EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings had their hands full in the first two quarters Sunday against a shifty Titans offense that called for some second half adjustments.
"They had us off balance," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. "You prepare for it, but it's unnerving a little bit."
Tennessee threw a barrage of unexpected shifts and motions at Minnesota, and Zimmer responded with defensive play calls outside the team's typical style.
"Trickery with trickery equals too much trickery," defensive end Everson Griffen said Monday.
Zimmer said he "settled down on defense" and wanted to refocus his team at halftime. Before retaking the field, Zimmer reminded his players who they were and the type of football they play. He told them, "Hey, let's do what we do and let's go play."
Griffen said the defense regained their patience.
"We went back to the basics of our defense and just played our style of ball," Griffen said. "We never got stressed out. We knew they were giving us a lot of [trick] plays, and we just settled in."
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he's grateful to be playing under a coaching staff that proves so effecting at reading the game and making adjustments as necessary. He said Zimmer is one of the best game planners in the league and "will always come up with something" when faced with a challenging situation.
Munnerlyn pointed out that the Vikings have three coaches on staff with defensive coordinator experience: Zimmer, who spent 14 seasons as an NFL coordinator prior to joining the Vikings in 2014; defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who has eight seasons of coordinator experience; and current Defensive Coordinator George Edwards, in his third season in Minnesota and sixth overall.
"With those coaches, they just make adjustments and we go from there," Munnerlyn said. "We knew we didn't play well at all in the first half, and we came out in the second half and said, 'We need to change this around.' We didn't want to start 0-1."
After entering the locker room down 10-0, the Vikings came back out and went on a 25-0 tear before the Titans were able to put another six points on the board.
Right tackle Andre Smith said the overall smoother execution by the team in the second half showed the squad's resilience. Entering his first season in Minnesota after seven years with Cincinnati, Smith said he's already recognized the ability of the Vikings coaching staff to put their players in position to be productive.
Some may believe that the expertise of three defensive coordinators – in addition to three former head coaches on offense – may create chaos, but Smith said instead it's all the right ingredients.
"I think it's like a crockpot, you know?" Smith said. "They all get together and come up with ideas, throw them against the wall and come up with something that works really well for all of us."
Cornerback Terence Newman – who spent time with Zimmer in Dallas and Cincinnati before reuniting in Minnesota last season – said Zimmer is one of the smartest coaches he's ever been around.
"He understands the game at a depth that, you know, a lot of coaches understand the game, but he sees things because he spent so much time as a defensive coordinator, a defensive coach, that he understands kind of what offenses do and what's best to attack an offense," Newman said.
Of the 53 players on the Vikings active roster, 43 are entering their second season under Zimmer. Thirty (57 percent) have been with Zimmer since he took the helm in 2014. Munnerlyn said the extensive time spent together builds a rapport between the coach and players, and he no longer doubts Zimmer's techniques.
"He's a crazy man," Munnerlyn said, laughing. "So his halftime adjustments, the first couple years you go, 'OK, OK,' but the third year with him, you get more comfortable with the coaching staff. And he's more comfortable with his players, and he knows how to get us going.
"It's definitely a good thing that we're still here with him," Munnerlyn added. "We're just getting better as a unit together."