EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings are entering the bye week as the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, but their hard-working, blue-collar mentality hasn't changed from Week 1 until now.
"This team has a bull's-eye sight [set]," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Twin Cities media members Monday. "They want to focus on, 'What do we have to do to win this particular ball game.' "
Zimmer believes the players do an excellent job of continuing to work and taking things week by week instead of looking three games ahead or mentally entering the bye week too early.
"I think we probably played as a good a game as we've played this year [against the Texans]," Zimmer said. "So they weren't focusing on going fishing or doing those things, they were focusing on the task at hand.
"That's one of the things I really appreciate about this team," Zimmer added. "These guys, when they come in, they grind in the meeting rooms, they listen to the things that I tell them, they study."
The Vikings are sitting at 5-0, but there is a lot of season left. Zimmer said there are still things he hopes to improve and clean up before coming out of the bye week to face Philadelphia (3-1) on Oct. 23, and he's grateful for a team that shares his focus and takes one game at a time.
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his podium session:
Run game a continued focus
After Sunday's win over Houston, Zimmer had a handful of takeaways for areas to improve in, including the run game. He said the offensive line is a work in progress, and along with that, getting more substantial runs.
"We've got to get some better, more efficient runs than what we had, so that will be our focus going into next week during the bye," Zimmer said after Minnesota finished with 96 total yards and an average of 2.6 yards per carry.
The Vikings utilized running back Jerick McKinnon in the Wildcat formation a couple of times. Zimmer said depending on the play, some of the direct snaps may be reads and hands off, and others are balls that McKinnon rushes himself. Zimmer said he has no hesitation in playing McKinnon there.
"He did it in college, so he's pretty good at it, really," Zimmer said. "He's quick, and he reads things fast. I have a lot of confidence in him doing that."
Kyle Rudolph doing all the right things
Over his four starts with Minnesota, Sam Bradford hasn't thrown an interception. Zimmer said he's been happy with Bradford's performance after joining the team just five weeks before via trade. Specifically, he highlighted Bradford's accuracy, quick decision-making, strong communication and toughness.
"He's really accurate," Zimmer said of Bradford, who's completed 70.2 percent of his passes in four games. "He knows where to go with the ball the majority of times […] He's quick getting the ball out."
Zimmer said the offensive line needs to better protect Bradford, who was sacked twice and hit eight times by the Texans. Zimmer was impressed with Bradford's ability to stand in the pocket and make a nice pass to Jarius Wright on a third-down situation, even while anticipating being hit by a lineman.
"He just has a good feel of 'throwing guys open' – leading them to the right spot and being able to [connect]," Zimmer said. "He knows he's going to get hit, but he's going to stand in there and take it. He's a tough guy."
DBs making a difference
The Vikings defense has been wreaking havoc against opposing offenses this season.
Specifically against Houston, Zimmer appreciated the performance by the defensive backs. Across the board, he liked what he saw from the team's cornerbacks. Zimmer said he thought Xavier Rhodes had a good day, and Trae Waynes "probably played his best game" of the season after recording passes defensed.
"When Trae [Waynes] was in there, he covered really, really well," Zimmer said. "Captain [Munnerlyn] played well in the slot."
Zimmer was also pleased with Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo's tandem effort at safety.
"The whole defensive back group played well in this ball game," Zimmer said. "The thing that I like is that we're playing tight in coverage, we're challenging the receiver, we're being aggressive. We got double-moved about four or five times, and we covered it well."
Zimmer gave credit to defensive backs coach Jerry Gray for preparing the unit so well for each individual game.
Self-scouting over the bye
While the players only have practice on Tuesday of this week due to the bye, the Vikings coaching staff will still be hard at work preparing for the next section of the season. Zimmer explained that they'll be working through film in a structured format to scout their own performance.
"We'll be doing a five-game study of our cut-ups of different areas: red zone, short yardage, two-minute, third downs, the run game, first-down play actions and first- and second-down drop-backs," Zimmer said. "So trying to just see what we're doing well, what kind of tendencies we have, what we need to do better and what we need to change."