Cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ hamstring injury is not something the Vikings are concerned about, according to head coach Mike Zimmer.
Rhodes clutched his right hamstring late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 victory over Green Bay after defending Packers receiver Davante Adams on a 36-yard catch. He was helped off the field and did not return to the game.
“Thankfully it’s very, very mild,” Zimmer said Monday. “As far as what the TV doctors were reporting is erroneous.”
Zimmer referred to speculation that spread online from former NFL team doctor David Chao, who watched the play on television and opined on Twitter that the injury could be season ending. Instead, it sounds like Rhodes might miss little to no playing time heading into Sunday’s game in New England.
Despite Rhodes’ tendency to exit a game due to cramps or injury, he’s missed just three NFL games since becoming a full-time starter in 2014.
Making NFL history?
Through 11 games, the Vikings’ third-down defense is on pace to make NFL history — again — by leading the league for a second consecutive year. No NFL defense has topped the league on third downs in back-to-back seasons since the stat became officially tracked in 1991.
After holding the Packers to two of 10 on third downs, the Vikings are letting offenses move the chains on just 28 percent of attempts this season. They set the single-season NFL record at 25 percent a year ago.
If the Vikings can keep the third-down mark better than 30 percent, they’d be just the second NFL franchise to have two such seasons since 1991, joining the Baltimore Ravens (2003, 2006).
‘That’s how we want it’
Count defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson among the Vikings defenders happy that Zimmer backed off on blitzing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night. Zimmer said he entered the game planning to blitz more, but the Vikings’ four-man rush worked so well he changed course.
“That’s how we want it, too,” Richardson said. “We’re happy when [linebackers and defensive backs] get it, but it’s like, ‘Man, that could’ve been us.’ Usually when those guys get sacks, we turn into offensive linemen basically.”
Richardson had two of the Vikings’ four sacks on Rodgers. All four came from defensive linemen.
Elflein ‘still getting better’
Following his eighth start on Sunday night, center Pat Elflein said he’s “still getting better” as he progresses through his second NFL season that started slowly due to offseason surgeries on his shoulder and ankle. Elflein looked like he’s returned to form against the Packers, setting up running back Dalvin Cook’s 26-yard touchdown as the lead blocker on the screen.
“Dealing with injuries, it throws another wrench in your game,” Elflein said. “When you injured something, that body part will probably never be the same again. So, dealing with those and getting back in the groove of playing football at the highest level.”
Cousins looked to run
Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ 17 rushing yards against the Packers were his most since Week 4 in Los Angeles. Cousins’ season-high six carries, only one of which was designed, was a product of conversations he had with Zimmer last week about potential improvements. Cousins also had a 6-yard run negated because of a holding penalty.
“When it opens up like that — run,” Zimmer said. “Basically, what I told him is if you’ve got a quarterback that’s not going to run, defenses are going to play extra coverage. They’re not going to worry about that. When you play a guy like Rodgers, you have to worry about it. You have to put an extra guy on him, sometimes.”