EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has likely felt an array of emotions in the 24 hours following Minnesota's 31-28 home loss to Dallas on Sunday.
A pair stood out Monday afternoon when Zimmer chatted with the Twin Cities media via videoconference: surprise and disappointment.
Zimmer reiterated Monday, as he did Sunday evening, that he felt his team would extend their win streak to four games with a victory over the Cowboys.
And although he believes Minnesota (4-6) can get back on track, Zimmer was a little mystified why his team didn't beat Dallas (3-7).
"I definitely think they have the mentality," Zimmer said. "Honestly, we had a good week of practice. Guys worked hard, practice was good.
"I thought we were ready to go for the game," Zimmer added. "For whatever reason, they just made some more plays than we did."
The Vikings defense coughed up a pair of fourth-quarter leads (21-16 and 28-24), and the offense was held off the scoreboard in the final nine-plus minutes of the game.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Dallas Cowboys during Week 11.
Zimmer said Sunday's defeat was on the entire team as he rattled off a laundry list of errors his team made down the stretch.
"Disappointed we didn't win the game … had some opportunities," Zimmer said. "We didn't play good enough on defense, for sure.
"Offensively, we started out slow but played much better in the second half," Zimmer continued. "Still having some issues, special-teams wise. It's just disappointing.
"I thought we were getting better defensively after the last three weeks, but that didn't show up yesterday," Zimmer added.
The Vikings will look to bounce back with the Panthers (4-7) coming to town on Sunday.
Carolina earned a 20-0 home win over Detroit in Week 11 to end a five-game losing streak
Here are three other topics Zimmer discussed Monday:
1. Doing too much?
The Vikings defense had seemingly turned a corner during the three-game win streak, as that unit allowed 18.3 points per game in that stretch.
Minnesota allowed nearly two touchdowns more than that average Sunday, as Zimmer said he saw some regression from his unit.
And, Zimmer said, he noticed it was a case of players trying to do too much instead of doing simply what they were asked.
"We had a couple mistakes. Honestly, I think a little bit had to do with these guys feeling their oats a little bit," Zimmer said. "Now they're going to be playmakers and go out and do this and do that instead of just doing their job, and I think that showed up a few times as well.
"Sometimes with young guys, when they start thinking they're pretty good – 'Hey, I'm going to go do this, I'm going to go make this play' – instead of sticking to the things in the defense that you're supposed to do … think that showed up a few times yesterday," Zimmer added. "More than a few times, actually."
That was apparently evident on Dallas' game-winning touchdown pass, a 2-yard score that found Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz all alone in the end zone.
"Well, we're in man-to-man and [CeeDee Lamb] went in rocket motion," Zimmer said. "[Our] guy came off of [Schultz] trying to help another guy."
2. More troubles on special teams
Minnesota's special teams units had their third straight week of uneven play, as that group was hampered by penalties and poor punt coverage.
On Sunday, the Cowboys had four drives start at their own 39-yard line or better.
Dallas opened its second possession at the Vikings 30 after a Kirk Cousins fumble. The Cowboys later started drives at their own 48 after a punt return and a penalty, and at the Vikings 48 after a fumble by Dalvin Cook.
The Cowboys final drive began at their own 39 after a 20-yard punt return by Lamb, leaving Dallas just 61 yards away from the go-ahead score.
"All year long I've been preaching field position," Zimmer said. "They got the ball once on the 30-yard line, once on the minus-48, one on the plus-48.
"You have to be able to play the field position game better than we're playing it," Zimmer added.
Kris Boyd was whistled for the aforementioned penalty, which was a block in the back despite the fact the Vikings second-year cornerback was covering a punt.
Boyd was flagged for an illegal shift on the previous snap, wiping out what would have been a successful pass from punter Britton Colquitt.
3. Praise for Thielen
Adam Thielen has been red-hot in the red zone in 2020.
The Vikings wide receiver has a league-best 11 receiving touchdowns as of Monday afternoon, with 10 of them coming with the Vikings inside the 20-yard line.
And of those 10 scores, Thielen has hauled in seven touchdowns when Minnesota has been inside the 10-yard line, including both of his touchdowns (2 and 3-yarders) against Dallas.
Zimmer explained what makes Thielen so effective near the end zone.
"I think he's a trusted target everywhere, to be honest with you," Zimmer said. "His best asset is he catches the ball great and he's very competitive.
"So those two things, and he's very smart," Zimmer added. "He understands where to get the defender."
Thielen has a team-high 49 catches in 2020, and is second on the Vikings with 646 receiving yards. Rookie Justin Jefferson has 45 catches for 848 yards and four scores.
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