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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: No offense but Zimmer’s attempt to downplay his importance is hogwash

By Judd Zulgad

Mike Zimmer was attempting to be modest but it wasn’t working.

After back-to-back victories over Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Carolina’s Cam Newton, the NFL’s MVPs in 2014 and 2015, respectively, Zimmer’s attempt to downplay his own importance in stopping the two was about the only thing the Vikings coach has failed at of late.

“I don’t know, these guys (on defense) are all pretty good players,” Zimmer said Monday, a day after the Vikings improved to 3-0 with a 22-10 victory at Carolina. “It’s hard to really confuse guys anymore. We try to do our best and really, I know people are saying that it’s me against this guy or that guy. We’ve got good players.

“These guys execute the things we try to get them to do. It’s a players’ game and these guys have been executing and doing a nice job. I can’t go out there and cover a guy or rush a guy or anything like that. It really has nothing to do with me.”

Stop it.

This has everything to do with Zimmer because it starts with the third-year head coach who made a name for himself as one of the NFL’s top defensive coordinator before he finally got an opportunity to run the show.

A week ago, the Vikings beat the visiting Green Bay Packers, 17-14, and left many Wisconsin sports fans hyperventilating and wondering if Rodgers had lost his Hall of Fame touch.

The Packers quarterback completed 20-of-36 passes for 213 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked five times and fumbled three times, losing the ball once.

Part of the concern from Packers fans was based on the fact that Rodgers had gone 14 consecutive games without posting a passer rating of 100 or better. But that ended Sunday in the Packers’ 34-27 victory over Detroit as he hit on 15-of-24 passes for 205 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

That was good enough for a 129.3 passer rating and likely a sigh of relief from those at Lambeau Field.

Meanwhile, the Vikings defense took its act to Carolina and made Newton so miserable that by the fourth quarter he looked like a guy who would have rather been anywhere but on a football field.

Newton went 21-of-35 for 262 yards with no touchdowns, three interceptions and was sacked eight times, including once for a safety. His passer rating of 47.6 was his lowest since he had a 39.4 rating on Oct. 30, 2014 in an 18-point loss to New Orleans.

How much did the Vikings frustrate Newton? He only targeted standout wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin only once, late in the fourth quarter. Benjamin was targeted 21 times and had 13 receptions in the Panthers’ first two games.

Just like with Rodgers, there is nothing wrong with Newton. This has far more to do with a Vikings defense that leads the NFL with 15 sacks and is tied for second with five interceptions. In Zimmer’s third season of running this defense, what needs to be accepted is that the Vikings’ scheme and personnel have the ability to make Pro Bowl quarterbacks look pedestrian.

This might seem odd for the post-Moss Vikings fan base. Those folks became used to seeing high-flying offenses and even when the defense was solid it wasn’t necessarily dominant in multiple areas like this unit can be on its best days.

That has changed and it’s why if the Vikings’ offense can become consistently serviceable – and Blair Walsh can start making the majority of his field-goal and extra-point attempts – this team has a chance to make a real run.

The ability is there on a weekly basis to shut down the best quarterbacks. The pressure wears them down and the cornerbacks are able to keep receivers covered long enough that eventually plays break down.

Next up for Zimmer will be the Giants’ Eli Manning next Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Manning threw three interceptions, with one touchdown, and was sacked four times last Dec. 27 in a 49-17 loss to the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.

Zimmer promises to have his players in position to give Manning a variety of different looks that he hopes will confuse the 13-year veteran. That worked on Sunday as the Vikings finished with 12 hits on Newton and Minnesota got five sacks from defensive ends (Everson Griffen 3, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison); one from a defensive tackle (Linval Joseph) and one from a safety (Harrison Smith). The Vikings’ interceptions came from defensive tackle Tom Johnson and cornerbacks Trae Waynes, who has two in his past two games, and Terence Newman.

“Do I enjoy it,” Zimmer said, repeating a portion of a question about whether he likes the cat-and-mouse game that comes with pressuring opposing quarterbacks. “It’s just trying to keep the offense on edge I guess, the best we can. If we didn’t have good guys, smart guys, and then guys that can win one-on-one we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of stuff that we do.”

But that speaks to have the right combination of having the right personnel and scheme in place and, even if he doesn’t want to admit it, Zimmer gets much of the credit for that.

The post Zulgad: No offense but Zimmer’s attempt to downplay his importance is hogwash appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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