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Mike Zimmer: Too much 'volume' in Vikings' offensive playbook

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-11-20 09:00:16

EAGAN, Minn. -- Mike Zimmer theorized the Vikings may have too much "volume" within their offensive playbook a day after the team dropped its third primetime game of the season, a 25-20 loss at Chicago.

Zimmer said Monday he took a closer look at some of the areas where his team has experienced continued struggles, and why the offense sputtered in Chicago at the hand of miscommunications, a lack of explosive plays, turnovers and broken plays.

While it's understandably taken the Vikings offense time to gel in new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's system, Zimmer concluded the amount of plays Minnesota is installing weekly may have an effect on some of its inefficacy.

"Let's just play football," Zimmer said. "You run a really good out route, you run the out route. He runs a good curl, you run the curl. You know what I mean? So, maybe we just need to focus a little bit on not trying to trick the other team quite so much.

"You want to add new plays every week and new plays and new plays and new plays. If you're not executing, it might be the best play in the world. Vince Lombardi might have designed it but if you can't execute it, then it doesn't do you any good. Can't protect for it or whatever it is."

Zimmer said postgame that the Vikings' repeated mistakes with ball security and other areas that lead to turnovers might be because players are not listening, not paying attention or that "they really don't care."

Minnesota's 16 turnovers this season ranks 25th in the NFL, the lowest mark by a wide margin during Zimmer's tenure with the Vikings. The most turnovers any Vikings' team has committed since Zimmer arrived in 2014 is 20. The Vikings' two game-changing turnovers at Soldier Field -- Dalvin Cook's fumble inside the Bears' 15-yard line and Kirk Cousins' interception at the Vikings' 11-yard line that was returned from a touchdown -- along with other red zone turnovers has irked Zimmer considering how well the Vikings have been with ball security in years past.

"It's been frustrating at times," he said. "Like the Saints game, we're getting down there, we're getting ready to score and Adam (Thielen) fumbles the ball and he's pretty good with it. I guess stuff happens sometimes."

In vowing to find the root of these issues, Zimmer noted a "lack of awareness" from his team on several plays that he pointed out Monday while also going through various channels to make sure he's still getting through to his players.

"I've asked several players if they're listening to me or not or if they quit listening to me," Zimmer said. "And not just them. I didn't ask them 'do you?' but 'did these guys stop listening to me?' and they said 'no.'"

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Zimmer, Cousins sum up Vikings' shortcomings in loss

Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins break down some of the reasons the Vikings couldn't pull things together to defeat the Bears.

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0:28

Zimmer, Cousins sum up Vikings' shortcomings in loss

Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins break down some of the reasons the Vikings couldn't pull things together to defeat the Bears.

Zimmer also defender the play of Cousins, who posted his worst quarterback rating of the season (76.5) against the Bears and averaged 5.7 yards per pass on a night where he threw two interceptions. Zimmer noted that Cousins' first interception at the end of the second quarter was the byproduct of a "miscommunication" between the quarterback and the intended receiver Kyle Rudolph. Zimmer labeled Cousins' fourth quarter pick-6 as a "misread."

In 10 games, Cousins has thrown 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In each of the last three seasons, Cousins has thrown a pair of pick-6s (against the Saints and Bears in 2018) -- the longest active streak in the NFL.

Zimmer offered insight on what might be the contributing factor on those plays.

"I really don't think he is panicking," Zimmer said. "I don't think that is the case at all. I think there are times when he wants to get the ball down the field so he'll wait for guys to get open and instead of taking a sure thing sometimes. Other than the turnovers, I have a hard time faulting him. This kid is tough, he plays outstanding. He works his rear end off. He is a great team guy. We just need to and quite honestly, not all of them are on him. Guys are in the wrong spot sometimes, too. That is not just our team, that is every team. I think all of those things combined make it a little bit more difficult."

Cousins was pressured on 17 of his drop backs, the most of any team in Week 11 according to Pro Football Focus. Zimmer, however, did not believe the amount of pressure Cousins faced played too large of a role in contributing to his passes being picked off.

"I saw that watching the tape, there was a lot of clean pockets in there," he said. "A lot of clean pockets. Sometimes we hit things and sometimes we don't. I'd have to think back on the two interceptions if they were pressured or not. I'm not sure I know what pressure is according to whoever is deciding it."

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