Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was not shy about how he perceived his offense performance in their opening loss of the season to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We can truthfully say we didn’t play very well on offense and we still scored 24 points,” Zimmer said in an attempt to find the silver lining in the disappointing, 27-24 overtime loss. “If we eliminate some of these penalties, and we do a little better with some of the protections, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
The upcoming matchup with the Arizona Cardinals should be a good barometer. As aggressive as the Vikings did in last Sunday’s game against the Bengals – most notably the offensive line – it’s going to be a different beast in this Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.
A big focus for the Vikings this week is finding a way to stop the elite pass rusher in Chandler Jones. He had five sacks in a major win over the Tennessee Titans last week.
“He’s just a really good player,” Zimmer said. “That would be a good test for us.”
If the Vikings are to compete this weekend, the offensive line will have to do much better. It fought hard against the Bengals last week, with every member of the offensive line, but Brian O’Neill was called for a penalty for the right catch.
As was communication between quarterback Kirk Cousins and center Garrett Bradbury for Zimmer. As Zimmer put it, “Many times we don’t communicate it well and we end up blocking the wrong guy.”
This is something the Vikings will have to clean up as the Cardinals will probably move players around in an attempt to create some confusion.
Asked about the penalty, O’Neill said it has been a focal point in practice this week. He described how the coaching staff amplified the noise of the crowd in practice to counter false starts, and offensive line coach Phil Rauscher used home proper technique in an attempt to minimize holding calls.
The players have also taken it upon themselves to get better.
“If you put it on yourself, you can be like, ‘Listen, my hands may be tighter, I may have better technique, I can work on this Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,'” Bradbury said. “That’s the approach we’re taking. We’re going to be better this week than we were last week.”
In addition to Jones, the Cardinals have experienced defensive end JJ Watt up front, as well as versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons and star safety Budda Baker. In other words, the Vikings are going to have their hands full on every level on Sunday.
“They have some good athletes,” Cousins said. “They like to play them a few different roles and give them different responsibilities.”
As for the offensive line, in particular, Bradbury emphasized that the group is looking forward to moving on from a tough game.
“It’s not where we want it to be,” he said. “We know what to work on and that’s okay now. There’s a lot of football to play on offense. People understand the deal. It’s the first week. We didn’t have the result we wanted. Now it It’s week 2. We have one more chance to win.”