Monday Morning Mailbag: Defense Rounding Into Form, Turnovers on Offense, Race for the NFC North

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After recognizing early in the season that offenses were having success against us, what does it say about Mike Zimmer and about the confidence he has in his players that he changed a lot of his looks and packages? Skol!
-- Ray Bustos
The Dalles, OR

I’ll leave it to coach Zimmer to describe how much he tweaked his scheme throughout the course of the first nine games. But I will say both the coaching staff and the players deserve credit for the turnaround on defense over the past five games. Since the Rams scored 38 on the Vikings in Week 4, things have turned around dramatically and the 10-sack effort on Sunday against Detroit was the exclamation point on that turnaround. I’d guess there has been some changes to the scheme, but even more I’d say the players deserve credit for digging in and playing better after an uneven start to the season.

Another good victory for our Vikings. Defense is really looking great. The offense looks good, however, I am concerned about the turnovers. It seems like there has been a plague of them this year.
-- John Maijala
El Paso, TX

That’s a fair concern. Turnovers are always a concern when they happen and the Vikings offense has turned it over four times in the last two games. Despite tallying 14 takeaways so far, the Vikings are just +1 in turnover margin. The offense has been very good through the first nine games, but reducing the turnovers that have popped up the last two games will be something the team addresses during the bye week.

Great effort from the Vikings and nice to see Dalvin Cook run again. Why are some of Kirk Cousins’ decisions to throw the ball to someone when someone else is more open? But hey, we won! Let's rest and bring on Da Bears.
-- Nicholas Balkou

If you go back and watch every throw by every quarterback, you’re going to find they all miss receivers. Even passers such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodger miss open receivers occasionally. I’m sure Cousins has been no exception, but I’m equally as sure that Cousins has played spectacularly for the Vikings so far. He has faced more pressure than most quarterbacks this season yet he entered Week 9 ranked No. 2 in passing yards (2,521), No. 4 in completion percentage (70.7), No. 6 in touchdowns (16) and No. 9 in passer rating (102.5). We can nitpick a missed open receiver here or there, but overall Cousins has been outstanding for the Vikings.

Our defense is rounding into shape. Detroit was limited to three field goals, we had 10 sacks, Detroit was four of 15 on 3rd down and Danielle Hunter’s fumble recovery for a touchdown was impressive. I would like to see the offense have longer drives and keep the defense off the field. What would you like to see?
-- Gerald Goblirsch

Fewer turnovers is No. 1 on the list. A return to health for starters Anthony Barr, Tom Compton, Stefon Diggs, Xavier Rhodes and Andrew Sendejo is No. 2. And then No. 3 would be a continued effort to chip away with the running game. Head coach Mike Zimmer has called for that in the last month and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has answered in kind. Now, with Cook and Riley Reiff back in the lineup, the offense is in position to draw slightly more balance, which will only open things up for the most effective part of the offense…the passing game with Cousins firing to Diggs and Adam Thielen.

The Vikings are 5-3-1 after a great win over Detroit, and they have seven games remaining. Winning out is certainly possible, but I feel 6-1 is more than likely, assuming we get our nicked players back and we can stay healthy. On the outside chance that my prognostication is wrong, what do you feel the Vikings record need to be over the next seven games to secure the NFC North?
-- John Stephens

1-0 every week. I know that’s coach speak, but that has to be the approach the team takes. Those outside the building can look ahead and prognosticate about scenarios, but the team has to keep taking things one game at a time. At one point early in the season, the Vikings had won just once in four weeks. As of now, the Vikings have lost just once in the last four weeks. So a lot can happen and a lot can change quickly. To answer the question specifically, though, I feel it will take at least 10 wins to capture the division title. The Vikings are at five wins with seven games to go and the Bears are at five wins with eight games to go, so it won’t be a surprise if it takes double digit wins to guarantee a spot in the postseason.

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