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Presser Points: Zimmer on 'Big Boy Football,' 49ers Offense & O'Neill's Growth

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are one of eight NFL teams left vying for a shot at the title, and the road doesn't get any easier from here.

Sixth-seeded Minnesota will be at top-seeded San Francisco on Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:35 p.m. (CT) from Levi's Stadium.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer made it clear that his focus is solely on getting his team ready to play the 49ers.

"I was up in the defensive room and I was trying to remember who is left," Zimmer cracked.

But Zimmer is also aware that the stakes are raised and that the Vikings have to get ready for one of the league's top teams on a short week.

"It is. I'm not saying it's not," Zimmer said. "It's similar to playing a Monday night game and then you have to get ready for a Sunday game.

"Obviously, we're going out to the West Coast, so that'll be a little bit different," Zimmer added. "But, hey, it's playoff time. It's big boy football now." offered a look at Minnesota’s quick turnaround and the week that lies ahead for the organization.

"We'll have to monitor how we do things," Zimmer said. "We had the day off, but we had a lot of guys in today getting things done. We'll adjust the schedule a little bit this week."

Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed Monday:

1. Turning the page

The Vikings undoubtedly earned one of the biggest postseason wins in franchise history on Sunday afternoon.

It happened on the road, in one of the league's toughest venues and came against a 13-win, division-champion Saints team that had averaged more than 36 points per game over the final seven weeks of the regular season.

But while there was plenty to celebrate, the focus has already shifted to the 49ers. Zimmer was asked when he will know if the Vikings have flipped the page for sure.

"Probably Saturday night," Zimmer said with a laugh.

He later turned serious and mentioned Minnesota's previous playoff win against New Orleans … which also came on the last play courtesy of Stefon Diggs and the Minneapolis Miracle.

Zimmer said he wants his team to respond better this time around than they did then, as the Vikings saw their season end in the NFC title game against the Eagles.

"A lot of the guys that are here were here before," Zimmer said. "I feel like we're a veteran team … we actually had a couple of guys say, 'Hey, calm down,' in the locker room.

"We have to get ready to go play again," Zimmer added. "So, I'm hopeful it's like that."

2. Scouting the SF offense

The Vikings defense talked all offseason about how they never knew what was coming from the Vikings offense in offseason and training camp practices.

Minnesota's offense routinely threw out multiple formations and personnel groupings, which left the defense wondering if the play was going to be a run or pass. And that was before the quarterback potentially faked a handoff.

Minnesota's defense will see some of the same characteristics on Saturday, as the 49ers offense run a similar scheme to the Vikings.

Zimmer said he hopes to notice some tendencies in what San Francisco likes to do.

"Some of the things are similar, but they all have their own wrinkles," Zimmer said. "But hopefully [it helps], yeah."

49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan calls the offensive plays for San Francisco. There is a coaching connection between the teams, as Shanahan's father, Mike, was the Broncos head coach when current Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Denver from 1995-2005. Vikings Offensive Line Caoch/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani also overlapped in Denver.

Kyle Shanahan was also the offensive coordinator in Washington from 2010-2013, and spent his last two seasons there with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the 49ers.

3. O'Neill's growth

The Vikings have watched Brian O'Neill grow into a solid player right before their eyes.

Minnesota drafted the right tackle in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and O'Neill has now started 27 of the Vikings past 28 games, with the lone exception being Week 17 of the 2019 season when starters were held out for rest and healthy reasons.

O'Neill, who was initially a tight end at the University of Pittsburgh, is looked at as a dependable and ascending player up front for the Vikings.

Zimmer commented on the 24-year-old's growth and leadership in his second season in the NFL.

"Well number one, I think he's done a great job this year," Zimmer said. "He's got a chance to be a really, really good player if he continues to improve, continues to get stronger and more physical, because he's smart and he's tough.

"Rick Dennison and [Vikings assistant offensive line coach] Andrew Janocko have done a great job with him about changing up sets, not doing the same thing every time," Zimmer added. "And yeah, I think all those guys in that room kind of communicate amongst themselves pretty good."

According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, O'Neill surrendered just a single sack in 972 offensive snaps in 2019.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

4. Praise for Cousins and the deep shot

Zimmer handed out to game balls Sunday afternoon to the pair who teamed up for the game-winning touchdown — Kirk Cousins and Kyle Rudolph.

Zimmer on Monday explained why he gave one to the Vikings quarterback:

"It was just about him solidifying himself with all of the bad rhetoric that he gets all the time about this or that," Zimmer said. "I just felt like it was time to tell a lot of people that he's our guy and he did it."

Cousins went 4-of-5 passing in overtime, throwing for 63 total yards and the touchdown. A good chunk of that passing total in the extra period came on a 43-yard deep pass to Adam Thielen that put the Vikings at the Saints 2-yard line.

Zimmer said that with the NFL's overtime rules set where a touchdown on the first possession can win the game, he wanted his offensive to be aggressive.

"Well we thought we had a chance on some of those shot plays, and we didn't get them off earlier in the ballgame," Zimmer said. "But we continue to look for them. It's just part of the offense, and we're going to try and get some of those shots in there.

"Like I said last night, when you get in overtime, you're trying to win the game," Zimmer added. "It's not like we want to play two more quarters or something like that."