Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer received a text message at 5:30 a.m. this morning from Bill Parcells.
It was the second text he received from Hall-of-Fame Head Coach since snapping the Panthers 14-game win streak at home Sunday afternoon.
"He called me after that, so I've talked to him three times," Zimmer told media during his podium session Monday. "He's giving me advice."
Zimmer said Parcells "isn't real complimentary all the time" but shared direction with Zimmer on how to keep moving forward. Zimmer has said the Vikings will find a way to continue succeeding after a number of key players being injured; it's a philosophy he shares with his mentor and former boss with the Dallas Cowboys, Parcells.
"He didn't even tell me if he watched the game or not; we just talked about moving forward," Zimmer said. "He said he's so invested in this team that he had to go get a workout in to get the stress relief."
When asked if Parcells imparted specific advice on facing the Giants, whom Parcells spent time with as a defensive doordinator and Head Coach for 11 seasons and later faced an additional 10 times, Zimmer said Parcells doesn't often address the opposing team.
"He gives me advice on my team," Zimmer said.
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his media session:
Powerful pass rush
The Vikings defense has proven a force to be reckoned with over the first three weeks. One area where the unit has especially excelled is in the pass rush, having totaled a league-leading 15 sacks so far. Defensive end Danielle Hunter and nose tackle Linval Joseph have both recorded one sack in each of the three games.
Hunter has impressed Zimmer with how far he's come in just his second NFL season.
"Danielle has a chance to be a really good football player," Zimmer said. "[He's] dynamic and, really, a lot of things – not just in the pass rush. He continues to play a little freer than he has."
Zimmer has also seen progression from Joseph in the pass rush.
"He's a powerful guy," Zimmer said. "I think he's understanding a lot more in the pass rush.
"He's getting a lot of help, too, from the two ends," Zimmer added. "We're giving him some opportunities to collapse the pocket, so that's helped. I understand guys have sack totals, but at the end of the day, a lot of these are team sacks."
Improving the run defense
In addition to rushing the passer, Minnesota's run defense has seen an uptick as well. Zimmer said a big key to defeating Carolina Sunday was playing effectively against the run. The Vikings held the Panthers to 105 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
Zimmer largely credits the improvement to third-year tackle Shamar Stephen, who missed a majority of 2015 due to injury. Stephen has been playing in place of the injured Sharrif Floyd.
"I think Shamar Stephen's made a big impact on [the run defense], obviously along with Linval," Zimmer said. "Our ends are playing well, and the linebackers have been doing a good job. And then, there's been some times that the safeties get involved and do pretty well, too. So, I think it's been a combined effort, but I think if you'd only say one thing, I'd say Shamar Stephen has really solidified that."
'It's a player's game'
During his session, Zimmer was asked if he enjoys the "cat-and-mouse game" of game planning for opposing teams and specific offensive players. Zimmer maintained his mentality of team over individual, directing the credit back to his players.
"I know people are saying it's me against 'this guy' or 'that guy,' " Zimmer said. "But we've got good players. And these guys execute the things we're trying to get them to do. It's really a player's game, and these guys have been executing and doing a nice job.
"I can't go out there and cover a guy or rush a guy or anything like that," he continued. "It really has nothing to do with me."
The Vikings aren't paying attention
Minnesota has garnered a lot of hype, especially with its defense, after starting the season 3-0. However, the Vikings aren't paying attention to the media or the stats – they're just trying to improve.
Zimmer referenced a season that he was the defensive coordinator in Dallas, and the Cowboys fell from the fifth-ranked defense in the league to the 13th-ranked defense in the final four games.
"This is three games," Zimmer said. "Typically, I don't even look at the stats until at least Thanksgiving. So, I don't know where we fall defensively or anything like that. I just try to get us better each day in the things that we're doing."
Zimmer said he's continued reminding his players to focus on the task at hand rather than get caught up in the attention and excitement of winning games.
"When everybody says how bad we are, we don't listen to that, and we don't listen to how good we are," Zimmer said.