Throughout this season, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has poked jabs at his special teams – reminding those who forgot that Blair Walsh missed a chippie field goal in the playoffs after making one from the same distance earlier this season – and referring to his offensive line as “soft.”
It’s part of the Zimmer swagger. His defense carried the team to its 5-0 start. It wasn’t the defense’s fault the Vikings got out of Philly like an outsider politician promising change.
The Bears game on Monday night? That was a different story. Yes, the offense didn’t score a touchdown for a second straight week until the opponent gave out participation ribbons and allowed the Vikings to score six yards at a time while self-milking the clock down to next to nothing. But this time, for the first time, fingers could be pointed at the defense.
Rookie Jordan Howard ran for 153 yards. Jay Cutler looked much better than the .500 career QB he is – he added one to the win column to build up equity until his next start.
Zimmer discussed the problems the defense had Monday and put the blame on himself as much as anything.
“Obviously the first one (the 69-yard Jordan run), we missed two tackles on,” Zimmer said. “There’s 69 yards there. At the end of the game guys are starting to freelance a little. So for the most part, it wasn’t, I didn’t feel like, the running game that beat us. It was I called a bad game. It was a terrible game. We didn’t cover good enough. They made plays. Sometimes that happens. That was one of my worst-calling games I’ve had in a while.”
For the players, blame has 53 fathers. For the coach, he knows when he is proverbially chasing his tail. You never catch up.
“It’s like you’re a call behind all the time, you know?” Zimmer said. “You get a feel. I’ve done it for 100 years now. So I pretty much know when I do bad.”
Zimmer said it wasn’t like the Bears reinvented the offensive wheel after losing six of its first seven games of the season. As the architect of the leaning tower Monday night, he felt the heat grow throughout the game and reiterated his own failings were just as responsible for the season-worst overall game as anything.
But, despite the turmoil of this week for Zimmer – being told by an ophthalmologist that he could spend the rest of his life wearing an eye patch to having his offensive coordinator call it quits midstream – Zimmer took the opportunity to remind those within earshot that the highs of the first five games and the lows of the last two are just part of the ebb and flow of an NFL season.
The win over the Packers is a distant memory. In many ways, so is the loss to Chicago. The only team in the NFL that matters for the Vikings for the next three days is Detroit’s entrant in the league.
“Every week is a new week – and that’s the good thing about it, too,” Zimmer said. “When you’re 5-0, you’re still grinding. When you’re 0-2, you hope for the next week. It is what it is. It’s just a new week.”
When a head coach tells you it is what it is, you take his word for it.