After the Vikings **snapped the Panthers 14-game win streak** at home yesterday, USA Today's Tom Pelissero took a look at the trend of **Minnesota’s defense over the past 10 months**. He wrote:
Dating to last December, the Vikings have held seven consecutive opponents to 17 points or fewer, and they've faced some excellent quarterbacks in that stretch: Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Rodgers twice and now Newton, the reigning NFL MVP who seemed beat up and beaten down once [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's crew was done with him.
Pelissero said that "no one should be surprised anymore" when the Vikings defense shuts down a powerful offensive team like Carolina or Green Bay. He emphasized the talent at all three levels, from Everson Griffen to 38-year-old Terence Newman.
Zimmer is an excellent defensive coach, and his staff has proven adept at handling in-game challenges. Not going down on the first punch in this building is a victory in itself, much less after a week like the Vikings had.
Sunday's win over Panthers highlights Zimmer era
There were many who counted the Vikings out when Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson suffered significant injuries, but Zimmer and his team won't have their success dictated by circumstances. Don Banks weighed in for NFL.com on Minnesota's **takedown of Carolina yesterday**. Banks wrote:
The Vikings' defense was already plenty good before this season. But it is rapidly becoming one of the elite units in the game, and Sunday's statement win in Charlotte was its finest work yet in the three-year Mike Zimmer coaching era. The Vikings didn't just beat Newton and the Panthers; they toyed with them, limiting Carolina to just 101 yards in the second half and 306 overall. Minnesota scored on defense (a safety/sack by Danielle Hunter), offense and special teams (a 54-yard Marcus Sherels punt return touchdown) and boosted its league-best takeaway ratio to a gaudy plus-8, making it seven consecutive games of surrendering  points or [fewer].
Harrison Smith told Banks over the phone that "it's fun now."
"We didn't start out how we wanted to today, and we just tightened things up and got after it in the second half," Smith told Banks. "That's our goal, to be one of the best, and so far we've played really well. But we can't get ahead of ourselves. We can't prove that in just one game. It's got to be every day and every game. But what we're doing so far is working for us.''
*That's the understatement of the young season. With Zimmer setting the tone for his team with a no-excuses mentality, even the loss of the team's starting quarterback to a late-August knee injury, and last week's torn meniscus suffered by its top offensive weapon in Peterson has not deterred these Vikings. They still believe they're legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and if it takes the defense to lead the way there, so be it. *
Respect for Zimmer's coaching is wide-reaching
Zimmer's wait for a head coaching position proved to be a long one, but he's proving now with Minnesota that the position was long overdue. The Star Tribune's Jim Souhan wrote about the **respect Zimmer’s players have for him** after beating the Panthers yesterday.
"I was one of the guys that was lobbying for Mike to get a head coaching job way back when,'' Terence Newman, who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati, told media following the game. "He's as good as they come. He knows every facet of the game — offense, defense and special teams. He's done a great job with this team, for sure.''
Souhan said that Sunday afternoon's win was Zimmer's top work and "biggest victory" since taking over with the Vikings in 2014.
*The final was 22-10 over the defending NFC champions, and that score is even more stunning when you consider the circumstances. The Vikings played their first game of the season without Adrian Peterson or left tackle Matt Kalil, in the second game with new quarterback Sam Bradford as a starter, and in weather so warm players found themselves cramping. *
Zimmer almost gave up his search for a head coaching job before Vikings general manager Rick Spielman hired him at the age of 57. Zimmer took over a team that won five games. He is 21-14. Sunday provided more evidence that he may be one of the best head coaches in the NFL.