Mike Zimmer wanted Xavier Rhodes to shadow Packers receiver Jordy Nelson throughout Saturday’s 38-25 loss.
Rhodes instead stayed on his side throughout the first half before Vikings coaches put their game plan back on track by halftime.
Vikings defensive backs decided during the week of practice to not have Rhodes, their top cornerback, shadow Nelson for the first time in a Vikings-Packers game under Zimmer.
“To be honest, I really don’t want to answer that,” Rhodes started, before explaining what happened.
“A matter of fact, forget it. We felt as a team, as players, we came together and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers. Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That’s how we felt as DBs that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we’d always played against them and played our sides, we never followed, so that’s what we felt as DBs. That’s what we went with.”
Nelson had one of the best days of his career, catching nine passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Almost all of the damage came in the first half, when Rhodes wasn’t shadowing Nelson. He caught seven passes for 145 yards and two scores for the Packers’ 28-13 lead at halftime.
Rhodes, who did surrender some of the first-half yardage, tracked Nelson in the second half and held him to two grabs for nine yards.
“That’s what he was supposed to do the whole game,” Zimmer said. “Someone decided they wouldn’t do that.”
Zimmer said he noticed the change from the sideline when cornerback Terence Newman approached him about the change.
“In the first half when Terence Newman came over and said something to me like ‘I can cover this guy, let me have him,’” Zimmer said. “I said, ‘do what you’re supposed to do.’”
Asked about the plan to cover Nelson and what changed, Newman said “nothing. I have no idea.”