EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings are entering the bye week and midpoint of the 2017 season with a 6-2 record after winning four consecutive games.
Minnesota also sits atop the NFC North, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer assured Twin Cities media members Tuesday that the team doesn't intend to rest on its laurels.
"I think we're running the ball better, the offense is scoring points, defensively we've been fairly solid. [But there are] a lot of areas where we're trying to get better," Zimmer said. "We had too many negative plays [against the Browns] on offense, and I don't think we played our best game defensively. Special teams gave up a couple of big plays. There's some things that we're working on, and that's what we're trying to do this week."
Added Zimmer: "I don't really want to get specific on it, but I gave the team and the coaches some things that I want them to concentrate on this week."
After the Vikings fell to 2-2, Everson Griffen said he thought it would be important for Minnesota to go 4-0 in the second quarter of the season. Zimmer said that "obviously you want to go 4-0" but that he also continues to preach a "one step at a time" mindset.
"I really don't look at four-game deals. I look at this week and how we win this week and talk to the team about what we have to do this week to win this particular ball game," Zimmer said. "[You] can't birdie them all until you birdie the first. That's my mentality, and I think the players understand you can't go 4-0 if you lose the first one."
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his podium session:
1. A question of quarterbacks
The status of Stefon Diggs remains "wait and see."
Zimmer was asked if he was prepared to activate the quarterback from the PUP list to the 53-man roster, 15 months after Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee that abruptly ended his 2016 season before it started.
"I'm prepared. We'll take it one day at a time, though, and see," Zimmer said. "We've still got a few more days to figure it out."
The team has 21 days from the time Bridgewater returned to the practice field (Oct. 18) to move him to the 53-man roster.
Zimmer clarified a statement he made in London after the Browns game Sunday, in which he said he "hoped to have a decision to make" regarding the quarterback situation.
"When I said that, it was more about the decision to activate Teddy. It wasn't about the decision of who to play," Zimmer said. "I haven't decided that yet. We'll continue to take it one day at a time. Just see where he is at, where the team is at, how Case [Keenum] is doing. The whole deal."
Zimmer added that Kyle Rudolph's health also factors in. Bradford suffered a knee injury Week 1 against the Saints and since then has played just two quarters, when he started at Chicago but wasn't able to finish the game.
"He's getting better. I thought this was going to be a one week injury. I never thought that it would linger on this long. But, he is getting better," Zimmer said. "We'll just go from there. So, when I told [media] that I thought he was close, I thought he was. It just hasn't worked that way."
2. Jelling with Jerick
Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook got off to a hot start in the pros, but his season was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 4.
In Cook's absence, Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have shouldered added responsibility. McKinnon in the past four games has totaled 261 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 59 carries (4.4 yards per attempt) and has also been a contributor in the passing game, snagging 20 catches for 163 yards and a score through the air.
Zimmer said he's not surprised to see the way McKinnon has stepped up.
"Jerick is a good athlete, and I think [Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu] has done a really good job with him, as far as talking to him about things he needed to improve on," Zimmer said. "I think that's helped quite a bit, and I think he's taken it to heart. He's been running physically, he's been hitting the hole quick, catching the ball well out the backfield … been good in protection."
3. Offensive line observations
The running game also has been improved this season behind a bolstered offensive line.
Minnesota added tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers through free agency in addition to drafting center Pat Elflein and guard Danny Isidora.
"A lot of it is we've got new players," Zimmer said. "These guys are pretty good players, so that's part of it, but I do think we've adjusted some of the things we're doing – really in the pass game, in the run game, this offseason, the different types of protections, the footwork that we're using, things like that. I think all that has been a factor, as well."
4. On the up-swing offensively
While there are areas in all three phases that Zimmer intends to focus on during the bye week, he also used the season's midway point to highlight a significant improvement in Minnesota's offense.
"I think we're moving the ball well offensively. I think that's been big. For the most part, we're scoring points," Zimmer said, who also added that it's early to look too closely at stats.
"So I think the way that we've improved offensively has helped the team," Zimmer continued. "We had 85 plays last week on offense or something. It takes a lot of the wear-and-tear off the defense and keeps the clock going. There's a lot of good things that happen when you can control the clock like that."