid. What did he hit, [25] in a row from [October 2019 to September 2020] or something like that? I have to take all of that into consideration as well. Honestly, I love the kid," Zimmer continued. "If we end up making a change, then it's about just what we feel at this particular point in time. We are in the performance business, and these last two weeks haven't been good.

"Like I said [Sunday], if I cut everybody that made mistakes, we'd all be out of here, including me," Zimmer added. "We'll go with our gut and do what we believe and believe that whichever decision we make, it will be the right one. It's all you can do. Go with the gut, make the decision and go with it. You're the ones that second-guess everything."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Bailey has made 12 of 18 field goals in 2020 and is 27-for-31 on extra points. He made 27 of 29 field goals in 2019, and was 40 of 44 on extra points.

The veteran was red-hot for nearly a full calendar year as he made 25 straight field goals, including the playoffs, from Oct. 24, 2019, until missing one on Sept. 27 of this year.

Bailey has made 246 of 286 career field goals. His career field goal percentage of 86.014 ranks 12th in NFL history.

Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed Monday:

1. Keep up the fight

The Vikings playoff hopes took a hit Sunday, but Zimmer isn't ready to throw in the towel with his team at 6-7.

In fact, he pointed to Minnesota's effort Sunday for how his team will continue to play down the stretch.

The Vikings led early and then allowed 23 unanswered points. Zimmer's squad made a run late but just couldn't rally.

"We're just going to keep fighting," Zimmer said. "We fight hard."

He later added: "We had, obviously, some miscues and we gave up some free points, but as long as we continue to keep getting better and better, I think we're going to win these games."

The Vikings host the Bears (6-7) on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

2. An improving defense

Much like the rest of the team, Minnesota's defense has had its ups and downs in 2020.

But Zimmer — who is the defensive play caller — said the unit recently has made noticeable strides.

"I do see an awful lot of improvement in the defense from where it started to where it is now," Zimmer said. "The points per game, the third downs … these corners are playing much better. They're not perfect, obviously, but we're playing the run game much better."

The Vikings currently rank 22nd with 376.5 yards allowed per game, and are 25th in the league by allowing 27.3 points per game (that total includes opponents' defensive touchdowns scored).

Minnesota is also tied for fourth in red-zone defense (52.3 percent), and ranks fifth on third downs (37.0 percent).

Zimmer reflected and said the Vikings might have a better record if that unit had played this way at the start of the season. Minnesota has battled through roster turnover, season-ending injuries and a host of young players seeing ample playing time in 2020.

"If we were at the point where we are defensively now at the beginning of the season, I think there'd be a lot of different things going on because I feel like we've improved tremendously," Zimmer said. "I think the coaches have maybe done their best job coaching this year with the number of guys that are playing, young guys, and trying to get them ready to go.

"It's just unfortunate that we started so slow defensively," Zimmer added, "but there's really a lot of good things here."

3. Kirk on the run

The Vikings ran for 162 yards against the Buccaneers, which is the most rushing yards allowed by Tampa Bay's defense in the past 32 games.

Dalvin Cook led the way with 102 yards and a score on 22 attempts, while Kirk Cousins added a career-best 41 yards on five carries. The quarterback now has 130 rushing yards, the second-most of his career, on 24 attempts in 2020.

Zimmer said Monday that Cousins' athleticism helps keep the opposing defense honest when he drops back to pass.

"Obviously it's been good," Zimmer said. "The more times he does that, the more stress it puts on the defense and the less times they can play man-to-man.

"Then if he starts doing it, it slows down the pass rush and everything else," Zimmer added.

Zimmer did add that he'd prefer his starting quarterback to slide more rather that dive headfirst like he did multiple times against the Bucs.

"I probably do. The one time he dove, it wasn't even for the first down, I don't believe," Zimmer added. "He needs to be a little more smooth, let's say that, when he hits the turf."

4. An early word on Patterson

Minnesota's kick coverage unit will need to be on point Sunday, especially with Cordarrelle Patterson waiting in the opposite end zone.

Patterson had a 104-yard kickoff return for a score in the team's first meeting of the season in Week 11. The former Vikings first-round pick is tied for the most kick returns for a score in NFL history with eight.

"He's probably the best in the league right now," Zimmer said. "He's strong, physical, fast, hits the creases with power."

Patterson leads the NFL with 873 kickoff return yards and an average return of 30.1 yards.