With Sam Bradford taking six sacks and many more additional hits Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, protecting him is the top priority. But the mistakes extended beyond pass protection in the Minnesota Vikings’ first loss of the season.
Head coach Mike Zimmer had plenty of areas marked for correction after reviewing the film on Monday.
“Part of it was some of the things we did do that were so uncharacteristic in this ballgame – things that we’d worked on for three years since I’ve been here trying to be a smart football team,” Zimmer said. “We jump offsides (a false start) inside the 5-yard line, we get the ball on first-and-goal on the 2 and first-and-goal on the 8 and first-and-10 on the 17 and I think we come away with three points and an interception. We don’t go out of bounds twice with two different people in the two-minute drill.”
By the final minutes of the game, the Vikings were trailing 21-3 and weren’t likely to win anyways, but mistakes at any point don’t sit well with a coach who consistently preaches about attention to detail and situational football.
Adam Thielen was one of the offenders by not going out of bounds as he was tackled within inches of the sideline before the two-minute warning.
“Some of it is guys pressing. I talked to Adam there and he said, ‘I’m trying to score a touchdown.’ Well, if the guy’s got you around both arms and both legs and you’re two inches from out of bounds,” Zimmer said. “He said, ‘I know coach.’ This team typically knows when they make mistakes and they’ve been told.”
One of the big back-breakers for the Vikings was a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that followed Minnesota’s only field goal of the game in the first half, and what turned out to be the Vikings’ only lead that lasted all of 13 seconds.
“One guy was getting double teamed and he didn’t fight back into the double team; he took the easy way,” Zimmer said of the big lane created in the kickoff return by the Eagles. “And then one of the guys was going to the ball, fell down; he got tripped and fell down. And we had a poor effort on the other side. I’ll address those issues as well.”
While Zimmer was concerned about the lack of execution on offense and the lapse on special teams, he remained complimentary of the team’s mental toughness, citing their loss in the 2015 season opener in which the Vikings had another game full of errors.
“I do have faith in this football team and obviously, you know, faith is belief without proof. Right now, I don’t have any proof so I have to have faith that we’ll get it done,” Zimmer said. “I think we will. But until we prove it, it’s just throwing stuff against the wall.”
RUN BLOCKING BETTER?
The Vikings averaged 3.4 yards per carry, which isn’t great, especially after the Washington Redskins ran for 230 yards against the Eagles the previous week. Almost one-third of the Vikings’ 93 yards rushing came on a 29-yard Matt Asiata run.
Still, while Zimmer had all kinds of concern about the pass protection, he thought the run blocking improved.
“It was better for the most part. We got on guys pretty good,” he said. “There were a couple things at the point of attack, but for the most part we got on guys pretty good.”
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Of course, the most criticized aspect to the running game was their lack of execution in back-to-back short-yardage situations, when Zach Line and Asiata were stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and then fourth-and-1.
“The first one, third-and-two inches, I was trying to get a measurement. I think that kind of messed them up. But we got knocked back a little bit toward the outside of it, and they kind of caved us down, and that basically happened on the second one,” Zimmer said. “So it wasn’t all the offensive line. We jumped offsides on the – what was it? – first-and-goal at the 2. I mean, those are all dumb plays. So that’s what I’m saying about uncharacteristic things that we did in this ballgame.”
- Zimmer said RB Jerick McKinnon came back OK from an ankle injury.
- Safety Andrew Sendejo is “day to day,” according to Zimmer, after he suffered a sprained ankle at the end of a first-quarter interception return. He didn’t return to the game.
- Jayron Kearse filled in for Sendejo the rest of the game and Zimmer said the rookie safety “was average.”