Presser Points: Zimmer Pleased With Regular-Season Finish But Sees Areas to Improve

*EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – *Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer liked a lot of what he saw from his team in the regular-season finale, especially from the defense.

Zimmer spoke with Twin Cities media members Monday afternoon after reviewing the tape of Minnesota’s 23-10 defeat of Chicago, during which the Bears were held to just 30 rushing yards on 15 total carries.

“I thought defensively we played very well,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, we played the run game really good, [we were] good on third downs. I thought our corners covered well in that game. Linebackers played well – [Anthony] Barr exceptional. Defensive line, those guys did what we needed to do.

“Offensively, they made it tough on us, but we rushed for [147] yards. That was one of the things we wanted to control – the running game and control the time of possession in this ball game. We did that,” Zimmer continued. “Then, the field position part, I think we had four punts that were downed inside the 10-yard line. So, that helped with all those.”

There is much to highlight, but Zimmer and the Vikings will not allow themselves to become complacent.

Finishing the regular season 13-3 secured a first-round bye in the playoffs, and the Vikings will have two practices this week, utilizing the opportunity to self-scout. Minnesota won’t know who it will host on Jan. 14 in the Divisional game until this weekend’s Wild Card winners advance.

Zimmer said there’s “lots of things” to work on to improve on all phases.

“These next two days, I think [it’s] important to get back to fundamentals,” Zimmer said. “Making sure that some of our run fits and our blitzes are better. Trying to make sure some of the difficulties in the coverage things we’ve had.

“Maybe you guys don’t see them, but I see all this stuff,” Zimmer added. “So, a lot of this stuff we have to get better at. We’re going to emphasis some other situations. Try and play some game-like situations in these practices and try and keep us on edge as much as possible.”

Here are four other topics that Zimmer addressed during his podium session Monday:

1. On the potential interest in Shurmur

In response to Minnesota’s offensive success this season, there’s been some buzz that Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur may receive some interest for head coaching positions.

Shurmur, who served as the Browns head coach from 2011-12 and was the interim head coach for the Eagles for one game in 2015, took over as the Vikings offensive coordinator in November 2016 and has held the position since.

Zimmer explained that teams can make interview requests of teams that earned first-round byes during the week before Wild Card games.

“If he gets requested to interview, I’ll let him interview,” Zimmer said. “This is the time they can do it.”

Zimmer confirmed that he can specify which days are OK for an interview and can also determine that the meeting takes place in Minnesota.

“This time of the year you can request that they come here, during the bye week. So, that’s what we’ll do,” Zimmer said.

2. Waynes has come a long way

Trae Waynes was among Vikings defenders who had a solid outing to finish out the 2017 regular season. The third-year cornerback covered well throughout the afternoon and was credited by coaches with one tackle and a tackle for loss, to go along with two passes defended.

Zimmer said that Waynes has progressed significantly this season and has played a role in Minnesota’s defense being top in the NFL.

“The second half of the year he’s played really well,” Zimmer said. “There were a lot of times earlier in the year [that] I was helping him a lot. I’m not doing that very much anymore.”

Added Zimmer: “So, he’s been out there on his own, and I actually think that’s part of the reason why the defensive numbers have come down quite a bit – because of the way these corners cover on the back end.”

3. Receiving RBs

Minnesota’s defense has contained running backs not just on the ground but through the air, as well.

Zimmer was asked specifically about the Vikings slowing down some of the better receiving running backs in the league. 1500ESPN’s Matthew Coller pointed out Panthers RB Christian McCaffery and Rams RB Todd Gurley, whom the Vikings held to 18 and 19 yards receiving, respectively.

Bears RB Tarik Cohen, who had 358 receiving yards this season, was held to a total of 13 yards through the air in two games against Minnesota.

Zimmer said that “it’s always part of the plan” to zero in on an opposing team’s threats and attack them.

“We just try to take away what they do good and figure out a way to do it,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes it’s a couple different players, sometimes it’s leverage, sometimes it’s 1-on-1, sometimes it’s the linebackers, sometimes it’s a safety. I don’t know – we try and figure out the best way to do it and go from there.”

4. Bradford likely back at practice

Zimmer confirmed that the plan is still for Sam Bradford to return to practice this week.

Bradford, who suffered a knee injury Week 1 against the Saints and re-aggravated the injury when he returned to play the first half against the Bears in Week 5, is currently on injured reserve. Once the quarterback starts practicing, the Vikings have three weeks to decide whether or not to move him to the active roster.

“I just want to see where he’s at, how he’s moving, things like that,” Zimmer said. “I hear he’s moving good. I hear he’s throwing the ball good. But that’s all I do is hear. We’ll just go about it and see how it goes.”

Zimmer said it’s “way too early to tell” if Bradford would be an option in the postseason.

“We’ll just see how it goes and where it’s at. I’m not committed to say he’s going to play, so we’ll just see how things go,” Zimmer said. “Things could happen. We win a game, someone gets hurt. You never know what could happen.”

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