EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A day after his team suffered its third straight loss, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he saw numerous glimpses of hope for the final eight regular-season games.
No, the Vikings didn't win, as Zimmer pointed out. The head coach also acknowledged a handful of mistakes in all three phases.
But Zimmer said he felt like the Vikings looked more like the team that started the season with five straight wins than the one that took the field in losses to Philadelphia and Chicago.
He explained his reasoning with a 300-plus word response, highlighting the emotional ebbs and flows that a football team endures over a full four-month season.
"Let's just talk about our team in general, OK? After the first five weeks we were extremely confident, right? I guess that's kind of why I'm saying some of the things I'm saying today," Zimmer began. "Then the last three weeks the confidence level has gone down as our football team.
"But that's why this game is not just about the physical part of it, it's about the mental part of it and the way that a team feels about itself," he added. "You start out a game, you start out a season and you're 0-2 and everybody thinks you're awful. You start out a season and win two, and everybody thinks you're great."
Zimmer continued on, noting wins and success breed a certain kind of confidence on the field that allows players to be at their very best.
"There's so many fluctuations and emotions throughout a 16-game season that once you get to the point where you're playing confidently all the time and you're sure of the things that you're doing. You're playing fast, you're playing physical and you're not making those mental mistakes," Zimmer said. "As opposed to, 'Well, I don't know if I should do that because if I do I'm going to get yelled at or if I do this because I might screw up.'
"That's all part of what we're dealing with in this kind of a season right now. I felt like our football team has gotten some confidence back (Sunday) even though we lost," he added. "I'm hopeful that they'll continue to carry it forward throughout the rest of the season. If we do that, we're going to win some games."
Zimmer lamented penalties in the red zone, poor tackling, a missed extra point and a blocked field goal as key reasons why the Vikings lost 22-16 in overtime Sunday.
But Zimmer pinpointed an offense that racked up 337 yards under Pat Shurmur, who was shifted to interim offensive coordinator on Wednesday, as a building block going forward.
And he said a defense that allowed 31 total yards on Detroit's first 18 plays of the second half is a reason for optimism.
The Vikings sit at 5-3 and atop the NFC North with eight games to play. Minnesota will split its final games between opposing venues and U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings defense ranks second in the league by allowing just 15.8 points per game and is third in the NFL at 298.9 yards per game.
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford ranks seventh in the NFL with a 99.0 passer rating.
Add in an increased dose of confidence, Zimmer said, and the Vikings could get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later.
"I think there were honestly a lot of things to be encouraged about even though we lost the football game," Zimmer said. "It's the first time in about a month I've felt confident in the way our guys know how to play football again.
"I feel excited that we're headed in the right direction," he added. "I'm actually excited to continue to see this team play.