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Presser Points: Zimmer Emphasizes Ending Season on High Note

EAGAN, Minn. – The playoffs are off the table, yes.

The Vikings (6-9) still have something to play for, though, when they take on the Lions in Detroit this weekend.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke with media members on Monday afternoon and emphasized the importance of putting forth a full effort in the regular-season finale.

"I think every time you go out there and play, you're playing for something," Zimmer said. "I do think [it's important] we understand [the loss to New Orleans] wasn't the game that you want to be remembered with.

"Let's go out, and let's try to remember something good," he added.

Minnesota's poor performance on Friday won't be erased from the tape, but Zimmer hopes the team learns from its mistakes and bounces back from it at Detroit (5-10) rather than approaching Sunday as a "meaningless" game.

"I think the biggest thing is when you get your nose rubbed in it, you've got to come back out … and fight. It's going to show the personality of these players that we have," Zimmer said.

He referenced his start in 1994 as the Cowboys defensive backs coach. At that time, he worked with multiple players who had experienced Dallas going 3-13 and 1-15 in 1988 and '89, respectively, before winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and '93.

"All the old players talked about them being 1-15 and all the trials and tribulations they had to go through that year in order to get to that point, how they had to come back and fight and be ready to go the following year and the following year," Zimmer said. "A lot of that is that you … figure out a way to make sure that doesn't happen to you ever again."

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

Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his session with media:

1. Revisiting Christmas Day defensive struggles

Zimmer again pointed out Minnesota's defensive deficiencies in New Orleans that allowed an Alvin Kamara-led Saints squad to rack up 52 points.

"We made way too many mistakes. I think we had 17 missed tackles," he said. "We didn't do a good enough job; I didn't do a good enough job getting those young kids ready to play.

"We'll get back to work this week and clean up those mistakes and get ready to play Detroit," he added.

Asked about the issue of missed tackles, Zimmer said it often occurs when players aren't in the right position and are "trying to get in better position so they can make plays" in addition to understanding where their help from teammates is coming.

He later reiterated personal responsibility for the outing.

"I have to probably be more clear on exactly where I want the guys to be," Zimmer said. "These guys, they can play way better than what they played, and I put that on me more so than on the players. That's my job, and I need to get it done better."

2. Higher grades for the offense

While the defense struggled mightily against the Saints, the Vikings offense held its own against a tough New Orleans defense.

"I thought we started out running the ball really well. We had some explosive runs," Zimmer said. "I thought that Kirk [Cousins] did a nice job getting the ball out to the right places early, especially early in the game."

He also praised the offense's performance in the red zone. The Vikings scored touchdowns on all five of their possessions that reached the Saints 20-yard line.

"I just think overall they did a nice job with the scheme and with the way that we competed," Zimmer said.

3. Effect of coronavirus on coaching staffs

Against the Buccaneers on Sunday, Lions wide receivers coach Robert Prince took over coaching duties due to Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell being sidelined by COVID-19 protocols. Other members of the coaching staff also were unable to be at the game.

The contest did not go well for Detroit, which played three different quarterbacks as a result of injuries and lost to Tampa Bay 47-7.

Zimmer was asked his thoughts about the Lions coaching situation.

"I'm not really surprised," he said of the coronavirus pandemic affecting coaching staffs. "Luckily, our guys have done a great job with the protocols. [Vikings Vice President of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman has done a great job of really policing it.

"Knock on wood, we can all make it," Zimmer continued. "But at the beginning of the season we sat down and had a 'OK, what happens if I get sick or I can't coach the game?' And so on and so forth. The Detroit thing was probably a little bit more unusual because there were so many of them, so many guys that were missing."

4. Hollins headed to Cleveland

The Browns, coached by former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, announced earlier on Monday that they have signed receiver Alexander Hollins off Minnesota's practice squad.

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Vikings in 2019, Hollins spent most of last season on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster in early December. He played in four games as a rookie and caught two passes for 46 yards in Minnesota's Week 17 game against Chicago.

Asked about Cleveland adding Hollins just before the final game of the regular season, Ziimmer responded, "We'd like to keep all of our practice squad guys."