EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings limited Panthers tallest receivers, Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5) and Devin Funchess (6-4) to zero catches and only three targets.
This week, Minnesota will face a New York Giants receiving corps that is considerably shorter.
That doesn't mean that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer or defenders are close to breathing easy. It's quite the opposite, Zimmer said Thursday.
"Everybody is different. These receivers are different. They have three guys that are pretty talented (Sterling) Shepard, (Victor) Cruz, and (Odell) Beckham. They do a good job of spreading the field out and making it difficult for you."
The Vikings faced none of the three last year in Week 16 when they held Eli Manning without a completion on four attempts in the first quarter that included a sack and an interception returned for a touchdown by Harrison Smith.
Shepard is a rookie who is 5-10 and has worked well in the slot. Cruz (6-0) has made it back into action after dealing with prolonged injuries, and Beckham (5-11) became the fastest player to reach 200 receptions and 3,000 yards, crossing both milestones last week in his 30th career game.
Xavier Rhodes returned to the starting lineup at corner and played 57 snaps in his first action of 2016. Trae Waynes played 54 snaps, Mackensie Alexander played 50 snaps at nickel and Trae Waynes totaled 39 on the outside.
"I thought, really for the first time out, [Rhodes] did well last week, but 'Xav' [Xavier Rhodes] is a good player. I think his physicality helps," Zimmer said. "I like our group. I think we have four or five guys that can go in there and play. These are going to be tough matchups for us. These guys are really good. We're going to have to fight and compete and do a good job understanding the things that we're getting."
Here are three other topics covered by Zimmer:
1. Complimenting complementary football
There's a tendency sometimes to separate the accomplishments of an offense, defense or special teams unit from the greater success of a team, but Zimmer knows the interconnectedness.
He said Kevin McDermott has been very consistent with his punting and it's helped the defense. Minnesota has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 13 times this season, and yielded zero points on those possessions.
"I think he's been very consistent. Part of that, even though they talk about the defense and all that stuff, is the opposing offense has had to go a long way a lot of times, where I think the punt team really helped us," Zimmer said. "Really the offense too (by) getting to a place where we can punt the ball down inside the 20-yard line. That kind of goes overlooked a little bit, but he's doing a good job in that area."
2. No 'wiggle room'
Asked if the success of the defense gives the Vikings "a little wiggle room" as quarterback Kyle Rudolph continues to become more acclimated to the offense, Zimmer said his team doesn't have "much wiggle room."
"We're fighting our rear ends off every week in every phase offense, defense and special teams," Zimmer said. "We're just trying to find ways to win, however we can win games. I keep saying this team is pretty resilient about that and understanding what we try to do each week."
3. Preparation, instincts and vision
Asked if Harrison Smith's quickness in making plays stemmed from preparation or instincts, Zimmer said each plays a part, with another element.
"I think both of those things and vision. You know, reading keys and getting a tip off. Pre-snap tips sometimes from the offensive linemen. Some of it is vision and some of it is instincts. You know, understanding the game plan and the situation."