Vikings' Xavier Rhodes apologizes to Mike Zimmer for heated exchange

EAGAN, Minn. -- Xavier Rhodes apologized Wednesday for his sideline outburst in Seattle that took place after the Vikings cornerback gave up a 60-yard touchdown in Minnesota's 37-30 loss on Monday night.

Rhodes was burned in coverage on David Moore's third-quarter score, which allowed the Seahawks to build a 10-point lead. Upon returning to Minnesota's sideline, the cornerback got in a heated exchange with coach Mike Zimmer and slammed his helmet to the turf two times. Television cameras also captured Rhodes brushing off linebacker Anthony Barr after the teammates were spotted talking minutes after the play.

"That's not the way I should carry myself, especially as a leader on this team," Rhodes said. "I apologize definitely to Coach Zim, and the things he's taught me -- I should never react that way toward him or toward my team, period. I know my role, I need to play it better. I need to play better out on that field, eliminate the penalties and just do well. There's a lot more football going on right now. We still have a great chance of making it to the playoffs and still have a chance to win our division. Right now I'm looking forward to doing that, helping my team day-to-day, minimize the penalties I have that's going on each and every week and bettering myself.

"I'm just at a place right now where I feel like I can do better and I can help my team out much more. We can be in better situations and make the game a lot easier on my team rather than me hurting us in the middle of the game. One play particularly, it was my fault on the play, the touchdown, and that's how I'm going to leave it, not get into any details about that. It was 100% my fault, no one else. I was supposed to be at a certain spot at a certain time, and I wasn't there. Like I said, I'm a leader on this team, I've been a leader for a while, and I need to do better and play my role a lot better than I've been playing lately."

Zimmer called the catalyst for Moore's touchdown "a busted coverage" and declined to discuss particular defensive assignments. Prior to the snap, safety Harrison Smith played up at the line of scrimmage before dropping back to cover running back Rashaad Penny. Rhodes, isolated one-on-one with Moore outside, took off after the receiver, who cut inside 10 yards into his route and sped by the cornerback. As Moore crossed into the end zone, Rhodes outstretched his arms as if expressing confusion over safety help he expected to be there.

While the cornerback would not divulge what he thought was supposed to happen on the play, accepting full responsibility for the breakdown, Rhodes noted that his frustrations that poured onto the sideline stem from a season filled with ups and downs.

"Honestly, I just can't say it's just been that play," Rhodes said. "It's just been what's been going on this year. I've been battling some things, but that's no excuse. It's no excuse. When I'm out there on that field, everything I'm battling has to go away. I have to go out there and play for the guy beside me because I know if I mess up like I messed up on that one play, that's what it's going to lead up to. I've been in this league for a while, seven years, and I should know that. It shouldn't come to the point where I'm just figuring that out. I know now what I need to work on, what I need to do."

Rhodes' struggles played a sizable factor in Minnesota's Week 13 loss. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson went 5-of-5 for 105 yards and a 60-yard TD when Rhodes was the nearest defender. Including the touchdown to Moore, Rhodes has allowed four completions on six attempts of 30-plus air yards as a nearest defender this season with two touchdowns. From 2016 to '18, he allowed three such completions on 20 attempts and 0 touchdowns.

Rhodes has allowed the NFL's highest completion percentage as a nearest defender this season, and the throws he has been targeted on have yielded a 131.4 quarterback rating, according to Pro Football Focus.

Though Rhodes' struggles have been well-documented, Zimmer's tone toward his cornerback has consistently remained supportive. Despite the numbers saying otherwise about his performance in Seattle, Rhodes received praise from his head coach, who has been adamant that the issues the cornerback is dealing with stems from a need to fix his technique.

"I saw improvement in quite a few areas," Zimmer said. "He had the one, we busted a coverage on the one, but the one curl that they caught we were in zone coverage, and actually he did a nice job on that. But he got beat on a stop-nine [route] one time, I think, and other than that I saw some improvement technically. Really with all the corners, I saw improvement ... in the secondary. We got to continue to get better in that area, but there was improvement and something to build on."

Penalties have been a source of frustration for the 29-year-old corner. Rhodes' eight penalties (including four flags for defensive pass interference) are tied for the most among all corners, and his 139 penalty yards leads all NFL defensive backs.

Rhodes says he feels physically capable of playing the position despite injuries that have piled up over the past few seasons. And during this stretch of play that pales in comparison to his "Rhodes Closed" years, the cornerback has not shied away from owning his on-field issues and voicing a need to play better.

"It's a hard season," Rhodes said. "Y'all ask me time after time, 'Hey Xavier, how do you think you played this week?' Y'all know. It's just that. Me being the guy that I am, each and every day working on my craft and not getting the results I want, of course you're going to be down on yourself. You ask any player that puts so much work and time into their craft, that's how they're going to feel. Like I said, I tell my guys each and every guy, I'm never going to give up. I'm always a fighter, and that day is going to turn, that switch is going to flip, and when it does, it's over. I'm just waiting on that moment."