Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t shy about how he felt his offense performed in the season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We can truthfully say we didn’t play very good on offense and we still scored 24 points,” Zimmer said in attempt to find a silver lining in the disappointing, 27-24 overtime loss. “If we eliminate some of these penalties that we had, and we do a little bit better job with some of the protections that we have, then I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
The upcoming matchup with the Arizona Cardinals should be a good barometer. As much as the Vikings struggled on offense in last Sunday’s game against 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 has been figuring out a way to stop elite pass rusher in Chandler Jones. He had five sacks last week in a dominant win over the Tennessee Titans.
“He’s just a really good player,” Zimmer said. “He will be a good test for us.”
If the Vikings want to compete this weekend, the offensive line is going to have to be a lot better. It struggled mightily against the Bengals last week, with every member of the offensive line but right tackle Brian O’Neill getting called for a holding penalty.
Just as concerning for Zimmer was the communication between quarterback Kirk Cousins and center Garrett Bradbury. As Zimmer put it, “There was a couple times we didn’t communicate it well and we end up blocking the wrong guy.”
That’s something the Vikings have to clean up because the Cardinals likely will move players around in an effort to create some confusion.
Asked about the penalties, O’Neill said it’s been a focal point in practice this week. He noted how the coaching staff has jacked up the crowd noise in practices to try to combat the false starts, and offensive line coach Phil Rauscher has hammered home proper technique in an effort to reduce the holding calls.
The players also have taken it upon themselves to be better.
“If you kind of put it on yourself, you can be like, ‘Listen, I can have tighter hands, I can have better technique, I can work on it Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,’ ” Bradbury said. “That’s the approach we’re taking. We are just going to be better this week than last week.”
In addition to Jones, the Cardinals have veteran defensive end J.J. 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 at every level on Sunday.
“They have got some good athletes,” Cousins said. “They like to have them play in a few different roles and give them different responsibilities.”
As for the offensive line, specifically, Bradbury emphasized 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 it’s just right back to it. There’s a lot of football to be played on offense. The guys understand the deal. It’s Week 1. We didn’t have the outcome we wanted. Now it’s Week 2. We have another opportunity to earn a win.”