Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talks fixing penalties, facing Arizona

Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  ((Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings have watched the tape from a season-opening 27-24 loss in overtime at the Cincinnati Bengals, and have no choice to move on as preparation starts for the Arizona Cardinals.

There’s nothing that will irk a head coach more in a loss than penalties, and there’s plenty to fix from Sunday. The Vikings committed 14 penalties, 12 that were enforced and 10 by the offense in the first half alone. Four of them came on the first drive.

In total, the Vikings had six false starts and four holding calls. The defense also jumped offside at least once, and Bashaud Breeland got called for a 26-yard pass interference call. The Vikings finished with 116 yards in penalties, and Mike Zimmer was not happy. So what can he do this week in practice to fix them?

"I can run them. If they jump offsides I can run them. I’ve done that before, it wouldn’t surprise me to do it again. We start doing them, I get mad," Zimmer said. "The last person on the team I’d guess to flinch would be C.J. Ham on the first play of the game."


If the penalties weren’t enough of a problem, running the ball and keeping Kirk Cousins upright against the Bengals compounded matters. Dalvin Cook had 20 carries for just 61 yards, and often ran against at least eight defenders in the box.

Cousins was sacked three times, and took at least eight hits. This week, the offensive line gets tested by Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. Jones had five sacks in the Cardinals’ 38-13 win over Tennessee. Watt added a sack and a tackle for loss. Arizona’s defense limited Derrick Henry, who led the NFL in rushing, to 17 carries for 58 yards.

After last week’s struggles, the Vikings will have their hands full on Sunday.

"If we eliminate some of these penalties that we had and we do a little bit better job in some of the protections that we had, then I think we have a chance to be pretty good," Zimmer said.


After getting five sacks on Joe Burrow last week, the Vikings’ defense will be tasked Sunday with containing Kyler Murray. That’s easier said than done.

Murray finished 21-of-32 passing for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 20 yards and a score, and is just as dangerous with his feet as he is his arm. Zimmer said Wednesday it’s unrealistic to think he’ll be limited to just as a passer on Sunday.

"Saying that we’re going to keep him in the pocket all day is not realistic. If he gets out of the pocket, we’ve got to do a great job of locking onto receivers. I can say we’re going to keep him in the pocket all day, but I don’t think that’s truly going to happen," Zimmer said. "We’ve got to defend 53 1/3 yards."

"Watching the tape, it looks like a video game," Vikings Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said.


Zimmer didn’t offer much insight Wednesday on when linebacker Anthony Barr will make his 2021 Vikings’ debut. Barr was ruled out at Cincinnati after not practicing last Thursday and Friday. He’s dealing with a knee injury, and has not practiced fully since Aug. 5.

Barr was not on the field Wednesday’ during the team’s portion of practice open to media at TCO Performance Center.

"I don’t know, we’ll see how he is. I talked to him a little bit today. He’s feeling better than he did yesterday, so we’ll just have to see where he’s at," Zimmer said.

Christian Darrisaw was on the field at practice Wednesday, a sign that could be getting closer to seeing the field soon. Defensive back Harrison Hand went through stretching, but was not wearing pads.

With the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions looming, Sunday’s game is suddenly big to avoid a slow start, after going 0-3 last season.

"Every game is a big game. It’s Week 1, no sense in panic coming from us. We have 16 more tries to do this thing. All that matters is the guys in the locker room and how we attack things from now on," running back Dalvin Cook said.