The Vikings' turnover ratio in Mike Zimmer's 113 games as head coach is plus-26. That's 162 takeaways, 136 giveaways and top-5 rankings of plus-11 in 2016 and 2019.
The only full season in red figures was 2014, Zimmer's first year. A minus-1 ratio was but one of many blows that contributed to his only losing season.
This year, the Vikings are minus-4 with a ranking — 23rd — that would be the worst of the Zimmer era by four spots. The offense has turned the ball over 21 times — already one more than the previous high set in 2014 and tied in 2018 and again last year. Meanwhile, the defense sits at 17 takeaways, 14 fewer than last year's Zimmer era-high of 31 and two shy of the Zimmer-era lows of 19 in 2014 and 2017.
"It's just difficult because, you know, offenses take so good care of the football that it doesn't happen that much," Zimmer said of takeaways. "In order to do that, typically you're getting pressure on the quarterback and he's making poor decisions or there's tipped balls or some kind of ball disruption, punching the ball out or something like that."
Pressure on the quarterback has waned considerably since last season. That tends to happen when an Everson Griffen leaves via free agency and a Danielle Hunter has season-ending neck surgery before the season even begins.
"We talk about [takeaways] every week," Zimmer said. "We have a video every week we show the guys on how guys cause turnovers. I wish we could get more."
That wouldn't be a bad idea.
Sunday's four-takeaway performance saved Zim the embarrassment of losing to Jacksonville. It also raised his record to 44-7 when the Vikings win the turnover battle. That includes 4-0 this season.
When the Vikings lose that battle, Zimmer is 12-29-1, including 1-6 this year. When they tie, he's 9-11, including 1-0 this year.
Against his primary rival, Green Bay, Zimmer is 5-0 when the Vikings win the turnover margin, 0-7-1 when they lose and 1-0 when they tie. In playoff games, Zim's 2-0 when they win that margin, 0-1 when they lose and 0-2 when they tie.
Pressure upfront hasn't been the only issue, obviously. On the back end, two rookies — Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler — have started a combined 18 games after the offseason and preseason were wiped out by a global pandemic. It wasn't until last week — the team's 12th game — that Dantzler registered the first interception by a cornerback.
"It's hard to fool the quarterbacks, and really, the ways you create [takeaways] are, you punch the ball out, kind of like Dantzler did [in forcing a fumble Sunday]," Zimmer said. "Or, like I say, it's pressure on the quarterback. Typically, that's when the bad throws happen — when you get around his feet, you've hit him a few times.
"We keep trying to figure out ways to rush the quarterback, because we have a lot of young guys in there that are inexperienced in pass rush — and in the back end, too, I guess. So that's part of it."
Offensively, the Vikings rank fourth in yards per game (389.4). If that holds up in the final four weeks, it would be their highest ranking since Mike Tice's 2004 team finished fourth while going 8-8 and upsetting the Packers in a wild card playoff game at Lambeau Field.
This year's offense also has caused Zimmer some angst along the way.
In Zim's first 111 games as Vikings coach, opponents scored a defensive touchdown seven times. And never more than one in a game.
In Zim's last two games as Vikings coach, opponents have scored three defensive touchdowns.
But this is an oddball year. Even when it comes to turnovers sometimes.
Zimmer's record when giving up a defensive touchdown seven times in his first 111 games: 2-5.
His record when giving up three defensive touchdowns the past two weeks: 2-0.
Next up: A Buccaneers team that's plus-4 in turnover ratio with 20 takeaways and 16 giveaways, including 11 interceptions and two pick-sixes by a fella named Brady.
Mark Craig • 612-673-7011