The Minnesota Vikings put together a dominating 28-10 performance at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants on Sunday. Following the win, head coach Mike Zimmer covered a number of topics. Here are the highlights…
Importance of the win
With issues in the locker room surrounding Stefon Diggs and Kirk Cousins being questioned in the national media all week, Zimmer said that the team needed to have a solid showing and come away from The Big Apple with a win.
“It was important, it was very important,” Zimmer said. “If we didn’t play well today he would have been pretty hot but there’s a bunch of good guys in that locker room that will go out and compete and fight and fight together. It was important today, it was important for us to get some wins on the road, it’s important for us to go out and play like we did and hopefully we can go out and get better and eliminate some of the mistakes that we made today.”
Big day on offense
Kirk Cousins walked away from New York with a 138.6 quarterback rating after completing 22-of-27 passes for 306 yards.
“I thought he got out of the pocket, he looked down the field for the shots and when they weren’t there he checked them down,” Zimmer said. “I thought out receivers made some good catches with Diggs and Thielen and the tight ends did some nice things as well. Overall the mix of the play-actions and dropbacks were good.”
The pass protection was much more successful against the Giants than in the previous week versus Chicago. On multiple occasions Cousins had enough time to step and fire passes to open receivers.
“We talked this week about having a firm pocket. That’s important in the passing game as well, it’s not just throwing and catching. It’s about being in the right place in protection, the backs being in there, I thought that part was good today.
Overall Zimmer was pleased with the play of his quarterback.
“He had some really nice throws, got the ball out, made good decisions, that’s how we needed him to play,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings bent on multiple occasions against Daniel Jones and the Giants but came up with key red zone stops. In the second half the Giants got inside the Minnesota 30-yard line three times and scored a total of three points.
“These guys are fighters,” Zimmer said of his defense. “They’ll continue to fight. We had some adversity and I felt like we fought through that adversity and that’s a sign of a good group of guys.”
Especially after running back Wayne Gallman left the game with a concussion. Zimmer dialed up blitzes, sacking Jones four times. The Vikings head coach said it was part of the game plan to send extra rushers and look to pressure him.
“It was aggressive,” Zimmer said. “Probably needs to be that way a little bit more. I felt good about some of the pressures we had this week. Quite honestly we had another pressure drawn up for one other thing and they really didn’t do it today. I wish they would have because I wanted to see if it worked. I thought we rushed well with our front guys and other than a couple of penalties and the first long ball we covered decently today.”
One of New York’s biggest gains of the day came on a 37-yard pass interference penalty called against Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes. While Zimmer must have sensed that his chances were low to get the play overturned, he threw the red flag anyway. He wasn’t particularly thrilled that the referees didn’t overturn it and alluded to the league’s struggles to figure out pass interference review.
“I saw Trae looking back for the ball…and the guy reaching both hands around his shoulders and going into him,” Zimmer said. “They’re probably never going to overturn them unless it’s in the NFC Championship game. The thing that bothers me is that’s a 50-yard penalty. It’s not like it’s five yards and let’s get a first down, it’s a long penalty. In my opinion — humble opinion — they need to clean all this stuff up.”
It doesn’t get much better than Dalvin Cook’s performance on Sunday. He gained 132 yards on the ground and caught six passes for 86 yards.
“Dalvin is a great player,” Zimmer said. “Great acceleration. There’s times when they had him and he’s able to accelerate to it. He’s a hard, physical runner. He hardly ever fumbles so that was a little surprising on the 2-yard line there but Dalvin’s a great player.”
One of the things the offense emphasized in training camp that has not shown up until Sunday was the use of screens. Cook ripped off several big plays on screen passes by dodging tacklers and breaking tackles for extra yards.
“Any time he’s in space he has a chance to be really good,” Zimmer said. “The more that we can be good on screens the better that helps and there were a couple checkdowns today where he made some guys miss.”
Xavier Rhodes went out early in the game after colliding with Harrison Smith and went into the injury tent. Mike Hughes came in to take his place and stayed in the game after Rhodes returned as the nickel corner, filling in for Mackensie Alexander (who was out with an elbow injury). Hughes nearly picked off Jones and played an altogether impressive game.
“I know you guys were asking me what would change and I knew nothing would because he’s a good competitor,” Zimmer said. “He got some hands on some balls today, almost had [an interception] on our sideline, almost had another one. He’s got great quickness and acceleration.”