EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – *Vikings fans across the country are celebrating the “Minneapolis Miracle*,” but Head Coach Mike Zimmer went back to the tape to also review all the other plays from Sunday’s win.
What he found were a number of takeaways – both positive and negative – to focus on in preparing for the upcoming NFC Championship game between Minnesota and Philadelphia.
Zimmer told Twin Cities media member that he saw “a lot of good things” against the Saints, primarily in the first half of the game during which the Vikings built a 17-0 lead.
“And then we made some mistakes in the second half,” Zimmer added.
He pointed out Case Keenum’s interception and a blocked punt of Ryan Quigley, both of which gave the Saints favorable field position to start drives that ended in scores. He later also included a fourth-and-10 situation on which Drew Brees made a play to keep the Saints on the field.
“We took a sack in field goal range on third down, which knocked us out of field goal range,” Zimmer continued. “We made a couple mistakes defensively in the red zone, so there’s quite a few things we need to clean up from this past ball game.”
While the Vikings were floating on Cloud 9 after the final 7 Heaven play that gave Minnesota a walk-off victory, the team was quick to come back to Earth. In meeting with the team on Monday morning, Zimmer reminded them of what’s at stake.
“We can’t make those mistakes in playoff games, or we’ll be going home,” Zimmer said. “There’s always good and always some bad. We made some critical errors in that game that could have gotten us beat.
“Now, there were some other situations, you know, the third-and-1 where we stopped them, we kicked the [49-yard] field goal … obviously the two-minute, or 25-second drill, I guess you could say, those were all good things,” Zimmer added. “But there were enough other things in there that need to be corrected.”
Here are four other topics that Zimmer covered during his podium session Monday afternoon:
*1. ‘A bunch of fighters’ *
Despite the critique of correctable moments from Sunday’s game, Zimmer commended his team for its resiliency.
“We’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team, they’ve been a bunch of fighters all year long, and I expect that they’ll continue to be that way,” Zimmer said.
“They’re a pretty resilient group,” Zimmer later said, stressing that the Vikings learn from their mistakes rather than being rattled by them. “They’re pretty determined in what they’re trying to get done. They’re always trying to get better, and we have a good group of guys that work really hard.”
When Zimmer was asked by a reporter about Keenum’s performance under pressure, Zimmer also spoke specifically about the quarterback’s gumption.
“That’s what Case has done all year long – he’s a battler, a fighter,” Zimmer said. “He never flinches, he doesn’t back down from anything, and that’s just who he is.”
*2. ‘Atmosphere was electric’ *
Following the Vikings 29-24 defeat of the Saints, Zimmer had a little fun with fans who viewed his postgame press conference from outside a set of windows.
Zimmer makes a point to emphasize the fans’ involvement in every media session leading up to a home game, and he did so again last week. On Monday, he spoke to the crowd’s response at U.S. Bank Stadium and again emphasized the role it played in the game’s outcome.
“The crowd was unbelievable yesterday. That atmosphere was electric,” Zimmer said. “I can remember the very first call I was making to the defense – it was so loud [that it] reverberated in my headset. I know [Anthony] Barr and I had a hard time with communication yesterday sometimes. Defensively, Barr had a hard time hearing the call – I had to call it three or four times.
Zimmer, who was hired four years ago today, said he got “an awful lot” of texts expressing the excitement of Vikings fans after the win.
“I don’t know how many, but an awful lot of people that were really happy,” Zimmer said. “Minnesotans that were really, really happy about how this thing went down. When I got home and I turned the TV on, you see the fans at the Wild game, all the fans going crazy, [and] somebody told me [about the SKOL Clap at the Timberwolves game].”
Added Zimmer: “It was pretty cool. I’m glad that we can give them something good to cheer about.”
3. A status update for Sendejo
After starting out strong against the Saints, safety Andrew Sendejo was ruled out for the game when he was hit by Michael Thomas and placed into concussion protocol.
Zimmer was asked about Sendejo’s status on Monday, and the head coach said, “He’s doing a lot better.”
“He was actually the first one that greeted me in the locker room after the game,” Zimmer said.
He added that it was “hard to say” if the head-on collision was intentional by Thomas.
“I don’t know if they were trying to pick him or if they just got tangled up,” Zimmer said. “He hit helmet-to-helmet, obviously. I don’t know the intent of it. We’ll probably turn it into the league and see what they say.”
4. Backup QB for Philly TBD
Prior to the Saints game, the Vikings released their inactives list that included Teddy Bridgewater. The move came after Sam Bradford was moved Saturday from the Injured Reserve list to the 53-man roster, and Bradford was listed as the backup quarterback.
In his postgame press conference Sunday evening, Zimmer explained what went into his decision for the backup quarterback behind Keenum:
“Shamar Stephen was a little bit banged up, so I needed an extra defensive lineman, and Bradford played great against this team in the past, so that’s why I thought about it,” Zimmer said.
When asked who will fill the backup role at Philadelphia for the NFC Championship game, Zimmer said he doesn’t know at this point.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” Zimmer said. “I’m just trying to finish up the things yesterday that we had to do, then start getting going on Philadelphia, and we’ll worry about that later on.”