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Vikings Defense Limits Browns to 14 Points Despite Big Rushing Yardage

MINNEAPOLIS — The final result Sunday was a rare one in the Mike Zimmer era.

The Vikings fell 14-7 at home to the Browns, but it marked just the second time under the Vikings Head Coach that his team lost while allowing 14 or fewer points. (The only other instance was a 14-7 home loss to the Lions in Week 4 of the 2017 season).

Zimmer noted after the game that most NFL teams typically win while limiting opponents to that many points, but he said he doesn't have a target in mind for each game.

"Probably one more than they have, I guess," Zimmer said. "In today's NFL, typically if you hold them to 20 or less, you've probably got a chance to win.

"It used to be, when I first got in the league [in 1994], the goal was always 17," Zimmer added. "But this is a team game. Offense didn't lose this today, and the defense didn't lose the game. We all lost the game."

Minnesota's defense allowed its lowest point total of the season, and also gave up the fewest total yards to an opposing offense this season.

Yet the Vikings also allowed the highest rushing total on the season, as the Browns galloped for 184 total rushing yards on 38 attempts (4.8 yards per run).

The two-headed rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 169 of those yards. Chubb had 100 yards on 21 attempts, and Hunt tallied 69 yards and a score on 14 attempts.

Zimmer, however, wasn't overly concerned with the eye-popping yardage given up on the ground.

"Did we get pushed around today? Probably, but I'm telling you now, they know how to run the football, and those two backs run hard," Zimmer said. "I'm not discouraged one bit about the lack of stopping the run. At the end of the day, they scored one touchdown against us."

What's the reasoning behind Zimmer's position?

"My experience," Zimmer said. "I feel fine about it. I feel fine. You guys worry so much about stats and not about how things look and how things are.

"Now we gave up a 30-yard run on [third-and-20] in the two-minute drill," Zimmer added. "I'm disgusted about that, yeah, but for the most part, there were a lot of good things that were happening today."

The 33-yard run Zimmer mentioned was the longest play of the day allowed by a Vikings defense that fared fairly well otherwise.

Cleveland converted on just seven of 18 total third-down tries, and mustered just 143 net passing yards.

And the one touchdown the Browns did score came after the Vikings had apparently already gotten off the field.

Minnesota led 7-0 late in the second quarter when Baker Mayfield's fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete. But linebacker Eric Kendricks was flagged for holding, which kept the drive alive and eventually led to a Cleveland touchdown and 2-point conversion.

"It's frustrating," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. "Some calls can be ticky tack, but that's just the game of football.

"We don't get paid to call [penalties]. We get paid to play football," Griffen added. "At the end of the day, it is what it is and we just go to do better on the next play."

The Vikings defense was on the field for 74 plays against the Browns.

Minnesota lost cornerback Bashaud Breeland in the first half. Zimmer said after the game he was dealing with an illness.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce also left Sunday's loss early. Zimmer said Pierce, who suffered an elbow/shoulder injury during practice last week, was scheduled to get an MRI.

The Vikings will now try to regroup by finishing off a three-game homestand against the Lions.

And with Minnesota at 1-3, Griffen knows it's crunch time for the Vikings.

"We came up short today," Griffen said. "We just have to find a way to put everything together on both sides of the ball to get the games that matter. In this game, we needed it, and they came out with the 'dub,' but that's all that matters in my book: winning."