The Minnesota Vikings season has been a disappointment. Head coach Mike Zimmer and his team suffered a 52-33 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Christmas day. That loss included a six-touchdown performance from Alvin Kamara, who ran all over a lackluster Minnesota defense. With that defeat, the Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention.
The Vikings defense has been the sore spot all year, not performing up to expectations. The unit has lacked physicality this season, and that was evident in their matchup against the Saints. Granted this defense is young and growing, but their performance against New Orleans was abysmal. Mike Zimmer didn’t mince words on how he felt about his defensive unit, giving his analysis of their performance all season.
Mike Zimmer provides a harsh analysis of Vikings defense
Not many positive things could be said about the Vikings’ defense after their game against the Saints. The unit allowed New Orleans to have 583 yards of total offense, 36 first downs, and over 36 minutes of possession with the football. Not to mention Kamara had 155 yards rushing and six touchdowns. It was an embarrassing performance for Minnesota, not stopping the Saints’ offense at all.
Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach, so this performance must’ve been to be difficult to witness. Minnesota failed to tackle, allowed yards after contact, and had no answer for Kamara, even when stacking the box. Zimmer has been a part of many defenses, but this 2020 Minnesota defense isn’t close to any previous units. According to him, it is one of his worst.
“Yeah, this is a bad defense. Worst one I’ve ever had,” Zimmer said during the postgame press conference per ESPN. “We’re a little undermanned, but they should play better than that. Really it wasn’t so much the six touchdowns; it’s more that they just mashed us up front. We couldn’t slow them down,” said Zimmer.
Being labeled as the worst he’s ever had isn’t going to sit well with Minnesota’s defensive players. Being able to stop your opponent is something defensive players take pride in. However, how could they refute their coach’s statement? They have been atrocious on defense, which has contributed to the Vikings failing to meet expectations this year.
Minnesota defense has been bad all year under Mike Zimmer
For the entire season, the Vikings’ defense has been awful. They have had to deal with a plethora of injuries, including losing Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, and Mike Hughes to season-ending injuries. The injuries that piled up forced Minnesota to insert young players into their lineup. Those young players, some being rookies, weren’t ready for their increased roles on defense. Their inexperience showed throughout the year, and Minnesota’s defense paid the price.
The Vikings’ run defense has been the worst part of this unit. They allow 134.8 yards a game on the ground, fifth-worst in the NFL per ESPN. Before giving up 155 yards and six touchdowns to Kamara, Minnesota’s defense relinquished 146 rush yards and two scores to David Montgomery of the Bears in Week 15. Their inability to stop the run has allowed teams to take advantage in the passing game too.
This Viking defensive bunch is giving up 256.9 yards through the air a game, eighth-most in the league. That is where the injuries and inexperience hit the hardest for the Vikings. The younger corners and safeties that have been playing lack the physicality needed against receivers in the NFL. There have been several plays where opposing receivers have bullied Minnesota’s secondary. To make matters worse, the Vikings give up 29.3 points a game, fifth-most in the league.
It has been a problematic year defensively for the Vikings. The way they have been playing isn’t the way Mike Zimmer expected them to play. The number of injuries to key defensive players wasn’t expected either. At the end of the day, players have to do their job when called upon, and everyone on Minnesota’s defensive has failed to do their job all season long.
Minnesota’s defense should be the focus of the offseason
Now that they’re out of the playoffs, Minnesota can shift their focus to the offseason and plans for 2021. There are many things that the Vikings have to consider going into the offseason, and the defense has to be the primary area of focus. They can’t afford to have another lousy year defensively, not on Mike Zimmer’s watch.
Their defensive line should be a point of emphasis. Hunter will be back next year, which bolsters their pass rush. Getting another effective rusher opposite of him should be something the Vikings explore. They have failed to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, only bringing pressure on 23.3% of their opponents’ dropbacks. In a division with Aaron Rodgers, that has to change.
The linebackers have their leaders set with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks returning. The key is for both of them to stay healthy. Barr and Kendricks have dealt with injuries in 2020. Their unit is the most effective when both are playing, but adding a third solid backer would be smart for them. The youngsters in the secondary will learn a lot after this year, but adding a veteran presence in 2021 would help mentor them.
The Vikings’ defense has been atrocious all season, and Mike Zimmer just let them how bad they were in his eyes. This could’ve been out of frustration after what has been a challenging year for his squad. After analyzing the stats and their awful loss against the Saints, Zimmer means every word he said.
All stats courtesy of ESPN