The Vikings coaches spent all this week studying film and trying to figure out, to a degree, what they need next year to be a contender in the NFC North.
The coaches take off on vacations for a short period of time, but they won’t be away from football for long. You have the Senior Bowl, where all the coaches and all the scouts attend in Mobile, Ala. Then you have the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. And coach Mike Zimmer is a guy who does everything but sleep in the office, and he does that once in a while.
So there will be a lot of work by this coaching staff trying to make this team a winner.
On the Fox postgame NFL show following the Vikings’ 19-13 overtime victory over Tampa Bay, ex-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson sang the praises of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
“Zimmer is winning without Adrian Peterson, without a lot of veteran players, and with a bunch of young players like Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerick McKinnon and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater,” Johnson said.
Johnson gave the impression that Zimmer is doing a great job in his first year as a head coach and that, in time, the Vikings will be winners.
On another subject, the Vikings’ schedule now is in their favor. They could get tight end Kyle Rudolph back this week, and a number of other players are healing – like Chad Greenway, who had nine tackles on Sunday, to mention one of many.
They should be able to beat Washington next Sunday and go into the bye week at 4-5, and be a threat to win more games at home then they have in the recent past.
Bridgewater’s real test will come Sunday against the Redskins and we’ll find out more about him. He had a good day on Sunday against the worst defense in the NFL. But we’ll see if Bridgewater is taking to the coaching of Norv Turner, and also Christian Ponder, who spends a lot of time helping Bridgewater. He will need to stay in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly.
I’m a great booster of the Wilf family, and I think it was fortunate when they bought the Vikings. Any other owner wouldn’t have gotten a stadium because they wouldn’t have put forth the money that the Wilfs have.
But one thing I disagree with them was the firing of Mr. Leslie Frazier last season. Fortunately, they got a break when they got a great coach in Mike Zimmer. But Frazier, in my mind, did a great coaching job last year. It wasn’t his fault that they lost all those close games in the final minutes, and in my opinion, he shouldn’t have been fired.
Now the Vikings go to Tampa Bay, where they have to play a team where Leslie Frazier is the defensive coordinator. If the way the Vikings players love Frazier is any indication how the Bucs love Frazier, I expect those players to play their best game against the Vikings, and it won’t be an easy game to win.
One favorable thing for the Bucs is they had some defensive linemen injured who will be back for the Vikings game. I look for Tampa Bay to give the Vikings every bit as tough a game as they got from Buffalo.
The score was Detroit 17, Vikings 3. The problem wasn’t the quarterback, even though he was sacked eight times for 45 yards in losses … and when he did complete a pass, he was running for his life, and getting physically handled by the Lions.
The quarterback, one Teddy Bridgewater, is not a franchise quarterback, at least not yet, but he proved in the second half that he has a great future, not as a rookie, but once he gets an offensive line in front of him and a running game to go with it. You can’t win games without a running game, and the Vikings maybe have one of the worst running games in the league. You take Adrian Peterson out of the lineup, and all the opposition has to worry about is defending the pass to be effective.
Coaching isn’t the problem either. Mike Zimmer is a good head coach and has a good staff, but when you lose your starting right guard, your starting tight end, and other people aren’t performing, and you don’t have a running attack, the defense can’t win the game, even when it plays well.
This will be a good football team when Bridgewater gets some experience, Adrian Peterson comes back or a running back of his caliber is obtained, and the other injured players are healthy.
Until then, they will struggle, and I predict they will not win at Buffalo, and they might even have trouble winning at Tampa, where the Vikings, even with outstanding teams, always had a battle in the heat of Florida.
The Vikings didn’t win a road game last season, and you have to go back to late 2012 when they last won away from home -- at St. Louis, where they won today 34-6, and at Houston.
The interesting thing in the victory Sunday was that everyone was expecting Adrian Peterson to run wild. He gained a total of 75 yards and his longest run was for 17 yards.
The biggest playmaker was Cordarrelle Patterson, who wound up with 102 yards and made an absolutely sensational 67-yard run, dodging several potential tacklers. It was the longest run by a Vikings receiver in team history, and it was the first time a receiver for the Vikings gained more than 100 yards on the ground in a game.
No doubt Mr. Zimmer and his staff have done a great job, and all the praise out of Winter Park was not propaganda. But the real test will come next week, when Bill Belichick, winner of three Super Bowls, and with another great Patriots team on hand, comes to Minnesota.
The Patriots are led by the great Tom Brady, who will test the Vikings pass defense and see if it can play as well as it did against St. Louis. Even though the Patriots lost on Sunday in Miami, they will be a force this season.
Next week -- that’s when we’ll find out how good this Vikings team is.
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