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Notebook: Zimmer Sees Progress, Room for Improvement

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday's film review of Minnesota's 17-3 loss to Detroit showed progress in some areas and room for improvements in others.

The long-time defensive coordinator who is in his first season as Vikings Head Coach said the defense made multiple improvements on what had been stressed during meetings and practices between a loss at Green Bay on Oct. 2. He didn't, however, like that the Lions were able to score on their opening possession.

Detroit opened with a pass for 12, added a run by Joique Bell for 10 and had a 7-yard pass before Matthew Stafford dumped a short toss to Theo Riddick for a gain of 41. Stafford hit Riddick two plays later for a 9-yard TD.

"We had the screen pass and we messed that up. We didn't get off a couple of blocks, we had one guy loaf," Zimmer said. "That was the big one and then we made a mistake in the red zone on the touchdown pass. And then the one run that popped out of there (by Bell), we had a guy clean in the hole."

The defense, however, responded by allowing one other possession by the Lions to gain more than 27 yards (a 60-yard TD drive that spanned parts of the third and fourth quarters).

Another example of bowing up on defense occurred in the third quarter after Detroit recorded its third interception and took possession of the ball near midfield. The Lions had gains of 11, 7, 5 and 13 to move to the Minnesota 16 on four plays. Everson Griffen sacked Stafford for a loss of 4, Gerald Hodges halted Golden Tate on a catch that gained 2, and Tom Johnson sacked Stafford for a loss of 8 to move the ball back to the 26 and force a 44-yard field goal attempt by Matt Prater that caromed off the left upright.

Zimmer said nose tackle Linval Joseph's play along the line helped the rest of the defense. 

"Linval Joseph played very well," Zimmer said. "The things we ask him to do don't show up on the stat sheet but it makes it a lot easier for the linebackers to play defensive football."

UPS AND DOWNS: Zimmer said the Vikings expected to have "some ups and downs" with a young quarterback, but the team's confidence in rookie Teddy Bridgewater's future remains high.

Bridgewater is 1-1 as a starter. He threw for 317 yards with no turnovers in his starting debut against Atlanta, but passed for 188 with three interceptions (two on passes that were tipped at the line of scrimmage) against Detroit.

Bridgewater was sacked eight times and hit 12 times by Lions defenders, and Zimmer said the Vikings must do a better job of keeping the QB upright. The coach said a combination of factors — lapses in protection by the offensive line, failure to help on a rush by running backs, receivers not creating enough separation from defenders and holding the ball in the pocket too long — impacted those numbers.

Teammates said they were impressed with the way Bridgewater kept returning to the huddle with poise in spite of the way things were going Sunday, and Zimmer said the Vikings have full-faith in Bridgewater's future.

"I believe with all of my heart that Teddy Bridgewater is going to be the franchise quarterback here for a long, long time, and I believe that the team believes that too," Zimmer said. "I think guys here in this organization, the players, everybody believes that this guy will be the future and a bright future for this organization.

"We have to make sure that we continue to help him to be successful. Whether that's playing or coaching or whatever it is," Zimmer continued. "The one interception, the first interception that he had, he thought the safety was going to grab the guy that was running across him and he didn't. I think that one was a new one for him. The other two were tipped balls, I shouldn't say they weren't his fault, but they were two. I'm glad that he's got his low spot out of the way and we're ready to go back to work."

BRIGHT SPOT: Zimmer said rookie running back Jerick McKinnon was "another bright spot."

McKinnon made his first start and led the Vikings with 40 yards on 11 carries and career highs of six receptions for 42 yards.

"He does some things where he gets in space and he makes a lot of people miss," Zimmer said. "He has some explosiveness about him offensively and that's a good thing."

McKinnon had success getting to the perimeter of the line of scrimmage on his second carry for a 9-yard gain and added a 9-yarder up the middle during Minnesota's first possession. He caught passes on screens and check-downs and also motioned to receiver for a quick throw late in the game.

"I think I did pretty good. I've got high expectations for myself," McKinnon said. "There were a couple of things I wanted to do better on certain plays, but overall, I think I did a good job, handled it really well and had a lot of good, efficient runs. All I can do is build on that and get better as a player."

McKinnon said he wants to continue to improve his technique on picking up blitzers in pass protection. He said he got caught on his heels during one play Sunday.

"I think I did well, but I definitely could have finished (the block) better," McKinnon said. "It's real tough. It's a fight really, it's a one-on-one matchup and coaches trust you to win that matchup, so all you've got to do is stand in there, stay strong and make the plays. It's not a play where you've got the ball in your hands, but it's still a play for the quarterback to give him time to throw the ball."

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