Mike Zimmer pins blame for Vikings' stagnant run game on 'lack of consistency'

EAGAN, Minn. -- A day after Mike Zimmer was dismayed with parts of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive game plan during a 24-10 loss to the New England Patriots, the Minnesota coach cited a "lack of consistency" as to why the run game faltered on Sunday night.

The Vikings ran the ball 13 times and averaged 7.3 yards per rush. Playing in his fourth straight game after a hamstring injury sidelined him throughout September and October, Dalvin Cook tallied nine rushes for 84 yards, at one point averaging near 10 yards per carry.

But the Vikings elected to abandon the run, in Zimmer's mind, at a critical time. After Minnesota's first drive in the third quarter resulted in a 39-yard field goal to tie the game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady orchestrated a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in 1:45 to take a 17-10 lead.

Zimmer believes that the offense trying to keep pace with the Patriots on the Vikings' ensuing drive might be why they strayed from a run game that had been generating effective gains up until that point.

"It might have," Zimmer said. "I think it was 17-10 at that time, right? Yes, we might have panicked a little bit."

The Vikings quickly went three-and-out on a drive in which Cook was not utilized in the run or pass game. The Patriots got the ball back and went up another score on their next drive.

Although Cook said on Monday that he wasn't concerned about his number of carries tapering off in the second half, the running back could not put his finger on why the Vikings chose to not stick with the run.

"I don't know. That's something that I can't answer," Cook said. "It's not about just sticking with the running game. We've got a lot of guys that can make plays on the offense.

"It's a bunch of guys on offense that can make plays and do a lot of things, so the ball has to be spread around. As far as the playcalling, I don't know. (Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) Flip calls a great game to me."

Zimmer has critiqued areas of the Vikings' offense in recent weeks. Following a loss to the Bears in Week 11, Zimmer said the Vikings might have too much volume in their playbook and that focusing on installing fewer new plays and "not trying to trick the other team quite so much" was the best approach to simplifying what they want to do offensively.

The head coach has also voiced concern publicly about the offense's lack of balance and not sticking with a consistent ground game. Only 12 times this season have the Vikings had runs of 15 yards or more. Minnesota's run game ranks 30th, with 86.1 yards per game.

Asked about any perceived tension between himself and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Zimmer voiced support for his playcaller. Zimmer said he's always involved with the offensive game plan and is in constant communication with DeFilippo on the Vikings' approach.

"I think he's doing a good job," Zimmer said of DeFilippo. "We talk all the time. We talk about things what I think are important, and I think he tries to do those."

At the end of his Monday news conference, Zimmer was asked to further explain why he felt his team grew panicked when the Patriots took the lead. The Vikings coach changed his tune on what he said previously and offered a different explanation as to why the game got out of reach.

"No, I don't think there's panic," he said. "I think when they went up 17-10, it was still a seven point game. There's still almost a quarter left, and I think maybe instead of continuing to do what we've been doing to get us back in the ballgame, we might have tried to do too much, probably, in a lot of spaces."