EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is hoping to see more from his offense before final scores start counting, and there's one more chance to do so.
Minnesota will play its final preseason game on the road this Friday, and Zimmer is hoping to leave Kansas City having seen his offense reach the end zone. Through two exhibition contests, the unit has yet to score a touchdown.
"I think we need to have some success. I think they're confident, but you know, confidence comes when you play well and you show it," Zimmer told Twin Cities media members Monday. "I really don't want to go into the first [regular-season] ball game and we haven't looked crisp or sharp.
"We really didn't get the ball down the field in the passing game at all [against the Colts]. We ran the ball pretty good," he continued. "We didn't get the ball down the field vertically hardly any. If you're going to throw 5-yard checkdowns all day long, it takes 20 of them, so. We'd like to get the ball down the field a little bit more."
Zimmer was asked specifically about the way quarterback Kirk Cousins and the starting offensive line played together Saturday in their first preseason action of 2021.
After resting 31 players in Minnesota's first preseason contest, Zimmer played Cousins and the first-team line – Rashod Hill, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Olisaemeka Udoh and Brian O'Neill – for three offensive series against Indianapolis.
The head coach said the offensive line was "pretty darn good" in protection despite the offense as a whole struggling to find a rhythm.
"Really, the pocket was clean most of the day," Zimmer said. "The one time Rashod got beat was because it was a play-action pass and he was trying to sell the play-action, and the guy (first-round pick Kwity Paye) kind of ran around him. So that's more of a learning experience, I think. The rest of the time the pockets were pretty clean.
"They hit us on a run blitz [later in the game]. I think [Jake] Browning was in there then," Zimmer added. "We had a miscommunication on that one that was a draw and they had everyone coming. But the back missed two protections."
Quote of the Day
"I joke with him all the time. He told me about his punt return, how he got caught at the 1, all this and that when he was in the preseason, so I definitely talk to him about special teams and the attitude you've got to have, the effort you've got to give. It's something that I think about every time I step on the field, like, 'All right, this might be a one-play series on special teams. So you've got to go out there and give it your best foot forward.' So every time I step on the field, he tells me, like, 'Hey, you've got to go out there and give it your all, because it's a one-play mentality.' "
– Ihmir Smith-Marsette on speaking with Adam Thielen about the importance of special teams work
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Monday's media session.
1. Another round of information
The Vikings on Monday brought in renowned epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm to speak with the team about the importance of receiving vaccinations against COVID-19.
Zimmer appreciated Dr. Osterholm lending his time and expertise with players.
"He's one of the top specialists in the world, and I thought he was very good with his points, answered a lot of questions," Zimmer said. "Whether or not that changes anything, I don't know. We were very thankful he was able to come over here and talk to the team in person. It was great to meet him.
"He understands the importance of when people look up to our football players, especially now with all the – and I don't want to get into it all that much – but with this Delta variant and how it's affecting younger people all over the world, I think that the more we can show it's safe … we're all going to stay healthier," Zimmer added.
Asked whether or not it helps that the FDA fully approved the Phizer vaccine Monday, Zimmer said he wasn't sure.
"Like [Osterholm] said, he was going to be 100-percent honest. If he knows the answer, he'll tell it. If he didn't know it, he would [say that], as well. I thought he did a terrific job and hopefully it helps," Zimmer said. "I just care about these players and I care about their families. So that's my main reason. If they miss a game because of COVID, so be it. But I don't want them to get sick, and I don't want their families to get sick or their kids to get sick or my grandkids to get sick."
2. Breeland on getting back on the field
Since signing with the Vikings in free agency, cornerback Bashaud Breeland bided his time while rehabbing an injury and eventually got into the mix at practice.
Breeland had a solid outing for Minnesota Saturday night, and he hopes to also play Friday evening at Kansas City. The veteran corner spent 2019 and 2020 with the Chiefs before joining the Vikings this spring.
"It felt great to finally get out there with the guys and really see what we got, put the potential together," Breeland said. "Everybody wasn't out there at the time, but we're slowly but surely putting the puzzle together.
"Kansas City, it's going to be bittersweet going on the other side, but I feel like it's going to be a great test for us, especially defensively," he added.