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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Mike Zimmer’s steadying hand is instrumental to Vikings’ success

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings entered Sunday’s game against Green Bay without the guy they expected to start at quarterback for them this season (Teddy Bridgewater), minus their top cornerback (Xavier Rhodes) and without a first-round selection at defensive tackle (Sharrif Floyd). In the third quarter, they lost Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson to a knee injury.

Logic says this should have doomed the Vikings to defeat against a team considered to be one of the NFC’s best. So how do you explain that they were able to come away with a 17-14 victory and move to the top of the NFC North with a 2-0 record?

On Monday, coach Mike Zimmer credited general manager Rick Spielman, saying, “Rick has brought in a lot of guys, high-character guys that want to work, that want to get better.”

Our guy Zim is best modest.

No matter how many high-character players the Vikings have on their roster, they would not be able to succeed if Zimmer didn’t manage to hold things together in times of crisis.

Peterson reportedly could miss a month, or the next four months, depending on what course of action he and the doctors decide to take to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee.

This means there is a scenario under which the Vikings could play the remainder of the season without Bridgewater and Peterson, the two players who were expected to be instrumental to any offensive success Minnesota achieved in 2016.

Ordinarily, this would be cause for widespread panic among the Purple faithful, as well as in the Winter Park locker room. Not with Zimmer in charge.

“I keep saying that this is about the team,” Zimmer said Monday. “Everything we do is about the team here. We’re not going to be the only team in the league to have injuries. It’s just part of pro football. So we’re going to keep plugging away and keep doing our very best to find a way to win.”

Zimmer hasn’t wavered from this philosophy. One game into his first season as the Vikings coach, Peterson was suspended for the rest of the season as he faced a child-abuse charge. It would have been easy for the Vikings to fall apart, but instead Zimmer was able to win seven games with a franchise that had won only five the previous year.

The Vikings’ 2016 season could have gone down the drain the day that Bridgewater mangled his knee during a practice in late August at Winter Park. Players could have taken this as a sign of “here we go again” and initially a few might have as they slammed their helmets to the turf.

But it was at that point that Zimmer took the rare action of calling off a practice and decided to address his players. That might seem like a small thing now, but Zimmer’s ability to assess such a difficult situation in a matter of seconds and map out a plan is beyond impressive and likely far more important than any clock-management situation he will face.

Less than a week later, Spielman did his job by going and finding a starting-caliber quarterback in Sam Bradford. The Vikings paid a steep price by giving up a first- and conditional fourth-round pick to Philadelphia to get Bradford, but what was the choice? Start 36-year-old Shaun Hill, with no safety net behind him?

This is where Spielman and Zimmer do an excellent job of complementing one another. Zimmer seems to have a couple of messages that he wants his player to understand: 1) If you want to be successful, worry about doing your job to the best of your abilities. 2) I have your best interest in mind and will do everything I can to put you, and the team, in the best spot possible.

That’s why after Trae Waynes had a roller-coaster second half on Sunday, Zimmer attempted to take some of the blame for why the second-year cornerback didn’t have more success.

And even if you think the Bradford price tag was too high, the deal makes sense when put into the context of what Zimmer wants his players to buy into. Zimmer knows that his team’s success will be based on a defense that has become one of the best in the NFL.

He knows that that unit gives the Vikings a chance to be successful, even if the offense is far from powerful. Honestly, it just needs to be efficient. So when Bridgewater or Peterson go down, Zimmer isn’t thinking his team is sunk, he’s simply thinking they need to be replaced by capable players.

Bradford appeared to be more than that on Sunday in his first start for Minnesota. The Vikings will get another tough test next Sunday when they face the defending NFC champion Panthers in Carolina.

It’s almost certain that Peterson won’t be on the field for that game, or any in the near future. Nationally, this will be played up as a huge blow to the Vikings.

Internally, Zimmer will do what he always does. Convince his players that there is no reason they can’t depart Carolina with a 3-0 record.

The post Zulgad: Mike Zimmer’s steadying hand is instrumental to Vikings’ success appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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