EAGAN, Minn. – Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has found a lot of success for a long time.
Belichick first became a head coach for the Browns in 1991, and in 2000 he assumed his current role in New England. Since taking over for the Patriots, Belichick is 222-77 in the regular season and 27-10 in the playoffs. He has led the Patriots to eight Super Bowls, five of which they've won.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Belichick, whom he will face Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Zimmer told Twin Cities media members that Belichick "does a great job in everything" and that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the fellow coach.
"They don't beat themselves," Zimmer said. "To be able to maintain the success that they've had year-in and year-out, different players and injuries, I think that's a credit to coaching."
"It's hard, honestly, you go 13-3 and the expectations are so high," Zimmer added of the Vikings 2017 record, "And [the Patriots have] been to so many Super Bowls, the expectations are so high, that you have to be really good to maintain that."
Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed in his podium session Wednesday morning:
1. Familiar face, revised role
The Vikings will see a familiar face Sunday in New England, when they play against Cordarrelle Patterson.
The wide receiver was drafted by Minnesota in 2013 and played for the Vikings through 2016. He spent the 2017 season with the Raiders before signing with the Patriots for the 2018 campaign.
The Patriots have capitalized on Patterson's versatility and are using him both on pass plays and run plays. Through 11 games, he has 156 rushing yards on 37 carries. He also has 13 catches for 120 yards through the air.
"They're doing really good with him," Zimmer said. "Everybody knew Cordarrelle was an outstanding athlete, strong runner, great when he had the ball in his hands. We probably could have done a better job when we had him, after watching [the Patriots]."
Asked as a follow-up question if the Vikings ever considered consistently lining Patterson up as a running back, Zimmer said they "tinkered around" with the idea.
"But we had Adrian [Peterson] at the time, so you'd [have to] take him out and put [Patterson] in," Zimmer said. "But I still think we could have used him more in some of those kinds of ways, yes."
2. Anticipating dynamic defensive line
The Patriots have just 17 sacks as a defense this season, compared to the Vikings 36 takedowns of opposing quarterbacks.
Zimmer pointed out, however, that sacks don't tell the whole story and that New England's defensive line is quite successful at affecting the passer.
"They're like third in the league in quarterback pressures and knockdowns, something like that, but they have not been getting a lot of sacks," Zimmer said. "But as I've said many times, sacks aren't the most important thing; it's trying to get pressure on the quarterback. They are blitzing a little more this year than I've seen them in the past. I think that's kind of based on some of their skill sets, as well."
Zimmer also acknowledged that the Patriots heavily use a rotation on the defensive line and use different personnel groupings in multiple ways.
"Each week seems to be a different type of game plan based on who they're going against," Zimmer said. "They're always going to try to make you beat them left-handed."
3. Sony Michel's successful start
Rookie running back Sony Michel has been effective in the eight games he's played for New England. Entering Sunday's game, he has 127 carries for 586 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. Michel also has five rushing touchdowns.
The Patriots have run Michel on first downs 73 times this season, and he's accrued 391 yards and two touchdowns on those runs.
Zimmer said that the Patriots are good at blocking the point of attack to allow Michel to get into the secondary.
"I think the receivers do a nice job of trying to block the safeties if you're in single-high defense," Zimmer explained. "I just think they do a good job of creating some space for him, but there's been a lot of times where he's come out the back door and been able to accelerate and make some long runs."
4. Holton Hill making progress in 'a lot of ways'
Zimmer said Wednesday that he believes there's a "good chance" cornerback Xavier Rhodes will be able to play at New England after suffering a fourth-quarter leg injury against Green Bay.
If Rhodes does not play, it's likely that rookie cornerback Holton Hill, who came in for Rhodes last week, would see more playing time. Zimmer was asked about Hill's progress this season, and he said he's seen improvement in "a lot of ways."
"Obviously, we play a different scheme than he played at Texas. The schemes, learning the technique, those things. He's still learning, obviously, like most young guys are. He's got a lot of really good competitiveness," Zimmer said. "He's a really good athlete, and I think that [progress will increase the] more he continues to learn about the game of football – because most of these guys, when they come in as rookies they don't understand football.
"A lot of them understand their position or they might understand the secondary, but they don't understand football," Zimmer continued. "So when you're trying to take young guys and you're trying to teach them about what offenses are trying to do, how they're trying to attack you, how the defense is trying to combat that – all those things that really make a difference."