EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged Monday that a couple of mistakes were made by Kirk Cousins – as well as a number of other players – but emphasized that he does not attribute errors to the quarterback “panicking.”
Zimmer was asked during his session with Twin Cities media members if he needs to talk to Cousins, who threw two interceptions against the Bears Sunday night, and if he’s panicking about making something happen.
“I’ve talked to him, yes,” Zimmer said. “I really don’t think he is panicking. I don’t think that is the case at all. I think there are times when he wants to get the ball down the field, so he’ll wait for guys to get open instead of taking a sure thing sometimes.
“Other than the turnovers, I have a hard time faulting him,” Zimmer continued. “This kid is tough, he plays outstanding. He works his rear end off. He is a great team guy. We just need to, and quite honestly, not all of the [mistakes] are on him. Guys are in the wrong spot sometimes, too. That is not just our team, that is every team. I think all of those things combined make it a little bit more difficult.”
Earlier in his press conference, Zimmer addressed each of Cousins’ interceptions.
“The first one was a miscommunication. The second one, it was a misread,” Zimmer said. “He thought he was getting something else, and he didn’t get that.”
Here are four more topics Zimmer talked about during his media session Monday afternoon:
1. Offense could be trying ‘a little too much’
Cousins is now over halfway through his first season in Purple, meaning the same length of time has passed for the Vikings under Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.
In addition to the new personnel, there have been some adjustments due to injuries and moving players around.
Can some of the snags Minnesota’s offense has run into be attributed to the unit “still learning to play together”? Zimmer said he doesn’t quite see it that way.
“We do have a lot of guys going in different spots. It might be, what is the best way to say this, it might be a little volume. A little too much volume,” Zimmer said.
Asked to expand a bit, Zimmer responded that they might be trying to do “too much” on that side of the ball.
“Let’s just play football. You run a really good out route, you run the out route. He runs a good curl, you run the curl,” Zimmer said. “You know what I mean? So, maybe we just need to focus a little bit on not trying to trick the other team quite so much.
“You want to add new plays every week and new plays and new plays and new plays,” Zimmer continued. “It might be the best play in the world. Vince Lombardi might have designed it. But if you can’t execute it, then it doesn’t do you any good. [Or if you can’t] protect for it, or whatever it is.”
2. Importance of winning the turnover battle
The Vikings so far this season have committed 16 turnovers, two more than they had all of last season. In 2016, Minnesota had exactly 16 turnovers on the season, averaging one per game.
Since 2016, the Vikings are 18-2 when winning the turnover battle. When losing the turnover battle, they’re 4-10-1. When the number is equal, Minnesota is 4-3 in that span.
“The turnovers, we talked about that all week, we had to win the turnover battle, and we didn’t do that,” Zimmer said.
“It’s been frustrating at times,” he acknowledged. “Like the Saints game, we’re getting down there, we’re getting ready to score, and Adam [Thielen] fumbles the ball, and he’s pretty good with it. I guess stuff happens sometimes.”
Zimmer was asked about evaluating players coming out of college who specifically have struggled with turnovers. He referenced former Giants running back Tiki Barber, who averaged three fumbles in his first three seasons but had nine, eight, nine and nine fumbles, respectively, from 2000-03. In the final three years of his career, Barber again averaged three turnovers per season.
“It’s all a part of the process,” Zimmer said. “If a guy is a fumbler, that’s part of it. But you know, guys can change. Tiki Barber had a huge fumbling problem that he ended up fixing. It’s just a process for some guys.”
3. Assessing Anthony Harris
The Vikings committed three turnovers on offense but forced an equal number of turnovers on defense.
Two of those takeaways were at the hands of safety Anthony Harris, who picked off Mitchell Trubisky twice.
“He made a couple of nice plays. Obviously the interception was a really nice play. The second one, [Trubisky] threw it to him, but he made a nice play on the sideline in breaking up a route,” Zimmer said. “There’s things that he has to clean up, as well.”
Zimmer said Harris’ confidence has increased since signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“He sees things and reacts. He’s a good visual player, I think,” Zimmer said. “He’s very smart, so he’s good visually in kind of understanding what the offense is trying to do.”