The Minnesota Vikings pride themselves on being a physical, defensive team, which makes their Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers all the more shocking. All through their offseason and extended preseason, the team had worked on defending the run and improving their all-around defense.
But somewhere along the line all that preparation disappeared as the Vikings defense got run over and around continuously throughout the game.
“It seemed like we were ready,” said Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “Pregame we were good, in all white, seemed like we were ready, but from the first snap of the ball we weren’t ready at all. Those guys, they controlled the line of scrimmage, they picked up first downs when they had to, they executed.”
As a team, the 49ers rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns, the most a team has rushed against head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense since he arrived in Minnesota. The majority of those yards came from Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts.
From the start of the game the 49ers offense was pushing around the Vikings defense and linebacker Anthony Barr feels like that caused the defense to try and do too much. That caused them to be out of position and doing things they weren’t supposed to do.
“I mean, honestly, they ran about two or three plays over and over again and we couldn’t stop it,” Barr said. “We knew it was coming. We just couldn’t stop it. We’ve got to take a deep look within and figure it out.”
When an offense commands the line of scrimmage the way the 49ers did, it can be demoralizing for a defense, especially for the defensive linemen and linebackers.
“It’s a bad feeling because defensive linemen and linebackers being in the box, that’s your job to stop the run,” said defensive tackle Tom Johnson. “When somebody goes for 200-plus yards then something went wrong, something broke down and you need to go back and fix it.”
This loss has been a personal one for players all around the locker room, especially those on the defensive side of the ball. They were physically dominated from the first snap of the game and it happened on national television. Everyone was able to see the performance the Vikings put on and that does not sit well with most of them.
“It’s a pride thing,” Johnson said. “You go out every day, bust your ass trying to make plays. Then you go out there and lay an egg like that, especially on national TV. You’ve got to take it personally, you’ve got to fix the things that broke down and you’ve got to make plays. Like I said, it’s all about us. We’re going back to the drawing board and the same guys are going to go back and do their job and you’ll see a different team out this week.”
It’s classic coach speak: The team is focused on their next opponent and the loss is behind them, but that is easier sad than done in this situation. The Vikings were embarrassed and it’s not always easy to bounce back from that type of performance so easily.
But Johnson thinks the players should really feel the pain and let it sink in, just so they remember how it feels and realize they never want to be feeling that way again.
“Until we actually go out there on the field today, go out there and prepare for the next team, you’ve got to eat this one,” he said. “It’s supposed to feel bad. I think that you should feel some type of way and let it hurt a little bit so that you don’t get that feeling again. Next week you know that you don’t want to feel the same way. I think you should endure it and let it hurt.”
Eventually, though, the Vikings do need to move on to face their next opponent, the Detroit Lions. The two teams are divisional rivals, which means that they know one another well and this game is important for playoff implications.
Most of the Vikings players are happy to be playing a divisional opponent after the loss they just endured and they realize they need this win. But in order to do that, they need to fix the things they did wrong.
“Definitely, divisional games are the games that are going to put you in a position to go to the playoffs,” Johnson said. “You play those guys two times a year, we know a little about them, we know what they like to do and it’s more about us. The players that you seen in the game on Monday, that’s not us. Nobody’s come and run 200 yards on us, so it’s more about us fixing what we have to do, not our opponent. So we’re going to go back to the drawing board and try to execute what we’re supposed to do.”