EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings have put their Week 1 victory behind them and are on to Week 2, preparing for a Border Battle at Lambeau Field.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a knee injury in Sunday night’s game against the Bears and left on cart. He returned to action in the third quarter, however, and led Green Bay from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to a 24-23 comeback win over Chicago.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Rodgers during his session with media members Monday.
“The guy is an unbelievable player,” Zimmer said. “He’s obviously, I don’t want to say anybody’s the best, but he’s pretty darn close to being the best [quarterback]. I mean, his arm is unbelievable.”
Zimmer still remembers facing Rodgers in a preseason game in 2012 as the Bengals defensive coordinator.
“He ducked under a guy, spun, rolled to his right and threw a 30-yard dart on the sideline over there, and I said, ‘Holy crap.’ Since that day, I’ve had the utmost respect for this guy,” Zimmer added. “He can make every throw, he’s smart, he’s tough, obviously. He’s a great player.”
The Packers have not said definitively if Rodgers will play on Sunday afternoon, but Zimmer said his performance after being injured was “remarkable.”
“The guy is unbelievable,” Zimmer said. “There aren’t enough superlatives to say about this guy. He’s just amazing; receivers did a great job, as well. I thought their offensive line blocked really well at the end. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Here are four other topics covered by Zimmer during his podium session:
1. Cousins combining talent, confidence in tight-window throws
Kirk Cousins threw some perfectly placed passes in his Vikings debut, including both touchdown throws to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
The throws were put into precise spaces between defenders, and Zimmer was asked if that illustrated “guts” or pure talent. The head coach believes it’s a little of both.
“He is pretty accurate,” Zimmer said, mentioning the pair of touchdowns in addition to a pass to David Morgan. “He has been doing it in practice, too. He throws into tight places. When he needs to hum it, he can hum it. There was another throw in there, can’t remember which one it was, but he hummed that one in there pretty good.”
Making passes like that also demonstrates a trust in the targets, and Zimmer said that Cousins is developing a strong rapport “with all of the guys, really.”
Zimmer also highlighted Cousins’ ability to move in the pocket and run when necessary.
“[He] had a couple scrambles which were good,” Zimmer said. “Anytime you can do that, it helps some of the man coverage stuff that the defense does.”
2. Discovering the real Richardson
Cousins wasn’t the only Viking who made his debut in Purple.
Sheldon Richardson, who signed with Minnesota in March as a free agent, was praised by Zimmer after his performance Sunday. Zimmer said that Richardson played the run well and “came on” in a way he hadn’t previously witnessed.
According to league stats, Richardson was credited with six total tackles, one-half sack and three quarterback hits.
“I told him I hadn’t seen that guy before,” Zimmer said.
“Now it’s on tape, and I know what he’s going to look like and what he’s supposed to look like,” Zimmer later quipped. “But he played very, very well. He was strong at the point of attack in the running game, he made a lot of tackles.
“He played real hard, pushed the pocket,” Zimmer continued. “There were two times that he took the guy with one hand and knocked him back. He played really, really well. We need him to continue to play like that.”
3. Cook’s versatility adds value
Dalvin Cook recorded 40 rushing yards on 16 carries in his first regular-season game since tearing his ACL against the Lions last season in Week 4.
The running back showed he can be just as effective as a pass catcher, however, making six catches for 55 yards. Zimmer pointed out the value of Cook’s versatility, especially in a situation where the run game isn’t getting going.
“[San Francisco] plays a certain style of defense and makes it tough to run the ball on, and they play a little looser in the underneath coverage,” Zimmer said. “So when you get a chance, and he took a couple, he caught the ball and got around the linebacker to the perimeter a couple of times, which ends up being big gains. I think he had a 15-yard and [a 17-yard catch]. Those are all good.”
Zimmer later was asked a follow-up question about wanting to run the ball better, and he said the Vikings sometimes “didn’t get to the second level” on run plays.
“They were lined up a little bit different, the linebacker was shaded a little further away,” Zimmer explained. “All those things determine your calls, so when these two guys are trying to get those two guys, if he’s way over here and then he moves on the snap we have to be able to see it a little bit quicker. I thought we had some good runs, but I thought we didn’t get to the linebacker enough.”
4. Review of the play-calling
Zimmer said he was pleased overall with Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo’s first game calling plays for Minnesota.
“He did good,” Zimmer said. “There’s always some that you want back. There’s a bunch I want back from yesterday, too, but I think it’s a good first start, and moving forward I think we both try and iron out things that we feel like, ‘Should have done this or should have done that.’ I think it was good.”
Asked specifically about two-minute drills in the game, Zimmer addressed the Vikings final drive of the second quarter.
“Part of it there was probably me. I told Flip (DeFilippo) that I didn’t want to give them the ball back at the end of the first half,” Zimmer said. “We’re back there on the 10-yard line. We’re just trying to get the first down and, really, you’re not thinking field goal at the time, and then we got in around the minus-45 or something.
“Then I was still at that time thinking about letting the clock run out,” Zimmer added. “I mean, things were going pretty good, so we gave it one chance , and we tried to throw the screen, and we lost [six] yards.”