Speaking with the local media before the team goes its separate ways for the rest of the week, head coach Mike Zimmer was mostly smiles at how his team has come together – especially how both sides of the ball played down the stretch in their 29-26 win over the Washington Redskins.
“I thought it was a great team win,” Zimmer said. “It wasn’t the prettiest of wins – we did a lot of things that we had to overcome – but we came back three times from deficits. I think we showed some resiliency there. I think our team grew up a little bit and I thought there was a lot of good performances.”
Zimmer was happy with what he saw Sunday, but isn’t ready to hang up the “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet. He likes the progress that the team is making as it morphs from the team he inherited from Leslie Frazier and his staff and is becoming the team he wanted it to become when he took over and got to know the players on his roster.
It isn’t there quite yet, but Zimmer is seeing the progress that is being made in incremental steps.
“I do believe that we are building what I envisioned this football team to look like,” Zimmer said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but the mindset of being able to overcome any kind of obstacle and continue to play hard and, obviously, we have got to play smarter in a lot of situations. I’ve always said, I like how this team works and how they continue to compete in practice and I think it’s starting to show up a little bit at the end of games.”
It wasn’t always that way. The players were willing students of the schemes employed by Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, but with the turmoil of losing several key offensive players and a sporadic defense, the progress was being seen in glimpes, not on a consistent basis that would give Zimmer reason for overenthusiasm.
Bit by bit, however, the team has rallied around translating what they do in practice onto the field on Sundays. They still haven’t put together the type of complete game they did in the dismantling of St. Louis in Week 1, but Zimmer sees the progress and is excited about how the team is building momentum as the season progresses.
They had to survive a gauntlet of early opponents who were throwing elite quarterbacks at their defense on a weekly basis – each QB with his own unique skill set. There were some trying times early on, but the ship has been sailing in the right direction, especially defensively in recent weeks and there is ample reason for optimism.
“There were some times earlier in the year when things were going bad and we didn’t muster up what we needed to do,” Zimmer said. “(Against Washington), there was a lot of fight going on, a lot of heart. Even though it wasn’t pretty at times, we were able to overcome them. The last three weeks especially – even the loss in Buffalo – and Tampa Bay we continued to fight the entire time. I believe the team has a lot of confidence in Teddy (Bridgewater) and the things they can do. I just see it offensively how guys go about their business and what they believe in.”
With all the good things that seem to have the stars aligning in terms of translating a game plan into execution on game day, Zimmer was asked if he believes the bye week is coming at a bad time?
On its face, it was a legitimate question. With things finally seeming to be going well for the team at critical times on both sides of the ball, why not keep the ball rolling?
But Zimmer shot down that notion. Every team gets a bye week to heal up and recharge their batteries for the stretch run of the season. The Vikings have been at it since late July without much in the way of a break, so Zimmer feels that the timing couldn’t be better, not worse.
“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Zimmer said. “I guess the one thing that I’ve noticed a little bit about this team, sometimes is when they have a little bit of time off they seem to forget quicker than I would like for them to, some of the things. We’ll have to see when we get back next week. I think it’s a good time for us, being a little past the halfway point of this season to kind of get refreshed, get our legs back. Players-wise get away from football a little bit and focus on their families and the things they need to do with their lives a little bit and then get back and give me their lives back again.”