MANKATO, Minn. -- For a coach who has referred to himself several times during training camp as being hard to please, Mike Zimmer had relatively few objections to raise about the Minnesota Vikings' performance in their preseason opener on Friday night.
Zimmer said the Vikings' pass rush on defense and pass protection on offense needed to be better, and wasn't happy with the team's defensive backups allowing the Oakland Raiders to score late after the Vikings had built a 10-0 lead. But overall, he said, when he watched film of the game, "it was a little bit like I envision this football team to look like.
"We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ballgame," Zimmer said. "Offensively, we took care of the ball. Both sides of the ball hustled and ran well. We competed and got up in people’s face on defense. We challenged. Their defensive backs were playing man to man. For the most part we threw the ball in the right places. And I think we’re starting to develop a physical mindset with this football team. I like how we practice and I told the team this morning the way we practice is showing up when the lights come and we get ready to go play. We need to continue to practice at the same tempo. We need to continue to improve on the mistakes and we’ve still got a long way to go.”
The coach's call for a better pass rush seems valid from here; the first of the Vikings' two sacks came on a five-man blitz, and the team didn't record another hit on a Raiders quarterback. Zimmer was also upset with the Vikings' pass rush at the end of the game, when the team allowed Matt McGloin to escape the pocket and throw downfield.
"At the end of the ballgame we didn’t rush smart," Zimmer said. "We let the quarterback out of the pocket and had a chance to throw the ball down there. I think he scrambled out one time. We have to know where our rush lanes are. Those are all things about being a smart football [team]. When I talk about being a smart team, that’s part of being a smart football team.”
Zimmer said he should have blitzed rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, adding the Vikings will move Barr around to several different spots in the defense during practice this week. Their success, in part, will be tied to how effectively they can pressure the quarterback with four rushers -- and Zimmer didn't have a reputation as being a heavy blitzer as a defense coordinator -- but Barr's flexibility could add another wrinkle to the pass rush.
"The things I've been talking to him about in practice, he improved in the ballgame," Zimmer said. "He was overrunning a couple plays the last few days in camp, and we coached him up to, 'Hey, you've got to make sure you're taking care of this,' and then shed and be off. He got off of blocks well. In coverage, he was in good shape. He had maybe a couple blitzes; I probably should have rushed him a little bit more early in the ballgame than I did, but he'll get plenty of opportunities."