NFL Wire News

Zimmer vows to fix Vikings’ reeling defense


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — In their first 49 seasons, the Minnesota Vikings posted back-to-back double-digit loss seasons only two times. Sunday, they’ll be trying to avoid doing it twice in five years when they face the Chicago Bears in the season finale at TCF Bank Stadium.

If they need an angry head coach to push them through what outsiders would consider a meaningless game that’s better suited for draft positioning, Mike Zimmer will fit quite nicely. The first-year head coach might still be seething about last week’s second-half collapse in a 37-35 loss at Miami.

Blowing an early 14-0 lead and a 17-7 halftime advantage, the Vikings surrendered 30 second-half points, including 28 on four touchdown drives on all four of Miami’s offensive possessions. The other two points came on a blocked punt for the game-winning safety with 41 seconds left.

“Maybe one of the worst defensive performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Zimmer said. “But definitely this year, for sure.”

Zimmer’s defense had overachieved for the most part during the season’s first 14 games. Sure, there were fourth-quarter hiccups in the losses at Buffalo and Detroit. But, overall, the defense ranked 11th in yards allowed and was much more competitive and in control of games than the 31st-ranked unit that Zimmer inherited.

But on Sunday, the Vikings’ defense gave up 493 yards, including three 80-yard touchdown drives in the second half, to tumble four spots to No. 15. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 396 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve given up 400 yards passing,” Zimmer said. “Or if there ever has been one.”

The Dolphins’ 377 net yards passing were the most by a team against a Zimmer defense since the Cincinnati Bengals gave up 385 to the Houston Texans in 2009. Zimmer was in his second season as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator.

“I will get this defense fixed,” Zimmer said. “It may not be this week. It may not be until middle of (next) year. But it will get fixed. You can bet your butt on that.”

At 6-9, he’ll start Sunday against a 5-10 Bears team that could be on the verge of being blown apart from general manager to head coach to an alleged franchise quarterback (Jay Cutler) who was benched a week ago but now has to start only because Jimmy Clausen has a concussion.

That should be good news for a Vikings team that’s 0-5 in the division and lost to the Bears 21-13 in Chicago on Nov. 16. With rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater playing better than he was a month ago, the Vikings’ reeling defense could use a home date with a frustrated quarterback with a league-leading 18 interceptions.

“He was livid,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said of Zimmer’s mindset after breaking down last Sunday’s loss. “In his position, I would be too watching the defense do what we did. That was a disgrace for us as a unit. We got to do better.”

SERIES HISTORY: 106th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 54-50-2. The Vikings lost 21-13 at Soldier Field on Nov. 16 to fall to 0-7 in Chicago since 2007. But they are 33-20 against the Bears in Minnesota. They have won the past two meetings in Minnesota. This will be the second meeting at TCF Bank Stadium. The Bears won the first meeting, 40-14, when the game had to be relocated from the Metrodome after its roof collapsed under a heavy snowfall.

NOTES: RB Henry Josey was signed off the Jaguars’ practice squad to take Ben Tate’s (waived) place on the active roster. The 5-10, 190-pound Josey was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Eagles last spring. … TE Kyle Rudolph, who missed Sunday’s game because of ankle and knee injuries, did not practice on Wednesday. If he doesn’t play Sunday, it will be the second straight year he has missed eight games because of injuries. He missed six games earlier this season because of hernia surgery. … LB Chad Greenway, who left Sunday’s game because of a right knee injury, did not practice on Wednesday. With 115 tackles, Greenway is one behind team leader Harrison Smith. Greenway is tied with former linebacker Scott Studwell with a team-record six consecutive seasons of leading the team in tackles. … LG Charlie Johnson, who missed the past two games because of an ankle injury, returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. … WR Jarius Wright did not practice on Wednesday because of a lower back injury. …LB Brandon Watts, who pulled a hamstring in Sunday’s game, did not practice on Wednesday. … SS Robert Blanton, who returned on Sunday from ankle and knee injuries that had knocked him out of the Lions game the week before, was limited in practice on Wednesday.

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