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Vikings Defense Tightening Clamp under Zimmer

View some of the best game action images from the first part of 2015.

With all the seasons that Mike Zimmer spent as a defensive assistant or coordinator, it's no surprise that's been keen focus for him in his first 20 games at the helm in Minnesota.

John Holler of *Viking Update *took a look at improvements made under Zimmer, particularly at keeping opponents off the scoreboard, which is somewhat opposite of trends in the NFL.

Holler wrote:

*When Mike Zimmer took over the Vikings two years ago, the team was giving up more points than any other team in the NFL. Things were pretty ugly. On average, the team was allowing 30 points a game. If the Vikings had a game where they allowed 20 points, they had a game where they gave up 40 to make up for it. *

*In his 20 games as head coach, the Vikings have allowed 30 points or more just three times and have allowed 20 or less 11 times. *

*Despite having a 2-2 record to start the season this year, the Vikings point totals allowed have been 20, 14, 16 and 23 – all point totals that, at a minimum, keep a team in a game and leaves the outcome in doubt. If you can hold an opponent down on the scoreboard, a couple of touchdown drives in the second half are typically enough to win. *

Holler went on to note that the Vikings were 5-5 in the final 10 games of 2014, including four losses that were by four or less points each.

*The team had a chance to win all of those games in the fourth quarter. They didn't always make that happen, but thanks to a strong defense, they got the job done. *

The Vikings didn't win last week's game at Denver, but it sent out the sign that even the best of teams will have a hard time having their way with the Vikings because Minnesota can control the clock when on its game offensively and shut down teams from putting up big points on defense. That is a recipe for long-term success.

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Turnover margin improving

ESPN.com's Ben Goessling also wrote about the defense, but focused on how the Vikings have been opportunistic in taking away the ball. Minnesota has recorded at least one interception in the past three games, and turned turnovers into points.

Goessling noted the Vikings have only finished in the top 10 in turnover margin twice since 2003, "and in the last 10 seasons they're 22nd in the league with a net turnover margin of minus-18. The top five teams on that list, meanwhile, have all hosted a conference title game in the last eight years, and five of the top 10 have reached a Super Bowl."

Goessling wrote the Vikings have flipped that script to start the 2015 season:

*Early in 2015, though, there are signs the Vikings are reversing a long trend of tepid turnover margins. They're tied for seventh in the league this season with eight takeaways, and their plus-4 turnover margin has them tied for sixth. What's more, the Vikings have cashed in on the turnovers; they've scored 23 points off their takeaways while giving up just a field goal off their four turnovers. Their plus-20 points off turnover margin is fifth in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. *

Coach Mike Zimmer often discusses turnovers with the disclaimer that he doesn't want defenders who prioritize them and shirk responsibility to their role in the defense, but his teams posted solid takeaway numbers in Cincinnati. The Bengals were 14th in the NFL in takeaways when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator from 2008-13 (the Vikings were 20th in that stretch), and the group was ninth in fumble recoveries.

Quick Hitters

We took a look at how Teddy Bridgewater's stats compare against the first 16 starts made by the starting quarterbacks who remain on the Vikings schedule. Michael Rand of the Star Tribune also reviewed Bridgewater's first 16 and took a look at total quarterback rating.

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