This has obviously been a unique week for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, as offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned, which came as a surprise to Zimmer, but also his team is scrambling to turn around a season that once looked so promising but has hit a gigantic road bump with back-to-back ugly losses.
“It’s very tough, it’s been disappointing. We played so well the first five games that the last two just haven’t been up to our standards,” Zimmer said. “We need to fix it and we need to get it corrected, and I think we will.”
Zimmer believes that the offensive line, which has clearly been the biggest concern, can be fixed.
“We’re working extremely hard on it every day, and the players, you have to give them credit because they’re trying their rear ends off,” Zimmer said. “We have to be able to help them, we have to do some other things, and hopefully we can get that done.”
Is the talent there?
“I think the talent is good enough to do what we need to do, but we just have to make sure we’re using them in the right way,” Zimmer said.
Not much change, yet
With tight ends coach Pat Shurmur taking over for Turner, Zimmer was asked if any changes are coming this weekend.
“Not a whole lot this week,” he said. “It has been a short week and we have a lot of things set in what we’re doing. But we’re going to move forward trying to do the things our players can do best, trying to do the things we can coach the best, trying to do the things we can execute the best, and try to go from there.
“It won’t change a lot. We’re trying to get the ball to playmakers just like we did before, but it shouldn’t change a lot.”
He added that protecting quarterback Sam Bradford, which has been a struggle the past two weeks with 11 sacks, is a team effort.
“Protection is a combination of different things, the backs, the line, him,” Zimmer said. “But yeah, we need more protection.”
And when it comes to Shurmur and Bradford, Zimmer was less concerned with their past relationship as a coach and player than with what they need to do going forward.
“I don’t know if it will help that much, but I know him and Sam have a good relationship and they can communicate things easily,” he said. “That’s what I talked to both of them about was making sure they all communicate.”
While there have been a lot of concerns with the Vikings’ play over the past two games, Zimmer believes they have had positive moments and that they need to focus on those.
“We played good on defense,” he said. “We just need to get back to doing the things we were doing. We’ll be OK.”
So does Zimmer still believe this Vikings team can turn things around and go deep in a playoff run?
“Yeah, and it’s like everything, you’re going to hit some rough patches during the season,” he said. “We need to pull out of it and get back going and get back to being ourselves. The sooner we do that, the confidence level will keep going. Confidence is based on seeing things that happen. So we need to get that done and move forward.”
Mason weighs in on Gophers
Glen Mason, former Gophers coach who did the color commentary on the Big Ten Network’s telecast of their 44-31 victory Saturday, was asked if the Gophers can win any of the remaining three games, at Nebraska, Northwestern at home and at Wisconsin, if quarterback Mitch Leidner continues to run the ball like he did Saturday. He rushed 14 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
“When you look at the success of Minnesota, it’s quite simple — if they can run the football 200 yards or more and not turn the ball over, which they’ve been really stingy on this year, and play defense and take advantage of the takeaways, which their defense is doing, they can beat anybody,” he said.
“Purdue absolutely helped them. Did Minnesota win the game, or did Purdue lose the game? I think it’s a combination of both things. And that’s been the history of Purdue all year long. They’ve self-destructed. I don’t know what they are, like minus-14 in turnover ratio right now. You cannot win football games doing that.”
As for Leidner running more Saturday than he had in other games, Mason said: “He made some plays where you say, ‘Wow, really good,’ and then he makes some plays just like the pass right before the half [an interception that led to a Purdue touchdown] where you say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe he did that.’ I think that’s the one element that’s missing. If he was more consistent, he would be better and the Gophers would be better.”
You want my opinion, the Gophers aren’t going to win any of the remaining games unless they improve their pass defense. They can’t allow a quarterback like David Blough to complete 28 of 48 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
• New Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on taking over the role on a short week. “I think the biggest thing is we have to keep our eye on the ball,” he said. “We’ve got to put together a plan. Initially here we have to put a plan together to go out and perform well against Detroit. We’ve been working, obviously, behind the scenes to get that done.”
• The Vikings have seven first-round picks on their defense: cornerback Terence Newman (fifth overall), Anthony Barr (ninth), Trae Waynes (11th), Chad Greenway (17th), Sharrif Floyd (23rd), Xavier Rhodes (25th) and Harrison Smith (29th). The Vikings drafted all but Newman.
• Ingmar Molde, the 103-year old father of Al Molde, will be honored Sunday by the Vikings. Al coached at several schools, including Eastern Illinois, where he coached current Saints head coach Sean Payton, and he was the athletic director at Gustavus.
• The University of Iowa is spending $89 million in a complete remodeling of Kinnick Stadium.
• Good news for the Twins has been the play of Mitch Garver in the Arizona Fall League. Garver, a catcher, leads the league with four homers. He hit .329 at in 22 games at Class AAA Rochester in 2016.
• The Hamline football team has already reached a major milestone with five wins under new head coach Chip Taylor. The Pipers are assured of going .500 or better for the first time in 19 years.
• Heading into this weekend the latest bowl projections by ESPN had the Gophers playing either Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28.
• East Ridge running back Dominik London has committed to the Gophers for next season. London ended the season with 829 yards rushing on 164 carries with 12 touchdowns after missing two games this season.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: email@example.com