EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The press box tally for Linval Joseph in the stats book from Sunday's game at Denver credited the defensive tackle with three solo stops, one for loss and a pass deflection.
Much more met the eyes of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who said Monday that Joseph is an "unselfish warrior player," and he wants the entire team to buy into that mentality.
"Linval continues to play well," Zimmer said. "You know, one thing about him that I'm very impressed with is that, I hope that our whole football team gets this mentality, he does an awful lot of dirty work that doesn't show up in the stat book. He allows other guys to make plays, he makes plays but he allows other guys to make plays, and that's what I'm trying to teach this football team.
"It's not about individual goals, or individual stats or who gets to go the Pro Bowl or who doesn't get to go to the Pro Bowl," Zimmer continued. "It's about team wins and playing together and doing your job, that's what I continue to try to preach to this football team."
As colorful a description that is of Joseph, Zimmer doesn't want defenders to feel like they have to make spectacular plays. He instead wants them to make the routine ones.
The best illustrator of failing to do so occurred Sunday when Ronnie Hillman ran around the left end, found space and hit the gas for a 72-yard touchdown and a 10-point lead in a game the Broncos won 23-20.
"The negative is that big run to the outside," Joseph said. "We misfit, we missed the tackle, and if he didn't have that big run, that would have been a change in the game. The best thing I like about this team, nobody put their head down and gave up."
The Vikings signed Joseph via free agency in 2014, and he's become more comfortable with his tasks in this defense. A member of the Super Bowl XLVI Champion Giants, said he's encouraged about the Vikings (2-2) after the first quarter of regular season games.
"I feel very good about this team. We're going to fight," Joseph said. "Everybody is going to play together, and that's what I want. That's what everybody wants and that's what Zimmer wants. As long as you do your all, that's what we want here."
As for the long run surrendered, Zimmer said it was a defensive play call that could have been better, combined with a lack of execution.
"Oh yeah, we didn't execute it," Zimmer said. "I'll bet you I call myself a few names probably 20 times a game, 'You could have called a better call here, or I thought they were going to do this.' I don't necessarily think it was the best call at that particular time, but we did not execute. We had about one, two, three, four, five guys that did not execute."
Review of protection
Zimmer said Denver blitzed more than they had in earlier games this season, and the Vikings also committed a couple of mental errors and had a couple of guys get beat, creating a storm that resulted in seven sacks of Teddy Bridgewater.
"I thought Teddy did a good job of getting the ball out, but there was a couple of times where we weren't able to adjust the protection because of some of the movement things that we had going on," Zimmer said.
He was asked about the play of rookie T.J. Clemmings against Von Miller and of Matt Kalil against DeMarcus Ware.
"We did help (Clemmings) quite a bit, it wasn't like the whole game," Zimmer said. "There are some times some guys are going to have to line up and play and there were some times T.J. blocked him, but the times he didn't block him, that's what shows up. So was there things that we could have done different? Absolutely, probably numbers of things in every area we could have done differently."
Zimmer said coaches want to help Clemmings develop consistency.
"There's times where he does really, really good and there's times when – he got beat inside one time, he had a mental error one time that caused a sack, he went to the wrong guy," Zimmer said. "It's things like that. But there's a lot of good things that he does and when he's good, he's good. He's a young guy that we're going to have to keep grinding with his making sure that everything is precise with him and continue to work with him some technically, but he continues to impress in some things. We've just got to keep going with him."
As for Kalil, Zimmer said, "Matt did good."
"He got beat on one game over there, but I thought overall he held his own against Ware," Zimmer said. "And there were times we helped him, too, but he had a fair amount of one-on-one's. He went to the wrong guy one time causing an issue."
More passes than runs
Bridgewater finished 27-of-41 passing for 269 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 92.4 against the top-ranked pass and overall defense in the NFL. Throw in the seven sacks, as well as two scrambles by Bridgewater, and that's 50 pass plays, compared to 19 designed run plays (including a QB sneak).
Zimmer said "the script didn't call for quite that many (pass plays), but sometimes that's the situations that you get into."
He said the ratio was altered by the personnel that Denver had in the game. The Broncos opened the game with an extra inside linebacker instead of a fourth defensive back.
Q1 report card
The Vikings have the same 2-2 record that they did after the first quarter of the 2014 season, but believe there's considerable potential for the remaining three quarters of the 2015 slate.
"Well, I like this football team. I think they work real hard," Zimmer said. "We have to get better, there's no question. I think the teams that we've played, three out of the four were playoff teams last year. The last team we played was 23-2 at home over the last four years, but I'm not happy with where we are at, no. I think we have a chance to be a good football team and if we ever do put it all together, we can be a really good football team, but that's a lot of if's and injuries and there's all kinds of things, but there's a lot of football left to be played. I think we have a chance to be a good team."