EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is one of the most blunt and direct coaches in the NFL.
And while the Vikings sit at 4-3-1 at the midpoint of the 2018 season, a record that some view as disappointing, Zimmer isn’t even close to pressing the panic button.
Zimmer said he was uplifting and positive in a meeting with players the morning after a 30-20 loss to the Saints on Sunday Night Football.
“I pretty much tell them how I feel just about every time,” Zimmer quipped Monday. “I’m encouraged after this ball game. I’m encouraged after the last four weeks.
“If I was ticked off, I’d let them know, trust me,” Zimmer added.
Minnesota opened the first quarter of the season with a 1-2-1 record but responded by winning three of its next four games to find themselves in second place in the NFC North.
Chicago leads the division at 4-3. Green Bay (3-3-1) is in third, and Detroit (3-4) is in fourth heading into the Lions visit to Minnesota on Sunday.
But Zimmer likes where his team is at and the habits and work ethic they have shown over the past month.
“One thing, like I told the football team today, the last few weeks during practice, I watched this team go out there and do [good] things,” Zimmer said. “I feel like we are starting to become a pretty good football team.”
Zimmer added he wasn’t disappointed with the Vikings current spot in the standings.
“It is what it is,” Zimmer said. “We have eight more games to go, and that will determine what we end up doing.”
Zimmer’s players also backed up his belief in the locker room Monday morning.
“I think I feel good about where we’re at,” said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. “Execution-wise and play calling-wise and offense, defense, I thought we did some really good things and Coach reiterated that after the game.
“This is such a week-to-week league, and you have to bring it every single game. If you have mistakes and don’t execute well, you lose the football game,” Thielen added. “We have to make sure we go back to work and make sure we’re locked in for this week.”
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, who did not play Sunday against New Orleans, added that there is an internal belief on the team that they are headed in the right direction.
“I try to always draw some positives. I think we know we’re a good team, we don’t need to hear that to make us feel that way,” Barr said. “I think we all believe that in our hearts. We have to go out and play better in certain situations. A few different plays here and there and maybe we win the game [against the Saints].”
The Vikings will play host to Detroit on Sunday, with kickoff at noon (CT) from U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota will then have its bye week before traveling to Chicago and hosting Green Bay.
Bailey evaluates Sunday’s performance
Dan Bailey wasn’t perfect Sunday, but he also wasn’t overly concerned with the fact that he missed one of three extra point tries at home.
“There’s really not a lot to go over. It just didn’t go in,” said Bailey, who is now 13 of 14 on extra points this season. “I have to put a better hit on the ball and get it right.”
The Vikings kicker sandwiched his miss in between two successful extra point attempts. Bailey did not have a field goal attempt.
Bailey’s first kick was from the right hashmark and went in. He moved to the left hashmark for the second kick that missed, but moved back to the right hashmark for his final try.
Bailey explained that he moved them around to try and throw off a dangerous special teams rush from New Orleans.
“[Kicking from the left hashmark] was only the second one, and the first one we did, we went right hash,” Bailey said. “That was my game plan going into the game, to switch it up.
“Sometimes different teams like to short-side rush or scheme up a rush based on what hashmark you’re on,” Bailey added. “If you have the opportunity to kind of dictate that, I usually like to do that to kind of not be too predictable, I guess.”
Bailey said there hasn’t been any issues with long snapper Kevin McDermott and holder Matt Wile, adding that he puts the onus squarely on himself.
“I’m surprised as well. It’s just a matter of putting a better hit on the ball and making sure everything is all set as far as the operation goes,” Bailey said. “I think we do a good job of that during the week, making sure we’re ready to go and everything is clean and crisp going into the game.
“At the end of the day, it’s my job to put it through and obviously didn’t get that done [Sunday]. Disappointed for sure but I’m not going to let it get to me,” Bailey added. “There are going to be plenty more opportunities with the way our offense is playing. I’d like to have that one back, but I can’t, so it’s just moving forward.”
Bailey is 11 of 14 on field goals in 2018.
Barr’s health status
Anthony Barr saw his 41-game playing streak snapped when he missed Sunday with a hamstring injury.
Barr had played all 16 games in the previous two seasons and the first seven games of 2018 before sitting out against the Saints.
The linebacker was asked if he will return to the field soon.
“We’ll see,” Barr said. “When I’m ready, I’m ready.”
Barr, a three-time Pro Bowler, said he was proud of his teammates for holding New Orleans to a season-low in total yards (270) and passing yards (164).
“It’s tough [to miss a game], but I thought they played well,” Barr said. “They came out and competed hard.
“I thought our defense played great,” Barr added. “It was one of the best performances of the season against a high-powered offense. I thought they did a very good job.”