Vikings prefer to say they're 0-0, not 5-0
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The NFL standings say the Vikings are 5-0. In Mike Zimmer's standings, they have a different record. The Minnesota coach spoke to his players after they returned following a bye week and practiced Monday. He let it be known...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The NFL standings say the Vikings are 5-0. In Mike Zimmer's standings, they have a different record.
The Minnesota coach spoke to his players after they returned following a bye week and practiced Monday. He let it be known they can't afford to rest on their laurels.
"Like Coach Zim said, 'We're back to 0-0 and this is a new season,' '' said running back Jerick McKinnon. "(The 5-0 start is) in the past. There's no need to keep celebrating.''
The Vikings have been the NFL's only remaining undefeated team since beating Houston 31-13 on Oct. 9. While they were off Sunday, Green Bay (3-2) lost at home 30-16 to Dallas, giving Minnesota a two-game lead in the NFC North.
The Vikings next play Sunday at Philadelphia (3-2). Zimmer said there's plenty of work to be done before then.
"We got a chance (during the bye week) to look into a five-game, self-scout and things we feel like we need to get better at, things we need to improve and what we're doing good,'' Zimmer said after Monday's practice. "I just got done telling (the players) about a few things we've got to do better.''
The Vikings are No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense. Nevertheless, Zimmer said they must do better with some of their coverages, and safety Harrison Smith said they must improve their tackling.
It's more noticeable that the Vikings must step it up on offense. They're No. 14 in scoring and No. 30 in total offense, and Zimmer said they've "got to eliminate minus plays'' that put them "in difficult situations.''
Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford has seen plenty of pressure and has been sacked eight times in his four starts. The Vikings have shown recent improvement, but they remain last in the NFL in rushing with an average of 70.6 yards per game.
"We still can score more points and have some more efficient drives,'' McKinnon said. "We still got to get the running game going a little better.''
Help is on the way for the offensive line. Guard Brandon Fusco returned to practice Monday after being knocked out early against Houston with a concussion, and veteran tackle Jake Long had his second practice after having been signed last week.
Zimmer called Long's play good' so far, but he won't know until Friday whether Long will play against the Eagles. Zimmer said it's hard' for an offensive lineman to become integrated quickly but that Long is a "smart guy" and it helps having played for Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano from 2008-11, when Sparano was Miami's head coach.
It might be asking a lot for Long to step in by Sunday at left tackle for T.J. Clemmings even though Clemmings, at No. 78, is the lowest-rated tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Philadelphia has lost two straight following a 3-0 start. Bradford knows the Eagles well considering he played for them last year and was with them throughout the preseason until being traded Sept. 3 to Minnesota.
"Obviously, we're going to ask him (about the Eagles),'' Zimmer said. "I think all that stuff is really overrated. I think we have to execute what we do. ... Obviously, we're always going to look for tips and how we can help the players.''
Overall, Zimmer said his players returned from the bye week focused. He had told them after they practiced last Tuesday to get their workouts in and watch tape during the break.
"We can't relax,'' said defensive end Brian Robison. "We got to keep our foot on the gas pedal.''
Smith, featured in a Sports Illustrated article that came out last week, agreed.
"There's no magic sauce that's going to get us to win games,'' Smith said. "We still have to put in the work and put in the time.''
It sure sounds as if the Vikings have been listening to their coach.
"We're 0-0,'' said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. "We're trying to go to 1-0 on Sunday.''