EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has repeatedly said he is constantly learning and growing as the main man in Minnesota, even in his fifth season in Purple.
That includes finding the balance between giving ideas on offense and special teams in addition to defense, an area where Zimmer has made his mark in nearly 25 years of success in the NFL.
Zimmer met with the Twin Cities media on Monday after the Vikings fell 24-10 on the road to the Patriots on Sunday night, and said he’s always trying to make corrections on both sides of the ball, whether it’s during the week or in the middle of a game.
Zimmer noted that if the Vikings defense is humming along, he can turn more of his focus on the offense. And if the offense is cruising and the defense isn’t, he can spend more time with his defensive players.
The Vikings needed a bit of both on Sunday against New England, which left Zimmer trying to juggle multiple roles.
Zimmer on Monday explained time management and how he could help the offense more. The Vikings accounted for 278 total yards and converted on just three of their 12 third-down tries at New England.
“Maybe letting [Vikings Defensive Coordinator] George [Edwards] do a little bit more of the adjustments on defense,” Zimmer said. “But I don’t know, I haven’t decided that yet, so we’ll have to see.
“When things are going smooth, it’s no issue … I can go talk to the offense all I want,” Zimmer added. “When things are helter-skelter on defense, then I am spending a little bit more time with them or the special teams. That is just part of it.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed Monday:
1. On communication with DeFilippo
After saying on Sunday that he didn’t think the Vikings ran the ball enough, Zimmer was asked Monday about his communication with Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo..
“I think he’s doing a good job. We talk all the time,” Zimmer said. “We talk about things what I think are important, and I think he tries to do those.”
DeFilippo was hired in February for the role after Pat Shurmur was hired as the Giants head coach. DeFilippo spent two seasons as the Eagles quarterbacks coach and helped Philadelphia win Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Zimmer said Monday that DeFilippo has much of the same control of the offense that Shurmur did, and that he chats regularly with DeFilippo and the other Vikings offensive coaches during the week of preparation.
“I’m always involved with them,” Zimmer said. “I sit down there and talk to them about a lot of different things during the week.”
The Vikings currently rank 16th with 360.9 yards per game and are 18th with 22.4 points per game.
2. Unable to rally
When New England took a 17-10 lead on Sunday night, there was still more than 15 minutes of time left on the clock.
But the Vikings couldn’t mount a game-tying drive, as Minnesota’s final four possessions ended with a punt, a turnover on downs and a pair of interceptions.
Zimmer said he didn’t think the emotions of the game played a part in not being able to rally, but instead simply point at a lack of execution down the stretch.
“I don’t pay attention to body language. I usually tell them what the body language is supposed to be,” Zimmer said. “No, I don’t think there’s panic. I think when they went up 17-10, it was still a seven-point game.
“There’s still almost a quarter left,” Zimmer added. “I think maybe instead of continuing to do what we’ve been doing to get us back in the ball game we might have tried to do too much, probably, in a lot of spaces.”
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
3. Not an excuse
The Vikings were banged up at cornerback entering Sunday night’s game as both Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander were listed as questionable against New England.
Both players suited up and saw action, but the night ended up being a hectic one for Minnesota’s cornerbacks.
Holton Hill ended up playing the most snaps for a player at that position as the rookie saw the field for 56 of Minnesota’s 74 total defensive snaps. Rhodes played 45 snaps in a limited role while Alexander was on the field for 40 plays.
Hill saw an increase in his workload after cornerback Trae Waynes suffered a concussion and was limited to 19 snaps. Marcus Sherels eventually played 20 defensive snaps after playing just nine in the first 11 games of the season.
Even with players shuffling in and out of the lineup, Zimmer said he thought Minnesota’s defensive miscues weren’t because of injuries.
“We were OK,” Zimmer said. “We made a couple of mistakes on that first drive early in the game, which were really uncharacteristic, which was disappointing. That was before they got hurt.
“The touchdown [in the third quarter] was one that not one of the new guys was involved, so that wasn’t an issue,” Zimmer added. “At the end of the game, Marcus missed a tackle, and we didn’t run support very good, but it is what it is.”
Safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris each played all 74 of Minnesota’s defensive snaps.
4. Divisional coaching changes
A year ago at this time, Zimmer’s coaching counterparts around the division were Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, Jim Caldwell in Detroit and John Fox in Chicago.
Zimmer is the only coach left in the NFC North as the 2018 season heads into its final stretch.
Fox and Caldwell were let go following the 2017 season and replaced by Matt Nagy (Chicago) and Matt Patricia (Detroit), while the Packers announced Sunday afternoon that McCarthy was let go in his 13th season with Green Bay.
Zimmer was asked about being the only coach left in the division, and being in a profession that oftentimes sees constant turnover.
“I really didn’t think about it until you mentioned it. It is what it is,” Zimmer said. “We signed up for this production-based business. If you don’t produce, that is what happens.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily right in some of the instances. I think there were some good coaches there in this division a year ago,” Zimmer added. “I’m sure there are good coaches in here now, so hey, whatever.”
Zimmer is 45-30-1 in four-plus seasons in Minnesota and has won two division titles over the past three seasons. He is the ninth coach in franchise history.