EAGAN, Minn. – Minnesota has won four straight games to improve to 6-2 and is hoping to extend that streak at Kansas City on Sunday.
The Vikings are preparing for a tough challenge against the Chiefs (5-3) at Arrowhead Stadium.
Even if 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, who suffered a knee injury in Week 7, does not play, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer emphasized that Minnesota will need to be on its “Ps and Qs” against a team deep with talent.
Zimmer spoke with Twin Cities media members Wednesday morning and was asked if this weekend’s game is a “measuring stick” for the Vikings.
“I think we play a lot of contenders in these next eight weeks, and [the Chiefs] obviously are a contender,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings second-half schedule includes prime-time matchups against three NFC teams: at Dallas (Nov. 10), at Seattle (Dec. 2) and Green Bay (Dec. 23).
“This is going to be a good test for us,” Zimmer said. “They are a good football team, and we’re going to have to play good to win.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his podium session:
1. Respect for Reid | By Eric Smith
Zimmer’s defense has been among the league’s best in recent seasons, as the unit has finished in the top 10 in points allowed per game in each season since 2015. And eight games through 2019, the Vikings rank third by allowing 16.5 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has put together a prolific offense as Kansas City’s play-caller. The Chiefs have finished in the top 10 in points scored in four of six seasons since Reid arrived in Kansas City in 2013, including a first-place finish in 2018.
Kansas City ranks fourth in the NFL in 2019 with 28.3 points per game.
Zimmer spoke of his admiration for Reid and the ways he manages to get creative with his offenses.
“Well, Andy has always been a great coach,” Zimmer said. “I’m on some committees with him, and he’s very knowledgeable with everything and the way he expresses his beliefs and thoughts.
“But he’s always been a hard guy to defend. He’s actually changed a little bit … he used to be true West Coast, and now it’s a lot more RPOs and four guys out on the side and things like that,” Zimmer added. “He’s adjusted with the times.”
Zimmer won his 53rd career game in Week 8 to move into third place all-time in Vikings coaching history.
Reid has 200 career regular-season wins, which is tied for seventh all-time in NFL history with former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer.
2. Keeping things fresh | By Eric Smith
A thought expressed by a player that Zimmer was with more than two decades ago might be helping the Vikings stay fresher in 2019.
Zimmer relayed a story Wednesday about former Dallas fullback Daryl Johnston, who lamented the fact that grueling training camps left players feeling beat up heading into the season.
“Daryl Johnston, when he was playing with the Cowboys, his quote [he used to say] reminded me [of this],” Zimmer said. “He said, ‘We’d been in great shape to get ready to go into the season, but then we’d go to training camp and beat the heck out of each other. We feel worse as a team at the beginning of the season than we do at the end.’
“That’s kind of stuck with me,” Zimmer added.
Zimmer changed up some of the Vikings practice habits in training camp and said Wednesday that he has also altered practice routines in 2019.
Known as an old-school coach, Zimmer said he has implemented a more caretaking approach for his players, who have rewarded him with a 6-2 record through eight games.
“I think there’s times where you have to do the physicality part … usually it’s at the beginning of your term as the coach,” Zimmer said. “Then you kind of figure it out as you go.”
Other than tight end David Morgan, who did not participate in any offseason practices and had knee surgery Tuesday, the Vikings do not have a single player who has been ruled out for the season due to an injury suffered in training camp or a game.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Chiefs.
3. Speed of Chiefs WRs a threat | By Craig Peters
Within his first 25 words of describing the Chiefs, Zimmer made sure to mention “very explosive offensively” and the fact that they have “really fast receivers, athletes, runners.”
Zimmer later noted rookie Mecole Hardman as well as Sammy Watkins, who have two of the fastest speeds of any ball carrier across the NFL this season, as well as running backs LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams. There’s also Tyreek Hill, who is nicknamed “The Cheetah.”
He also explained how Kansas City utilizes the speed to create big plays. The Chiefs are second in the NFL in yards per play (6.57) behind the Cowboys (6.71) and just ahead of the Vikings at (6.43).
“They do a lot of unorthodox things offensively because they’re trying to get big plays downfield,” Zimmer said. “I think they’re number one in the league in RPOs, RPO percentages. … They’re number one in the league with yards after catch. I’m trying to think, the next-closest team is 250 yards away from them or something. So yeah, we’re going to have to be on our toes, and we’re going to have to play good against them and try to eliminate some big plays.”
4. As for Vikings receivers | By Craig Peters
Zimmer said Adam Thielen, who missed Minnesota’s Week 8 game against Washington, will “do some work today.”
The Vikings also on Wednesday designated receiver Josh Doctson to return from Injured Reserve. Doctson will be able to practice this week and be evaluated on the field.
Doctson signed with Minnesota on Sept. 3 ahead of the Vikings first game of the season. He was inactive against the Falcons and was placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury on Sept. 12.
Although he is new to Minnesota, Doctson teamed with Kirk Cousins for two seasons in Washington, recording 36 catches for 568 yards and six touchdowns.
As to how he might help the Vikings, Zimmer said, “Until I see him, it’s hard. I haven’t seen him in eight weeks or so, so it’s hard for me to say.”