EDEN PRARIE, Minn. — The Vikings 23-20 comeback victory over the Chicago Bears marked the first time that Minnesota has won three consecutive games since December of 2012.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said that he is trying to teach his young football team how to handle this season's success. He laid out the four steps he preaches will make the players on his football team champions.
"You know I talked to the football team a long time ago and I continue to talk to them," Zimmer said in his weekly press conference Monday. "There's four learns in football. First you learn how to compete. Then you learn how to win. Then you learn how to handle winning. Then you learn how to be a champion."
Zimmer's Vikings (5-2) are currently trailing the Green Bay Packers (6-1) by one game in the NFC North. The victory brought his overall record to 12-11 since he took the job prior to the 2014 season.
Zimmer told the media that his team still has "a long way to go" with nine more games remaining to play.
"We're somewhere in that stage of learning how to win and learning how to handle winning," Zimmer said. "But we're still young and these are things that we have to understand."
Zimmer thinks his roster can maintain a stable mindset as the season rolls on thanks to his coaching staff and some of the older players on the team.
"The one thing that I have noticed about this team is we're not tight," Zimmer said. "They're not a nervous type of team. I think they're confident but they are also focused on the job. I think when you haven't had success it's easy to fall into that trap. I think we have enough veterans to remind (the younger players) of these things.
The Vikings confidence has showed up in the crucial moments in games and that's exactly what happened when Zimmer's team erased at 10-point deficit with less than five minutes remaining to come away with a road victory.
"We are developing some intensity at the end of football games, Zimmer said. "Being able to come back and finish. We've been in a lot of these close ball games. I think some of the team is starting to believe we can win in these situations."
CJ's big catch
The emergence of rookie WR Stefon Diggs* *has meant that WR Charles Johnson has not seen as many snaps since returning from a rib injury.
Johnson, who led the the Vikings in receiving yards in 2014 found his spot in a big moment on Sunday.
After Diggs slipped on the turf during the last drive of the game, Johnson took advantage of his opportunity to get in the game and Zimmer appreciated his mentality.
"He gets six plays in the ballgame," Zimmer said. "But when his opportunity comes up he makes a great play."
The catch arguably could be the biggest play of the year for the Vikings as Johnson rose up above a pair of defenders and grabbed the football. The play was good for 35 yards and set up the Vikings in Bears territory for Blair Walsh to sink the game's winning kick.
"He is really a perfect example of what I'm trying to get this team to be like – somebody that was playing a lot, not playing near as much now, but still does his job, concentrates, works real hard in practice and then when his opportunities come about, you go make a play," Zimmer said. "It was a great catch. Hopefully it's a lesson to the rest of the guys."
Offensive line excels on Sunday
Zimmer made sure to note how impressed he was with the performance of his offensive line on Sunday.
The front paved the way for Adrian Peterson's 103 rushing yards as the Vikings established a strong attack on the ground early in the game.
The line also protected Teddy Bridgewater and allowed him to extend certain plays as well as being able to hit his secondary reads down the field.
"I thought for the most part the protection was good yesterday," Zimmer said. "You know Teddy had some time in the pocket yesterday to hit some of those deep throws. It was a good play on the offensive line."
Zimmer thought some of his lineman had their best performances of the year in the victory.
"I thought they did a good job, we got beat a couple of times, but I thought they did a nice job. I thought [T.J.] Clemmings did better, in the running game especially, but he had a good matchup and I thought he played well. Actually, all of those guys played well, Mike Harris played well, [Brandon] Fusco probably had his best game and [Matt] Kalil did like he has been doing."
Finishing off drives
One correction the head coach would like to see his team make is to finish offensive drives with touchdowns.
Before the late 40-yard touchdown connection with two minutes remaining between Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs the only Vikings points on the board had come from the special teams unit.
"I did talk to them about that, and that's just something we're going to have to continue to work on," Zimmer said. "Don't take for granted when it's third-and-5, let's make sure we get the first down. I think there were some times yesterday that we missed some areas where we could have hit something else. It's just more work to do."
Gurley drawing comparisons to Peterson
St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley has quickly become one of the top running backs in the NFL since he has returned from an ACL injury.
"He's an excellent running back," said Vikings DE Everson Griffin. "He's shown tremendous explosiveness, great vision and he's a hard guy to tackle. We just have to keep playing the run like we have been doing."
In the past four games, the former Georgia Bulldog has rushed for no less than 128 yards and he is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
"He's obviously a big, physical guy that has great acceleration, vision, actually catches the ball well, too," Zimmer said. "They do a good job in their run-blocking, they've got a lot of misdirection runs, so we're going to have to make sure that we have a lot of people at the ball."
Zimmer agreed with the media that the rookie has displayed some of the characteristics of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. A few of the Vikings are well aware of the similarities as well.
"This guy right here Todd Gurley he's special," said CB Captain Munnerlyn. "He's Adrian Peterson all over again. I know people used to compare him to Adrian Peterson in college. We know we have a tough task at hand but our defensive lineman they are ready for it."
Munnerlyn, a former South Carolina Gamecock was familiar with how dominant Gurley ran in the SEC, but he still would take the Vikings running back if he had to choose.
"This guy is big man a lot of people don't realize how big he is…but he's got the speed, he can hit you with the speed. He's a young Adrian Peterson, but I like our Adrian Peterson better."