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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zimmer’s trust in his players paid off vs. Cardinals

By Matthew Coller

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the media after the team’s loss on the road against Washington that everyone was trying to do too much, including him. During Sunday’s 30-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the third-year head coach resisted the urge to be aggressive. Instead he chose to listen to his defense.

“There was a lot of times I wanted to blitz and they kept telling me just do what you’re doing, we’re rushing the heck out of the quarterback so, I did,” Zimmer said.

In the second half, the Vikings sacked Carson Palmer four times and allowed just 14 yards rushing to star running back David Johnson.

To open up the third quarter, Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kick for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 27-17, which put the Cardinals in come-from-behind-mode. But Arizona wasn’t panicking yet. Considering they had run for 89 yards with Johnson in the first half, the Cardinals turned back to the run game to start their first third quarter drive. Stuffing Johnson for a 3-yard gain on first down put the Cardinals into a passing situation. On both second and third down, Zimmer lined up three D-linemen on one side of the line and Everson Griffen 1-on-1 with the tackle. Griffen dominated the matchup on both plays and forced bad throws by Palmer.

One thing to note about the defense mostly rushing four in the second half is that they were fully healthy for the first time since Week 5. The presence of Eric Kendricks is significant because he has the speed to cover quick running backs out of the backfield or cover good amounts of space in zone coverage. With Chad Greenway, Audie Cole or Emmanuel Lamur, the defense needed to find ways to make up for the lost speed.

While the rushing off the edge will be most remembered from the second half defensive performance – and deservedly so – nose tackle Linval Joseph looked a lot more like himself than the previous two weeks – one of which he missed two practices with a shoulder injury.

After a fourth down stop by Arizona, the Cards got the ball down 10 with 9:48 remaining in the third. Plenty of time to go back to their superstar running back. Except Joseph was having none of that. He took up the center and the guard, allowing the linebackers and safety Andrew Sendejo to fill the other gaps.

Stopping Johnson twice in a row set the Cards up in another third down passing situation. Last time, Zimmer got Griffen 1-on-1, this time he used a stunt on both sides. Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison on the left, Tom Johnson and Griffen on the right.

The Cardinals helped the Vikings out quite a bit with a brutal interception by Palmer in which he chucked the ball long into double coverage and Xavier Rhodes came down with the pick. The Vikings offense ran five minutes off the clock on a drive that ended in a field goal.

To start the fourth, Minnesota allowed a first down on two short throws to Johnson, then came up with a third down stop on a throw to Larry Fitzgerald, who only gained 10 yards in the second half.

The only blip on the radar for the Vikings’ defense in the second half came after a strip sack of Sam Bradford that put Arizona at the Minnesota 27 to start the drive. A 14-yard pass to Johnson set up a touchdown, leaving the Cards down 30-24 with 7:24 to play.

This is where the defense truly earned its keep. Palmer and the Cards’ offense took over with 5:56 remaining. First play: Linval Joseph stuffs David Johnson for no gain, once again forcing Arizona into a passing situation. Danielle Hunter was set up with the 1-on-1 matchup this time and went full bull rush.

The Vikings offense went three-and-out after opening their drive with a boo-worthy run up the middle by Matt Asiata for one yard, but punter Jeff Locke came through with a 72-yard punt to set up the final drive.

With 2:20 left, Palmer had all sorts of time to lead a game-winning drive. With the game on the line, Zimmer stuck with his players’ suggestion and rushed four. A bizarre penalty on Tom Johnson extended the drive, but it didn’t matter because Hunter was too much for the Cards to handle.

The Detroit Lions play a much different style than the Cardinals. They like to run up tempo, quick passes and keep Matt Stafford away from pressure. They get the ball in the hands of playmakers and let them do the rest as opposed to giving their quarterback deep drops and downfield routes to work with. That means it will be harder for the Vikings to sack Stafford. But there’s still a lesson here: The Vikings’ defensive success starts with their front four and with a fully healthy group, they can lean heavily on them going forward.

Oh, and when the players speak, they know Zim will listen.

The post Zimmer’s trust in his players paid off vs. Cardinals appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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