Vikings coach Mike Zimmer figures that when the New York Jets fire up the game tape of his defense from recent weeks, they see the same weaknesses that he is seeing.
While the Vikings continue to defend the pass well and put pressure on quarterbacks, they have not defended the run well over the past month. Their past four opponents have all topped 100 rushing yards against them, including the Carolina Panthers, who rushed for 178 yards on 33 carries in Sunday’s 31-13 win.
The Jets, meanwhile, rank second in the NFL in rushing after piling up 277 yards on 49 carries in their 16-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Monday night. Eight different Jets carried the ball, including three wide receivers and their fullback.
“That will be a good test for us,” Zimmer said. “We haven’t played the run as well as I would like to, and I’m sure that they see that as well.”
Zimmer, who like many defensive coordinators prioritizes stopping the run first and foremost, can pinpoint a few reasons why his Vikings are now allowing 4.4 yards per carry this season.
Against the Panthers, the biggest issue was defenders plugging the wrong running lanes.
In their loss to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago and in other games, the Vikings had trouble wrapping up running backs, the missed tackles leading to too many yards after contact.
“We’re not thumping them enough that when we hit them they go down,” Zimmer said.
And until the Vikings do, they expect opponents — especially the Jets, who had just 13 pass attempts against the Dolphins — to continue to pound them with the running game.
“That’s what they do, so we’re going to be tested again this week,” outside linebacker Chad Greenway said of the Jets. “We really want to make them throw the football. Not that they can’t do it, but we know how good they are in the run game. If we can slow them down, it’ll help us.”
Wait, is that B-Rob?
Defensive end Brian Robison showed up at Winter Park on Wednesday with a new look. Robison got a haircut, opting for a shorter hairstyle over his signature ponytail. Robison donated the hair, which he started growing after the 2009 season, to Locks of Love.
“You see the cancer patients every day that are going through that with withdrawals of not having their hair,” he said. “I think it’s a great cause to be able to give something back.”
At least one teammate gave Robison a little grief, saying he has to surrender his nickname.
“ ‘B-Rob’ is gone out the window after he cut the ponytail,” fellow defensive end Everson Griffen joked. “With no more ponytail, he has no swag. … That’s Brian to me from now on.”
Thielen wins award
Wide receiver Adam Thielen was named the NFC special teams player of the week Wednesday.
In Sunday’s win, Thielen blocked and recovered a punt, then returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. The second-year player also added a pair of tackles on special teams.
“It’s special for this whole special-teams unit,” he said. “We work hard, and all the players that contribute to special teams, we’re excited for one another. And it’s a team award.”
The blocked punt returned for a touchdown was one of two Sunday by the Vikings, who became the fifth team in NFL history to return two blocked punts for scores in the same game.
Barr, Floyd sit out
Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd did not practice Wednesday after both players aggravated knee injuries against the Panthers.
Also missing practice were running back Jerick McKinnon (lower back), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring).
Tight end Chase Ford (hamstring and foot) was limited.
Adrian Peterson’s appeal of his NFL suspension is expected to continue today in New York with hearing officer Harold Henderson interviewing Troy Vincent, a league executive who allegedly told Peterson he would be reinstated with a two-game suspension after “time served.”
Peterson has been on the Commissioner’s Exempt List since being charged with injury to a child on Sept. 12. The Vikings running back missed 11 games, including three after the court case was settled Nov. 4 when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor.
Pro Football Talk reported Wednesday that Henderson was encouraging the NFL and the NFL Players Association to negotiate an agreement in the case.