EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Cleveland Browns have yet to win a game this season and on Sunday lost Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to a torn triceps, but there are no write-off teams in the NFL.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer emphasized during his Monday afternoon podium session that it's important to not approach this weekend's matchup with any less focus than the previous seven games. The Vikings are slated to play the Browns in London on Oct. 29, with an 8:30 a.m. (CT) kickoff.
"I just want us to go continue to try to get better and improve," Zimmer told Twin Cities media members. "I think our team will believe that [Cleveland is] a good team when we get back into it and we start getting into more preparation [for] it."
Zimmer pointed out that the Browns have lost four games by three points each: the Steelers, Colts, Jets and to the Titans in overtime Sunday.
"It's going to be about us and how we play, and that's usually how it is every single week," Zimmer said. "Do we prepare the same way? Do we play with the same intensity? Do we play as a smart football team, understand the things we need to do to beat this particular football team? And I think [those are] the points of emphasis that we'll be making this week."
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered on Monday:
1. Logistics of London
The trip will mark Zimmer's first time in London, and he said he's "not a very big expert" on making the jump across the pond.
"You know, it's just another road trip," Zimmer said. "And a road trip for them, too."
Officially speaking, the Vikings are designated as the "away" team for this weekend's International matchup and had some flexibility on their travel days.
Zimmer explained his thought process on the decision to leave for London Wednesday evening.
"I mean, everybody did things different. I looked at who won, who lost, different things," Zimmer said, "but you go over there and you play, and whoever plays best usually wins."
2. Offensive line observations
Zimmer has been pleased with the performance of Minnesota's offensive line this season, and the unit has been praised repeatedly by teammates, as well.
Zimmer said the linemen are "just solid in everything they do."
"Mike Remmers played well, Riley [Reiff] played well, [Pat] Elflein. These guys, [Danny] Isidora when he went in there played well, [Joe] Berger. They're playing good together," Zimmer said. "They're all on the same page. You see the footwork is the same. Everything kind of looks like it's supposed to. We were able to open up some holes. I think they're playing good."
Case Keenum hasn't been sacked in the past three games, a streak that ties a franchise record. Zimmer said that could be the result of multiple factors, including Keenum's mobility and Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's play calling.
"It's a combination of things; we're moving the pocket a little bit. We're also blocking well up front," Zimmer said. "Identifying the pressures, that was a big one with these guys because they've got a little bit different kind of pressure package.
"The backs have done a good job of knowing who to block," Zimmer continued. "A lot of it is being on the same page. Pat has done a nice job of changing it up, changing it up with different protection calls and the different things we're doing out of it."
3. Predicting performances
Minnesota's offense over the first seven weeks has produced a number of playmakers.
Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs all started the season off hot. But in the wake of Cook's season-ending ACL tear and Diggs missing back-to-back games with a groin injury, the Vikings have gotten big days from other names, including Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright.
When asked if he can anticipate ahead of time which players are poised for a strong performance, Zimmer said "sometimes" based on the opponent's personnel.
With our offense, it's not like, 'This guy has to get the ball all the time.' It's more 'We'll spread it around,' and I like that," Zimmer said. "I like to have multiple players that they have to defend."
Zimmer added that Minnesota's versatility can make it trickier to defend.
"[Kyle] Rudolph is a good player. He can hurt you. The receivers, the runners. I think the more varied you are, the better opportunities you have."
And as for the defense? It's not much different. But Zimmer stipulated that sometimes things don't turn out the way you expect them to on film.
"I've gone into games before saying 'Man, this guy is going to kill this guy,' and he doesn't do it," Zimmer said. "You still have to go out and execute. Our opinion from watching guys on tape may be different than really what it is. I typically have an idea on some of the things, who may have more opportunities this weekend."
4. Getting the run game rolling
The Vikings run game was a focus during the offseason, and so far the added emphasis has paid off.
Murray and McKinnon have stepped up in the absence of Cook, and the ground attack has been successful. Through seven weeks, Minnesota has accrued 872 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 205 attempts. After seven games in 2016, the Vikings had 503 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 189 carries.
"I think the running game has helped us tremendously in things we're able to do as compared to a year ago," Zimmer said. "We did have a couple negative runs in the red zone, but we're not getting very many of those. We're getting yards.
"I do think they've done a nice job with the scheme as far as, we've got perimeter runs, we've got inside runs, we've got power football runs," Zimmer added. "I think all those things have helped."