EAGAN, Minn. – A number of factors contributed to seven tipped passes by the Cardinals defense Sunday afternoon.
Of Kirk Cousins’ 34 attempts against Arizona, twenty percent of them were batted down.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about the tipped throws Monday afternoon during his session with Twin Cities media members.
“I knew I was going to get asked that, so I was prepared,” Zimmer said, before detailing different scenarios in which Cousins’ pass attempts were disrupted.
“Some of them were quick passes, right? The line was sliding one way, and the back was going the other way, and we were cutting the defensive end with the back,” Zimmer explained. “There were two times they jumped over the top of him, and they tipped the ball down; one time they ended up sacking him. There was one time, we ran a naked [bootleg], and we left a guy alone on that side who wasn’t blocked.
“So basically, a few of the times were when we didn’t block,” Zimmer continued. “And then there was a couple times where he was, where we got pushed back a little bit, and guys got their hands up.”
Here are four other topics covered by Zimmer during his podium session:
1. Responding to Hughes’ season-ending injury
Zimmer confirmed that rookie cornerback Mike Hughes will be placed on Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL on Sunday.
The head coach reminded that when somebody gets hurt, “everybody else has to step up” and continue moving forward.
“We feel bad about Mike, because I think Mike’s going to be a really good football player,” Zimmer said. “But we have other guys here, and we expect them to come in and do a good job.”
When asked if the Vikings will bring in another cornerback to strengthen the depth at that position, Zimmer said, “We’ll see.”
“It’s the old saying – ‘You always need one more.’ In today’s game, they’re really valuable,” Zimmer said of skilled defensive backs. “If you can’t pressure the quarterback and you can’t cover, then you’re going to have issues. That’s part of our deal here. We want guys who can rush the quarterback and guys who can cover – whether it be linebackers, DBs, safeties, whatever.”
2. Sunday’s rotation at safety dictated by situation, personnel
As a follow-up, Zimmer was asked about the way he utilized multiple safeties in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.
Andrew Sendejo was sidelined with an injury and was replaced with George Iloka, who played 43 of Minnesota’s 58 defensive snaps. Anthony Harris rotated in during different packages and recorded his first career interception. Safety Jayron Kearse played as a nickel on some snaps.
Zimmer said that substitutions and rotations of players sometimes is dictated by the opposing offense’s personnel.
“The way they play their offense dictates it based on different game situations and things like that,” Zimmer said. “Next week might be a completely different thing.”
Zimmer said that he likes to reward guys who have earned the right to play, but it doesn’t always work out that way. He used linebacker Ben Gedeon, who played just 10 defensive snaps against Arizona, as an example.
“Ben is a good football player,” Zimmer said. “Because of the offense that we are playing, he didn’t get to play that much. Some weeks are like that. It’s good for Kearse to get in there. It’s good for Iloka to get in there, Anthony Harris. Those guys had different jobs to do this week.”
3. Significance of Vikings back-to-back scores
Last week, Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo used the term “double dip” to describe a team scoring to close out the half and then starting the third quarter with the ball and scoring again.
The Vikings did just that on Sunday.
Dan Bailey kicked a 48-yard field goal to give Minnesota a three-point lead with 12 seconds left in the first half. The Vikings started the second half on offense, and Cousins drove down the field and found Adam Thielen for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
After the Cardinals were held to a three-and-punt by Minnesota’s defense, it then capitalized on another shot and extended the lead yet again with a 7-yard rushing touchdown by Cousins.
“It’s big. It’s a chance to go 10 or 14 points up, if you’re getting the ball back in the second half,” Zimmer said of double dipping. “Quite honestly, that’s why I try to defer [if winning the coin toss] as much as we can, because we have a chance to get the ball in the start of the second half. But you know, if you get 10 points in an eight-minute span, or 14 points, then that’s pretty good.”
4. Evaluating Brian O’Neill’s 1st career start
Second-round draft pick Brian O’Neill made his first career start against the Cardinals and played all 71 offensive snaps at right tackle.
Zimmer spoke highly of the way O’Neill has improved since joining the team this spring out of Pittsburgh.
“He’s progressed an awful lot,” Zimmer said. “I thought he played pretty well yesterday. He battled, very smart, picked up a lot of the things that they were trying to do. He’s getting better all the time.”