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Notebook: Zimmer Targets Vikings Run Defense

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer's track record suggests the Vikings will be better at stopping the run next year, but the first-year head coach doesn't want to wait that long.

Zimmer said Friday that he was displeased with the way Minnesota defended the run in a 42-10 loss at Green Bay Thursday night. Zimmer has placed emphasis on stopping ground games in the years since his first as a defensive coordinator when Dallas allowed a league-worst 164.8 rushing yards per game in 2000.

"I said, 'Never again,' so I guess that's where that all stems from," Zimmer said regarding his focus on the run.

The Cowboys tightened their technique and tackling the following season when they allowed 106.9 rushing yards per game (sixth-fewest in the league). Dallas moved up to third in the league rankings (89.1 yards per game) in 2003. Dallas finished 10th, 15th and 10th in the category the next three seasons.

Zimmer became Atlanta's defensive coordinator in 2007, and the Falcons ranked 26th after allowing 127.1 yards per game and enduring an in-season coaching change. Zimmer went to Cincinnati in 2008 in the same role, and the Bengals ranked 21st against the run (120.1) per game, then vaulted to seventh in the league (98.3 yards) in 2009. The Bengals ranked 19th, 10th, 12th and fifth in Zimmer's final four seasons in Cincinnati.

"I guess it takes a while. I don't know," Zimmer said. "I watched the tape with them this morning as well, and there's nothing more disheartening as a coach for you to get manhandled up front, to be in the wrong gaps, to have people running the ball at you. It's disheartening."

The Vikings allowed 156 rushing yards on 28 carries (5.6 per attempt) against the Packers, including a season-high 105 yards to Eddie Lacy. The big back set the tone on Green Bay's second possession with runs of 18, 29 and 6 yards to set up a touchdown and added two scoring runs in the third quarter.

View images from Thursday's game at Lambeau Field between the Vikings and Packers.

Zimmer said the film review illustrated "freelancing" and players at times moving out of the correct position.

Defensive end Brian Robison said all 11 players have to perform their assignment correctly on each play and trust that will lead to success within the system.

"I just think guys are trying to do too much," Robison said. "Guys are trying to make plays and when you listen to people talk and you listen to all these outside things, guys get wrapped up in, 'I've got to make plays,' and the bottom line is do your job and the plays will come to you. If anybody knows how frustrating it is to not have stats, it's me, but the bottom line is, 'I've got to do my job and eventually the plays will come,' but as long as I'm doing my job and my coaches are happy with what I'm doing, then that's what matters to me.

"I just think with Zimmer's defense it's to do your job," Robison added. "The bottom line is, you go out there and do your job, you might not get the sacks and stuff like that, you might not get the interceptions, you might not get the tackles for loss, but if you're doing your job, you give our team the best chance to win the ball game and that's really all that matters in this league: how many ball games you win and lose."

Safety Harrison Smith said Thursday's results stemmed from a combination of execution by Green Bay and a lack thereof by Minnesota.

"I don't want to take anything away from them because they did a good job of executing, and we need to be more physical and shore up our assignments and wrap up," Smith said.

SELF SCOUT:Zimmer said Vikings coaches will use the extended time between Friday and Minnesota's next game (Oct. 12 at home against Detroit) to self-scout. Teams often do this during their bye weeks, but the Vikings' bye isn't until Nov. 9.

"We have to keep grinding and trying to get this football team better," Zimmer said. "I've said all along that we're still in the infancy stages of the program. We still have 11 games left."

Smith, who suffered an ankle injury during Thursday's game, said film shows "flashes of very good play and flashes of poor play."

"We have the potential to be as good as we want to be, but it's that consistency we need to have of everybody doing their job," Smith said.

ROOKIE AWARD: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who missed Thursday's game because of an ankle injury, was named Pepsi Rookie of the Week after garnering the most votes from fans after his 317-yard, no turnover performance against Atlanta in his first start. Bridgewater is expected to be available against the Lions.

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