Zimmer’s aggressiveness pays off

Mike Zimmer’s aggressiveness challenged special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to be more creative. Those circumstances paid off Sunday with the first fake punt in over a decade of Vikings football.

Having an aggressive head coach can have its advantages, the foremost being that the team will take on the personality of its head coach and become more aggressive as well. Even though the Minnesota Vikings had a lackluster performance last week against the Chicago Bears, the new aggressiveness showed on one particular play.

On a fourth down in the first half of the game, the Vikings attempted a fake punt that netted a 58-yard gain on a reverse to safety Andrew Sendejo, something never seen under the old regime, but with Mike Zimmer as head coach aggressive play-calling is starting to become the norm.

“Some head coaches aren’t as aggressive as Coach Zimmer,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “So in the past I’ve become more conservative because some of the head coaches I worked for weren’t going to run (a fake punt). So I’m not going to practice something we have no chance of running, so lately – and all year to be honest with you – starting in the spring, we’ve been working on fakes because Zimmer is a more aggressive guy, which is great for me.”

Priefer noted that during practices there are only so many minutes the team gets to work on special teams, meaning there isn’t much time that they are able to work on fakes or trick plays. That’s why he would rarely even practice them with the old coaching staff.

Zimmer is not like the old coaching staff, though. From day one, Zimmer had been asking Priefer about running fakes.

“He’s been aggressive since he got here,” Priefer said. “He asked me back in the offseason about running fakes – field goals fakes, punt fakes, surprise onsides – and he forced me to be more creative, which is good. It’s a good problem to have – not a problem – it’s a good opportunity for me to get our guys excited about a big play like that, and obviously they were very excited to run it, and to succeed with it.”

The ability to be successful on these trick plays is key. They can help teams out and give them a big momentum boost, but if they fail to run the play successfully the other team ends up with good field position

Since the Vikings were successful in running it, however, it could be something that Minnesota attempts again. It won’t happen often, though, and it has to be a perfect circumstance for them to even consider it, much like last week was against the Bears.

“(We) wanted to run it earlier,” Priefer said about the fake punt. “It was just a great opportunity to run it, good area of the field, we have an aggressive head coach who wants to run those things, and that’s great for me. And it obviously turned out well for us.

“I think we need to be smart when we run them and that was a great opportunity, a perfect opportunity for us.”

Even now, the Vikings still have more of these trick plays being stored away, just waiting for the right time to be used. Many things go into what play will be run, and when, but if another perfect opportunity arises the aggressive Zimmer just might call for something similar again.

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