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Presser Points: Zimmer Likes How Vikings Thrive in Adverse Situations

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings endured through a tough NFC North fight Thursday to come away with a 30-23 win over the Lions in Detroit.

Minnesota prevailed in a tough, rowdy environment against a division foe that had given the Vikings plenty of headaches over the past few seasons, getting a victory that meant a split of the season series.

The Vikings also overcame nine total penalties for 74 yards.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer praised his team's resiliency after the Thanksgiving Day win.

Zimmer met with the Twin Cities media Friday morning to recap the game and commended his team's ability to fight through adverse situations.

The root of that mindset, Zimmer noted, might stem from a 2016 season that started out promising but ended without a playoff berth.

"I was talking to somebody about that earlier today," Zimmer said. "Maybe it's good we went through some of the issues that we had last year.

"I think a lot of it is the players themselves," Zimmer added. "They're pretty tough-minded guys."

The Vikings started 5-0 last season before stumbling to a 3-8 finish.

Minnesota is 9-2 this season and has a three-game lead over the Lions in the NFC North thanks to the Vikings current seven-game win streak.

Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his session:

1. Scoring where it counts

The Vikings remained red hot in the red zone Thursday, a trend that has skyrocketed upward over the past month.

Minnesota entered having scored touchdowns on nine straight possessions inside the 20-yard line, and quickly added to that total.

The Vikings found the end zone on their first three trips in the red zone Thursday as Case Keenum threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph before the quarterback scored on a 9-yard run. Latavius Murray later plunged in for pay dirt from 2 yards out.

Minnesota eventually finished 3 of 5 in the red zone. The Vikings settled for a field goal late in the fourth quarter and ended their final trip inside the Lions 20-yard line in the victory formation.

Zimmer noted that the offense has benefited from extra practice time focused on putting points at a premium.

"We've been practicing it a lot more, spent a lot of time with it," Zimmer said. "I think guys are starting to have a lot more confidence.

"We've made a big emphasis on third downs. Those third down conversions in the red zone, those are big," Zimmer added. "We've really made a point of emphasis on that."

2. Murray on the move

Murray continued his recent surge as he tallied 84 yards and a score on 20 carries against the Lions.

In his first five games in Purple, Murray recorded 97 rushing yards and no touchdowns on 41 carries, good for 2.37 yards per tote.

But the offseason free-agent signing has picked up steam over the past six games, rushing for 399 yards and five touchdowns on 89 attempts (4.48 yards per carry).

"I thought he played well. He ran the ball efficiently this week," Zimmer said. "I think he continues to get better as we get going."

The Vikings ran for 136 total yards against the Lions, the eighth time Minnesota has surpassed the 100-yard mark this season. That happened just twice in 2016.

Minnesota had 129 total rushing yards early in the third quarter but managed just seven yards the rest of the way, a stat Zimmer noted was because of Detroit's defensive alignment.

"Man, I've got to figure out how to say this without getting in trouble," Zimmer said. "They were really crowding the line of scrimmage. Really, really crowding the line of scrimmage. I'll leave it at that."

3. Fixing some mistakes

If there was a glaring area to improve after Thursday's win, Zimmer said it came on special teams.

The Vikings had both an extra point and field goal blocked by Detroit, and struggled at times on kick coverage.

Zimmer, however, said it was a collective effort why the entire unit struggled a bit at times against the Lions.

He said kicker Kai Forbath wasn't at fault on the first block and that Detroit funneled through the middle of the Vikings line.

"We have to get better in that area. I don't think it was really the kicker. He didn't really get an opportunity," Zimmer said. "Like I said, the one we didn't get the ball caught and put on the ground good enough, and the other one got blocked. I don't really think it was him.

"We had a couple poor punts. We had a couple good punts," Zimmer added. "We didn't cover very well, well enough anyways. In general, we have to be better on special teams.

4. Not looking ahead

The Vikings currently sit with the NFL's second-best record heading into the remainder of Week 12 play across the league.

But even though Minnesota has won seven straight for the first time since 2000 and has a strong division lead, Zimmer said the focus won't change going forward.

"It's really the same as seven games ago," Zimmer said. "Figure out how to beat this team this week, go about our business the same way, make sure we stay who we are, understand who we are as a football team, and then go out and execute on Sundays.

"We're not looking down the road or anything like that," Zimmer added. "The more wins we can stack up right now will help us in the end."

The Vikings resume play on Dec. 3 in Week 13 with a road game at Atlanta, which is the defending NFC champion before visiting 2015 NFC Champion Carolina the following week.

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