Mike Zimmer said he wants blockers to “finish better” after the Vikings offense failed to crack 100 yards in rushing for just the second time this season during Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the Chiefs.
The Vikings coach said the issues started up front against a Chiefs defense that had been one of the NFL’s worst at stopping the run. Dalvin Cook, still the NFL’s rushing leader with 894 yards, found little daylight as just five of 21 carries accounted for more than 3 yards. He finished with 71 yards on 21 carries.
“We didn’t establish the running game good enough,” Zimmer said Monday. “We didn’t get as much movement on them as we had hoped, and we didn’t finish blocks, so that was part of it.”
Cook’s inefficiency was startling because the Chiefs already had allowed four 100-yard rushers (and 99 yards to Oakland’s Josh Jacobs) in eight games before Sunday. Kansas City’s varied defensive alignments threw off Vikings blockers at times, Zimmer said, who said postgame he felt the Vikings didn’t call enough running plays before halftime.
“We had some miscommunication in there,” Zimmer said. “We went to the wrong guy a couple times, and we overthought it. Then we didn’t finish well enough. There were a bunch of times we were on the guy and didn’t finish, and that guy came off and made tackles, so we need to finish better.”
Thielen’s outlook uncertain
Adam Thielen’s strained right hamstring “really wasn’t a bad grade” initially, but Zimmer said he’s now unsure how long the Vikings receiver will remain sidelined after reaggravating the injury during Sunday’s first quarter. Thielen, who was first injured Oct. 20 in Detroit, played seven snaps and was targeted once before leaving the game.
“They’re all different,” Zimmer said of hamstring injuries. “It really wasn’t a bad hamstring [injury] when he first hurt it.”
The Vikings’ training staff sought preventive methods this offseason to stop last year’s rash of hamstring injuries, but receiver Josh Doctson also missed playing time to the injury. Doctson returned to practice last week and is eligible to make his Vikings debut Sunday in Dallas. He must first be activated off injured reserve.
One to forget
Damien Williams’ 91-yard touchdown during Sunday’s third quarter was the longest run against a Zimmer defense. According to Pro Football Reference, Williams’ play surpassed Ahman Green’s 90-yard touchdown run against the Cowboys, with Zimmer as defensive coordinator, in 2004.
Safety Anthony Harris, one of the defenders to miss the tackle on Williams, said he’s relying on a short memory.
“We had a number of guys there with the opportunity to try to get him on the ground,” Harris said. “Myself, knowing that I have the ability to make that play and get him on the ground — and give the defense a chance to see another play — wasn’t able to make it. From there, you move forward and try to not let that happen again.”
Go for it?
The Vikings are 5-for-8 on fourth downs this season, a respectable clip that is dictated by Zimmer’s instincts and decision-making — which does not always align with what the analytics say gives a team the best chance to win.
Zimmer said he factors “a lot of things” before deciding, such as the opponent, score, field conditions, wind and field position.
Zimmer chose to go for it on a fourth-and-1 (which was successful) from the Chiefs 15-yard line with 29 seconds before halftime, but earlier he opted to play the field position and punt from the Vikings 45 despite facing the same down and distance.
“Well, analytics says go for it,” Zimmer said, “but I don’t go by that, no.”