MINNEAPOLIS — Back at training camp, when the Minnesota Vikings rebuilt their defenses, Mike Zimmer didn’t expect his old team to fall that low, despite the many new faces he saw around him.
I’ve never had a bad defense – never, said the Viking coach in August. So I don’t expect that to change.
Ups and downs due to injury, youth and other circumstances stumbled the Vikings on their pedestal in 2020, but a 52-33 defeat for the New Orleans Saints on Christmas Day eventually forced Zimmer to change his mind.
Yeah, it’s a bad defense, Zimmer said after the game. Worst thing I’ve ever had.
The 52 points, including six Saints touchdowns behind Alvin Kamara, are the highest the Vikings have allowed since they awarded 56 points to the St. Louis Cardinals in October 1963, two years after the introduction of the franchise.
Very disappointed in the defense, Zimmer said. It takes hard work to give up 52.
By week 16, the Vikings had a four percent chance to qualify for the post-season, winning their last two games against New Orleans and Detroit, while Arizona lost their last two games and Chicago lost one of their last games. A loss to the saints eliminates Minnesota from the post-season race and assures the Vikings (6-9) to end the year with a loss.
New Orleans missed three of its top four recipients on Friday and the Saints counted on the return of Kamara, who posted career records in rushing attempts (22), fast yards (155) and touchdowns (6). Taysom Hill also ran for a short touchdown, scoring the Saints a franchise record of seven rushes.
According to NFL Next Gen statistics, Kamara scored on all five of his shots when he faced eight or more defenders in the box. When the Vikings had seven defenders or less in the box, Kamara averaged 7.8 yards per rush, the third highest by a player with at least 15 rushes this season.
The vote was a problem for a defense with three defenders (Eric Kendricks, Todd Davis and Troy Dye). In his four previous encounters with the Vikings, Kamara had never walked more than 45 metres (3.46 metres per carry over 13 rushes). On Friday, he tripled that number against the All-Pro Kendricks defense and the eternal Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr.
But problems of depth and inexperience were not the catalyst for Minnesota, which, according to Zimmer, allowed 121 meters after contact on pitches and receptions, the most in one game since 2016.
No, I don’t think youth has anything to do with wrestling, Zimmer said. They’ve done pretty well with us, the front boys and the defenders, but we haven’t done well. When we had the chance, we didn’t do so well today. Defensive back comes from the receivers. That was disappointing.
We’re a little late, but they need to play better. It wasn’t so much the six touchdowns, it was the fact that they just put us in the foreground. We couldn’t stop them. That would be an eight-yard gain, a seven-yard gain. First touchdown, I think we got the wrong place with the linebackers. It was one of those days.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Very disappointed in the defense, said Viking coach Mike Zimmer after losing Friday to the Saints (52-33). It takes hard work to give up 52. Chris Greiten/Getty Images
The Vikings also allowed Drew Brees to throw 311 yards in just two games after the quarterback’s return from injury.
Five days earlier, Minnesota had lost 199 yards to David Montgomery and the Bears, putting the Vikings in a mandatory winter situation for the rest of the season. Zimmer said he wasn’t expecting a follow-up performance like Friday’s scrimmage, but noted the slight change between his defense performance on weekday 15 and five days later.
I also saw him last week in the last game, the coach said.
While the Vikings have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, their inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks also lies at the base of the NFL. Minnesota has only put one pressure on the races, the least they have done in a game since 2016. The Vikings have generated 23.3% of the turnover this season and are therefore in 30th place.
Minnesota’s defensive history for 2020 includes the massive departure of nine players to free agents, including five regulars, the abandonment of Michael Pierce’s nose approach, end-of-year injuries to players such as Daniel Hunter, Anthony Barr and Mike Hughes, and a handful of rookies and young players who are forced to play important roles they are not ready for.
How can the Vikings make a difference next season, when the 2020 season is over, with the exception of a pointless game in Detroit in week 17?
We have to get Hunter back, we have to get Pierce back, we have to get Barr back, we have to get Kendricks back, the Pro Bowl players, the good players we have, and then we lost another turnover today, Zimmer said. If you come back, and frankly, I won’t apologize, it’s been an unpleasant day. We’re missing four defenders, one security, three corners, so six defenders, I think, from where we started. We’re just a little subhuman. That’s still no excuse. If these guys put on an NFL sweater, they have to play.