NFL AM: Vikings Defense Shuts Down New York


Mike Zimmer Has A Winning Formula

Tell me if you’ve seen this before: A stifling defense surrounded by just enough running game and a quarterback that isn’t elite, but makes just enough plays in the passing game to keep the chains moving?

It’s not the 2015 Denver Broncos or the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, it’s the 2016 Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have a “no-name” type of defense with 11 really good players on the field at any given time.  Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith should be stars of the highest caliber, although they remain with a certain amount of obscurity, mainly because they play next to Canada.

The mastermind behind this defense is Mike Zimmer, who has fielded dominant units during his time as the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

“I’m kind of preaching turnovers more this year,” Zimmer said during training camp, per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, “because I think that can help us get to somewhere else.”

“That’s something we have to work on as far as getting the ball back to our offense and giving them more opportunities,” said defensive end Brian Robison, who has two sacks and is one of six Vikings who have forced a fumble this season. “So that’s something that’s going to be a big key for us this year.”

Minnesota leads the NFL with 11 takeaways this season and a +10 turnover margin.

Some of that credit has to go to quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t looked like a future Hall of Famer, but he’s avoided the crippling mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career, almost as much as injuries have.

“He can throw the ball,” Zimmer said of the former No. 1 overall pick. “He’s got some toughness about him. This isn’t his first rodeo.”

On Monday night, playing in the brand new palace of U.S. Bank Field that the Vikings call home, Minnesota executed their plan to perfection as the New York Giants with potential future Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning and superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. were frustrated all night long.

“That’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve probably ever played in,” Bradford said. “A lot of people talk about Seattle being loud, but this building was rocking. Our fans were tremendous.”

Even Beckham was impressed by the atmosphere.

“This is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place,” Beckham said. “The atmosphere they created, I love it. You live for it, you thrive in it, and tonight we didn’t have that opportunity.”

Eli Manning had by far his worst start of the year as he went just 25 of 45, for 261 yards with an interception.  The pick was the 15th of his career against the Vikings against just five touchdown passes.  In his eight starts against Minnesota he has just a 2-6 record.

Beckham was held to his worst game as a pro as he caught just three passes on nine targets for 23 yards.

It’s time to start talking about Xavier Rhodes as a shutdown corner, because he shut down one of the game’s brightest stars.  In fact, Rhodes had just two fewer receptions and more yards than Beckham as his third quarter interception was returned 29 yards.

If Bradford can keep being careful with the football, the Vikings will be a tough out all season and postseason long.

Is The Book Out On OBJ?

When then Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman pressed up and got physical with New York Giants superstar Odell Beckham, Jr., the league and everyone who was watching took notice.  If you recall, Beckham went after Norman on multiple occasions, taking cheap shot after cheap shot.  His head was no longer in the game in the Giants loss.

A few weeks before that in the preseason, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Davon House played a physical brand of football with Beckham and he once again lost his cool on the sideline and was taken out of the game.

The Minnesota Vikings noticed this trend and superstar-in-the-making cornerback Xavier Rhodes gave shot after shot to Beckham, causing him to fire off and get a penalty, ultimately losing his concentration yet again.

“Nobody on another team bothers, upsets me,” the Giants’ superstar receiver told reporters with a straight face Monday night.

“It’s all within us. I only get upset with us, my team, myself. It has nothing to do with anybody else, period. There’s no ‘getting in your head’ or any of that other stuff. That’s all talk to create distraction, which doesn’t really work.”

Beckham’s words say one thing, but the actions say quite another.

Three catches for 23 yards are numbers from a backup tight end or No. 4 receiver.  Not one of the most talented guys in the business.

“I’m not the one who puts a camera in my face,” Beckham said. “I don’t think many teammates knew about what happened last week, and then it all gets blown up. We live in an era of social media, so it is what it is.

“When you’re at the top of your game, they’re going to try to knock you off, and that’s just the case.”

Rhodes tried to knock him off and succeeded.  This is becoming a trend with the ultra talented receiver who can’t seem to control his emotions.  Making the problem worse is that the officials are looking to control the game and OBJ now has the reputation of a “hot-head.”

“I have to know the scenario,” Beckham said. “The refs are looking to call anything, and they’re not looking to call anything the other way. So, you have to know that. You have to be OK with it.”

Beckham’s penalty last night wouldn’t have been called on most receivers in the same position.  But when he reacts the way he does it only perpetuates the problem.  Until he changes up and controls his emotions every cornerback is going to be in his pocket, bumping and pushing him after the whistle.

The only person that can change it is Beckham.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.