EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Vikings had little time to revel in the glory of an NFC North division title after defeating Green Bay 20-13 last night. When Monday rolls around, all focus shifts to the goal ahead: this week, the playoffs.
"There were a few hugs in the locker room – that's about it," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "We came back and went to work, just like a normal week."
Perhaps a reflection of Zimmer's mentality, the coach addressed the media wearing the usual purple baseball cap rather than the division champs hat the Vikings received following their win.
That's not to say the accomplishment isn't appreciated, however. Zimmer did take a few minutes on the team bus to read through a stream of text messages he received congratulating him on the NFC North title, although he credited the talent of the team first and foremost.
"Players win games," Zimmer said. "Coaches don't win games."
There's a fine line between getting back to work and not taking a moment for granted, and Zimmer emphasized that with his players. From rookie receiver Stefon Diggs to longtime Vikings Riley Reiff and Brian Robison, Zimmer said he hopes everyone will appreciate moments like Sunday night.
"You never know how many opportunities you get to get into the playoffs. You never know how many opportunities you're going to get – I've been in the NFL 22 years, and won the Super Bowl my second year, and haven't been back," Zimmer said. "It's awfully hard, and when you get these opportunities you have to try to take advantage of them. I think a lot of our older guys understand that it doesn't come every day. And hopefully, our young players, when we continue on in the future, they don't take this for granted. Just because they went 11-5 their rookie year doesn't mean they're entitled to do that. We have to get back to work every time."
That's exactly what Zimmer and his team plan to do as they return to prep for hosting Seattle Sunday at noon (CT). Here are a few more thoughts from the podium:
Zimmer on QB Stefon Diggs's performance against Green Bay:
**"He just wasn't as sharp last night as he has been these last three or four weeks. I thought he moved in the pocket too much, he didn't take some of the easy throws he had, he was maybe trying to do a little too much. I don't know – I haven't really talked to him yet, and I'll talk to him more this week. He needs to play better."
Zimmer on RB Jerick McKinnon:
"He's a really good athlete. Good quickness, acceleration, catches the ball well. He's another matchup situation for us, and he can run the ball good too. He has good vision, acceleration, he's patient, he does a lot of good things. I really like him – and he's a great kid. The guy is like always smiling, and happy, and he even makes me smile once in a while."
Zimmer on TE Nick Easton and losing him for the rest of the season:
**"Rhett's really a guy that does an awful lot of things – he helps in protection, blocking, in the running game. You know, he's done a good job really with everything. He's a smart guy, and we're going to miss him. Rhett's a good football player. He's a good football player, but probably a better person."
"Yes, [he needs surgery]."
Zimmer on fatigue at this point in the season:
"Our guys fought. A lot of guys sucked it up – we had some guys hurt at the end, we were gassed. We had a couple guys throw up on the sideline that were so out of juice. But we played with a lot of fortitude, toughness, made enough plays to win the football game. I'm proud of the football team."
When asked later about recovering for Seattle, Zimmer responded, "It's playoffs. It's time."