EDEN PRAIRE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer went from leading a “Skol” chant in his news conference following the Minnesota Vikings’ thrilling win over the New Orleans Saints to describing the laundry list of things he didn’t like from Minnesota’s performance less than 24 hours later.
There was Case Keenum’s third-quarter interception, Ryan Quigley’s blocked punt that gave the Saints a short field on their ensuing drive, a third-down sack that knocked the Vikings out of field goal range and defensive errors in the red zone that allowed New Orleans to convert on 75 percent of its attempts.
Minutes after listing those, Zimmer realized he had forgotten another blunder: Minnesota allowed Drew Brees to convert on fourth-and-10 with 45 seconds remaining and hit Willie Snead for a 13-yard gain. A stop there could have won the game.
“I told them basically the same thing; we can’t make these mistakes in playoff games or we’ll be going home,” Zimmer said. “There’s always good and always bad in some of the games, but we made some critical errors in that game that could have gotten us beat.”
Zimmer provided all the proof needed to show the Vikings have already moved past Keenum’s 61-yard miracle throw to Stefon Diggs that will long be the talk of this team. Being one win away from a trip to the Super Bowl, it wasn’t difficult to abide by the 24-hour rule and get back to work.
“After something like that, only thing you can do is believe it’s destined for us to go far and be in the NFC championship playing for that game and giving it all we have and hopefully coming out on top,” Xavier Rhodes said.
By the time players had arrived at the facility to go over corrections from the game film, they had seen the Minneapolis Miracle hundreds of times. Zimmer had rewatched it countless times, too, but made it a point to watch that play with his defense, picking apart what went wrong for the Saints so it doesn’t happen to them.
“They’re a pretty resilient bunch,” Zimmer said. “They’re pretty determined in what they’re always trying to get done. They’re always trying to get better. They’re a good group of guys that work really hard.”
Minnesota has shifted its focus to Philadelphia, the league’s top rushing defense (79.2 yards per game) that also ranks fourth in points (18.4) and yards allowed per game (306.5). The matchup pits strength against strength, which was the case the last time these two teams played.
The Eagles beat the Vikings 21-10 in 2016, a game in which Sam Bradford was sacked six times behind a struggling offensive line. Minnesota entered that game as the top defense in the NFL and held then-rookie Carson Wentz to 138 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. Each defense accounted for four turnovers, but the Eagles came away with the edge after the Vikings fumbled three times.
As Zimmer begins to dive into the Eagles’ defensive scheme in the early part of the week, he’ll continue to preach the message of moving forward as he’ll inevitably be asked about the play that defined the season for the Vikings during the NFC championship news conference Wednesday. The emotional high from the win over the Saints isn’t something he’s aiming to use as momentum to ride into the Eagles game.
“I think like everything, that one is done and gone with, and we’re moving on to Philadelphia now,” he said.