Mike Zimmer pulled no punches the day after his Minnesota Vikings were “embarrassed” – a description from players after the game – in a 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
There were poor performances all around. Teddy Bridgewater might have had his worst game as a pro. Adrian Peterson was “hesitant,” according to the running back himself. Blair Walsh missed another field goal.
But the one thing the Vikings said they were going to be better at after last season was stopping the run. They weren’t. They were worse.
San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde, making his first career start, finished as the NFL’s leading rusher in Week 1 with 168 yards on 26 carries, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, and the 49ers are the league’s top rushing offense after putting up 230 yards on the ground against the Vikings.
“Defensively, we got tired. We did some extremely uncharacteristic things,” Zimmer said. “I told the team at halftime, I said, ‘I don’t even know who’s out there today. I don’t know who this team is. I’ve never seen this side of us before. Never.’ I guess the closest one that I can remember is when we went up to Green Bay last year on Thursday night. Other than that, I’ve never seen this team, and not this team this year for sure.”
In Green Bay last year, the Vikings allowed 156 yards on 28 carries. Monday night’s performance was worse.
The problems were many in the run defense. The defensive line didn’t hold their position, linebackers were “average, at best,” Zimmer said. And his safety play left him with little confidence as he rotated Andrew Sendejo and Robert Blanton next to Harrison Smith.
The end result is that the Vikings finished the first week of the season ranked dead last in run defense.
“We did a lot of uncharacteristic things there,” Zimmer said. “We jumped inside of blocks. We ran underneath blocks. We didn’t fit in the right place a lot of times. We didn’t tackle. We didn’t get off blocks. We had one guy making the tackle a lot of times, which is ridiculous. The run force was poor, by whoever it was – the corner, the safety, sometimes the linebacker – where he was. We’ve got a lot of work to do there.”
Hyde ended up with the most rushing yards by a 49ers running back in his first career start since 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He also became the first 49ers running back with 100 or more rushing yards and two or more rushing touchdowns in Week 1 since Garrison Hearst had 20 carries for 187 yards and touchdown against the New York Jets on Sept. 6, 1998.
Zimmer clearly wasn’t pleased.
“On the perimeter we got pushed around a little bit. On the inside guys were supposed to be on the outside shade of a guy and they go underneath him for no particular reason, so when those kinds of things happen the integrity of your defense really gets removed and honestly they were fairly easy things that we were screwing up,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings entered the season with the sixth-best winning percentage on opening weekend. If they had beaten San Francisco, they would have jumped up to fourth place in that ranking. Instead …
“I knew going into San Francisco it might be a little bit of a buzz saw initially because of all the bad things that were being said about them throughout the course of the offseason and this and that,” Zimmer said. “So I purposely didn’t talk a lot, try to get them excited about it because I knew going into the game that we were excited to play, and then that’s why I say maybe we didn’t handle the situation the correct way.”