Mike Zimmer enters the Week 10 bye with a to-do list, but not much of the Vikings’ focus in this off week will focus on adjusting their defense, according to their coach. Many of those changes, he said Monday, already have been made through a five-game stretch (4-1) in which the defense has allowed 16 points per game.
One adjustment was clear to Zimmer in Sunday’s 24-9 victory over the Lions.
“They tried to run two of those rollout screens,” Zimmer said, “and we got hurt with them early in the year. I think San Francisco had one and probably the Rams had one and someone else, so we’ve had to make adjustments in how we’re playing that.”
Defensive tackle Tom Johnson sniffed out both screens on two tackles for a combined loss of 4 yards by Lions running backs. Johnson, the 34-year-old journeyman who returned to the Vikings in September, had a monster game with three tackles for a loss and 2 ½ sacks.
“He played well [Sunday],” Zimmer said.
The Vikings also adjusted well to concepts the Lions copied from the Rams, including play-action rollouts and running back wheel routes in the red zone. After a bumpy start, the Vikings defense now ranks sixth in yards (322.2 per game) and 14th in points (22.7 per game) through nine games.
After the Vikings return from their bye they will play back-to-back Sunday night games against the Bears (Nov. 18) and the Packers (Nov. 25). The Chicago game at Soldier Field was flexed by NBC to the prime-time slot after originally being scheduled for noon.
This means three of the Vikings’ next four games will be nationally televised at night. They play the Monday night game on Dec. 10 at Seattle. The Vikings are 0-2 in night games so far this season, but Zimmer downplayed the schedule twist.
“They just tell us when we play, and we show up,” Zimmer said. “Try to get a win somehow.”
Weatherly stands out
Defensive end Stephen Weatherly “has come a long way in a short amount of time,” Zimmer said, catching the head coach’s eye Sunday when he had one sack, another hit on Matthew Stafford and a key run stop following the Lions’ successful fake punt. Weatherly, in his third NFL season, has three sacks in nine games. He credited defensive line coach Andre Patterson’s weekly preparation.
“We have a write-up on each one of their tackles and their backups,” Weatherly said. “We know what to do and how to attack each guy.”
Good time for a break
Four injured starters — safety Andrew Sendejo, linebacker Anthony Barr, guard Tom Compton and receiver Stefon Diggs — will benefit most from the bye this week, according to Zimmer, who said he was optimistic about “most” returning for the Bears game.
“I think most of those guys, I’m hopeful that they’re all back,” Zimmer said.
Tight end David Morgan is the latest injury to monitor after he was knocked from Sunday’s third quarter because of a left knee ailment. He hobbled through the locker room after the game without crutches.
Coaches need rest, too
Even the 62-year-old Zimmer admitted he needs a break after nine games.
“The NFL season is such a grind,” Zimmer said, “because you’re doing it since July and you’re sitting up there studying every tape every single day and if you get to go home when the sun’s out, you get to feel like a normal person.”