EAGAN, Minn. — There was a mixed reaction in the Vikings locker room Wednesday morning.
Players expressed disappointment that their play led to Tuesday’s firing of John DeFilippo as the offensive coordinator, but they also conveyed excitement and determination to turn things around over the final three games of the season.
“It’s tough to see someone lose their job, especially a guy that works as hard as he does,” Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said of DeFilippo. “But at the same time, if Coach Zimmer feels like that’s the best thing to help this team win games, then we’re going to fully support it.
“We have to go out and execute and make him right and make sure we are doing everything we can as an offense to move the ball to help this team win games,” Thielen added.
Added Vikings center Pat Elflein: “It sucks, sad day, but at the end of the day, it’s a production business. I wish as players that we could have played better, but we didn’t get it done. It was tough news, but we’ve got an important three games coming up, and we’ve got to shift our focus to that now. That’s our next task. We’ve got to really get to work because these next three games are very important.”
Minnesota chose to let DeFilippo go on Tuesday and elevate quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to the Interim Offensive Coordinator role.
The Vikings currently rank in the bottom half of the league in numerous offensive categories. They are 17th in yards per game (354.4), 20th in points per game (21.7), 22nd in third-down percentage (37.7) and 30th in rushing yards per game (85.4).
But no matter what the stats say, or what they play call is, Vikings offensive players said Wednesday that the onus is on them to pick up yards, score points and help the Vikings get wins.
“Hopefully now, as an offense, we have to take it upon us,” Thielen said. “Obviously Coach Flip took the blame for our [lack of] offensive success as of late, and we need to turn that around as an offense and prove that we’re a good offense. It doesn’t matter what play is called, we have to make it work.”
“We just have to get in a rhythm. The runs have been there and the pass has been there, but we have to get it all going together. We have to be able to run the ball and pass the ball in the game, and we have to be able to move the sticks, no matter what that takes,” Thielen added. “If that takes running the ball or passing the ball to move the sticks, it doesn’t matter because we’ve got to stay on the field and put points up for our defense. Our defense has been playing too well to not be winning games.”
Added Elflein: “I think we just have to win our 1-on-1 matchups better and execute better, be crisper on our details of the job and really tighten down those bolts. I think it comes down to inconsistent execution individually.”
Stefanski hadn’t met with players yet as of Wednesday morning due to a schedule change with the Vikings being on a short week. But players also expressed support for the coach who is in his 13th season in Minnesota.
“He’s been around us for a long time and has been around this organization for a long time,” Thielen said. “I think he knows what, in the past, has worked well and what has worked well this year and what kind of players and talent we have on this team.”
The Vikings sit at 6-6-1 with three games to play but would be the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture as a Wild Card if the season ended today.
But no matter who is calling the plays, Minnesota’s offense knows the unit will need to step up if the Vikings want to earn a third playoff berth in four seasons.
“These next three games are very critical,” Elflein said. “I think a sense of urgency … you can feel it, and everybody knows it.”
More of the same, please
Minnesota’s pass defense had its best performance of the season Monday night in Seattle.
The Vikings allowed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to throw for just 72 yards, which was a career-low for the four-time Pro Bowler. Wilson’s passer rating of 37.9 was also the lowest of his career.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen was among those who liked what he saw against the pass in Week 14.
“Yeah, we held Russell Wilson to his lowest passer rating, and we did a good job of doing that,” Griffen said. “We could always do more. There’s room for improvement, and we’ve got to find ways to improve.
Added Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter: “We just have to go out there and do what we do. Play our style and control what we can control.”
Minnesota ranks fifth in the NFL with 215.6 passing yards allowed per game. The Vikings are also tied with Jacksonville for the fewest touchdown passes allowed with 15.
For the Vikings: Chad Beebe (hamstring) did not practice. Brian O’Neill (ankle), Sheldon Richardson (hip), Eric Kendricks (rib), David Morgan (knee), Mike Remmers (low back) and Trae Waynes (concussion) were limited. Xavier Rhodes (hip)m Jaleel Johnson (calf) and Adam Thielen (ankle) were full participants.
Note: The Vikings held a walk-through practice on Wednesday.
For the Dolphins: Danny Amendola (knee) and Xavien Howard (knee) did not practice. Cornell Armstrong (ankle), Kenyan Drake (shoulder), Ju’Wuan James (quadriceps), T.J. McDonald (ankle), DeVante Parker (shoulder), Ryan Tannehill (right shoulder/ankle) and Laremy Tunsil (knee) were limited. John Denney (finger), Reshad Jones (shoulder) and Travis Swanson (ankle) were full participants.