Vikings players got their first Victory Monday of the year, following a 28-10 win over the New York Giants on Sunday. But when they return to work Wednesday, defensive end Everson Griffen won’t need coach Mike Zimmer to address the team’s spate of penalties to know how bad the issue is.
He looked it up on his own Sunday night after the game.
The statistics Griffen found, for a team that has typically been one of the league’s more disciplined groups, weren’t pretty. The Vikings are tied for third in the NFL for most penalties with 44 through five games, and no team in the NFL has been penalized for more yards than the Vikings’ 426. Last year, the Vikings had just 92 penalties accepted against them — tied for the second fewest in the league.
Through five games this year, they’re almost halfway to their 2018 total.
“We’ve got to find a way to decrease these penalties, because they’re going to kill us down the road,” Griffen said.
The defensive end’s research notwithstanding, the Vikings likely will hear plenty more from Zimmer this week about curbing their penalty penchant before Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. They were flagged 12 times for 112 yards in their win over the Giants, with four false-start penalties levied against their offensive line and tight ends.
Guard Pat Elflein and center Garrett Bradbury were each called for holding. On defense, cornerback Xavier Rhodes earned penalties for illegal contact and a horse-collar tackle, while Trae Waynes picked up a 37-yard pass interference penalty that led to a challenge flag Zimmer admitted Monday he threw out of disgust.
“I might have done that because I was mad. I’m not going to get into it because I’ll get fined,” he said. “I figured they wouldn’t overturn it, but I saw the guy grab Trae and Trae was looking back for the ball and it was [almost] a 50-yard penalty, so I said what the heck. That was kind of my thinking then.”
Pre-snap penalties, such as the Vikings’ false-start infractions and Griffen’s penalty for a neutral zone infraction, are largely caused by concentration lapses, Zimmer said. He rejected the theory that Griffen’s frequent offside penalties are a function of his aggressive approach, and Griffen agreed.
“I think penalties are a concentration thing, a mental thing,” Griffen said Monday. “Like me, I’ve got to key the ball better. It’s that one millisecond where I got distracted, and I jumped offside. I think it’s a concentration thing. You’ve got to prevent yourself from doing it.”
Once the ball is snapped, Zimmer said, the Vikings’ penalties are frequently a result of being in poor positions that tempt players to grab, rather than playing with their feet and getting to the right spot. Rhodes, who had his first two-penalty game of the season Sunday, leads all Vikings players with four penalties.
Asked Monday if he was concerned with Rhodes, Zimmer said: “No, I just think we have to clean up some technique with some of our defensive backs, not just him. We’ve got some other guys that we need to clean up our technique.
‘‘At times throughout the game, they might be perfect 60, 70 percent of the time and then the other 30 percent they get sloppy. We have to clean that up.”
As Zimmer makes the point to his team this week, one of his defensive captains will be right there to echo it.
“He’s going to have something for us on Wednesday,” Griffen said. “We can do it, we can talk about it, but we’ve just got to get it done ourselves.”