Zimmer seeking balance with ‘Bad News Bears’

Mike Zimmer is searching for consistency and trying to find the best way for his young defense to accomplish that.

Mike Zimmer is trying to walk a fine line while getting the Minnesota Vikings back on track.

A week after a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers, Zimmer is still being asked what went wrong in that game. The short answer: a lot.

But Zimmer, who termed himself a “fixer” earlier this year, is trying to find the best approach to fix a lot of the ills he sees plaguing the Vikings.

“A lot of these younger guys for me, I’m trying to teach them about playing football and understanding what offenses are trying to do and understanding where we’re supposed to be and understanding alignments and formations and motions and splits and sometimes maybe I give them too much information,” Zimmer said. “But I have to do it because otherwise we won’t grow as players. I have to continue to do that, and it’s probably no different than anywhere else I’ve been.”

The Vikings gave up 320 yards of offense to the Packers in that 42-10 loss and Zimmer is trying to move on deep in his preparation for the Detroit Lions on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. But this week has been a heavy concentration on correcting what is wrong with the Vikings rather than worrying too much about the Lions’ schemes.

Most concerning for Zimmer seems to be the rush defense. Aaron Rodgers only threw for 156 yards against the Vikings, but he had three touchdown passes and didn’t really need to rely on his passing game too much. Eddie Lacy had 105 yards rushing and the Packers as a team had 156.

Zimmer is trying to keep some of the good in mind while also admitting that there was a lot of bad.

“Obviously a lot of bad things happened, but somebody told me we had five three-and-outs in the first half or something like that,” he said.

“At times we’re like the Bad News Bears. We play so good and then it’s like, ‘What in the world is going on?’ So that part of trying to correct those things are really what eats at me.”

The Vikings are 15th in total defense – 19th against the rush and 11th against the pass. Zimmer said he watched the Packers film but spent extra time over the extended weekend concentrating on what changes could be implemented or how to better teach the concepts.

In some ways, it was a return to basics. During Thursday’s practice, the Vikings had a session that spent time on simply making sure the defenders were in the proper place during different running plays.

Consistency is the biggest issue.

“It’s being the same guy every single day. One time you line up here, one time you line up there, one time you play with great technique and one time you don’t,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know if it’s guessing or it’s just the consistency of doing things over and over and over. That’s what makes you good is doing the same thing consistently over.

“It’s like the baseball guy: Oh, I’m going to try to hold my hands down here or I’m going to hold my hands up here or whatever. Or my stride, I’m going to shorten my stride, I’m going to do this. It’s all about doing the same thing over and over and repetition, and if we can continually do that.”

With a plenty of young players on the defense – CB Xavier Rhodes, LB Gerald Hodges and DT Sharrif Floyd in their second season and CB Josh Robinson, S Harrison Smith and S Robert Blanton in their third season – and Zimmer in the first year implementing his defense, some of the teaching points could take time to stick.

“You hope that it’s just time. You never really know,” Zimmer said. “Where guys get in trouble, it’s the same thing with coaches, if one week I’m telling them this and the next week I’m telling them that and the next week I’m telling them this, or this team runs this play this way so we should play our techniques differently, you don’t build any consistency and that’s really what we’re trying to do here is keep staying on the same path, keep telling them the same things over and over and hope that finally it clicks and we move forward.”

Zimmer did find some positives in the play against the Packers – like five three-and-out series in the first half – it was the consistency that lacked. The Packers had three drives that went for touchdowns in the first half and added another on defense.

“When we do it right, we’re pretty darn good,” he said. “And when we start losing our minds, it goes south.

“I haven’t been the most joyous person this week I wouldn’t think.”


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