EAGAN, Minn. -- Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talked openly about his team’s offensive ineptitude following Sunday, Nov. 18’s 25-20 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Without directly calling out first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Zimmer was clear about wanting his team to show more commitment to the running game. The fact that Zimmer is voicing his frustration about his offense at this point in the season is alarming at best and divisive at worst.
“I do think there’s times we need to stick with it a little bit more,” Zimmer said the day after the Vikings ran the ball 14 times for 22 yards against the Bears, who rushed 39 times for 148 yards. “You’ve got to keep at it.”
Perhaps the low total wasn’t a surprise in light of the Bears’ NFL-best rush defense, which is holding opponents to 77.8 yards per game.
Still, Dalvin Cook expressed the same feelings after the game, noting how the Vikings had a game plan going in but quickly abandoned it. He finished with 12 yards on nine carries, while fellow running back Latavius Murray had five yards on four rushes.
“I thought early in the ball game we ran the ball pretty well,” Zimmer said. “Dalvin Cook had about an eight-yard run early and I know Latavius Murray had a nice run.”
Through 10 games, the Vikings (5-4-1) rank second to last in the league with an average of 84.7 rushing yards. They are third to last in total rushes with 211, effectively illustrating how they tend to get away from the run quickly.
The Vikings seem to understand that needs to change moving forward.
“When we play a defense as good as theirs and don’t run the football we become one-dimensional,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “It’s hard to have success like that.”
On six separate occasions Sunday night, the newly signed Ameer Abdullah stood in the end zone hoping to make a play as the Vikings’ kick returner. He watched helplessly as four kickoffs sailed out of his reach, though he made the most of the two times he touched the ball, taking both kickoffs out of the end zone for a combined 57 yards.
“It was good,” said Abdullah, who immediately stepped in as the team’s kickoff returner after being claimed off waivers two weeks ago. “It’s about taking care of the football, hitting it downhill, and doing the best I can under the circumstances I’m given.”
As dynamic returner, Abdullah said the rule change that moved touchbacks up to the 25-yard-line hasn’t impacted his aggressiveness on the field, even if it has produced more touchbacks throughout the league.
“We want to be as effective for the team as possible,” Abdullah said. “None of the personal agendas really matter when it comes to winning the game. We always do what’s best for the team. If we feel like bringing it out is best for the team, then we’re going to do so. If we feel like just letting the ball go through the back of the end zone is better at that point, then we’re going to do so.”
Though Kirk Cousins was under duress for much of Sunday’s game, he was only sacked twice, and Zimmer felt like there were a lot of “clean pockets” for him to work with.
“It’s easy to throw blame on one group when there was a lot of things that happened over the course of the ball game,” Zimmer said. “Our offensive line is fighting their rear ends off, so I’m not going to place blame on them.”
It’s been difficult for the offensive line to find much continuity considering different players have been rotating in and out on a weekly basis because of injuries.
“That’s just kind of the NFL,” left guard Tom Compton said. “It’s different every week. We just have to keep playing together and get more practice reps and hopefully it’ll take off from there. I don’t think there’s anything schematically that we can’t handle. It’s just about working combinations together and communicating and stuff like that.”