Minnesota Vikings must stay with their game vs. Packers


The Minnesota Vikings don’t need t-shirt gimmicks to beat the Packers, they just need to stay disciplined and play their game.

Mike Zimmer knows exactly what the Vikings must do in order to beat the Packers. And this time he isn’t goofing it up.

Last time the two teams met, the Vikings handed out t-shirts before the game saying “Beat Green Bay.” A strange move for a team that was supposedly not about gimmicks after hiring the most no-nonsense coach in the league.

I don’t need to remind you what happened: The Packers went on to humble the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium by a 30-13 score.

No surprise but this week Zimmer told the media he would not be handing out t-shirts. But he would be showing the team lots of video of their Nov. 22 loss at the hands of the Packers.

With his “no t-shirt” reveal, Zimmer basically admitted that he went about it all wrong the first time around.

No amateur-hour motivational ploys this week, just detail-oriented work. One wonders why Zimmer let himself and his team get out of their business-like mind-set before the first Packer game.

Why get away from the tried-and-true (if boring) “one game at a time” mentality and put extra meaning into one particular contest?

The Vikings treated that week’s game like it was different, and frankly they played like a different team.

The Vikings before that week were the NFL’s least-penalized team. During that game, they committed an inordinate number of bad penalties.

The most destructive penalty of all was Terence Newman’s interference call against Jeff Janis, but there was also Linval Joseph’s roughing penalty against Aaron Rodgers.

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Zimmer’s Vikings have been by-and-large a sound team when it comes to the fundamentals of defense, staying at home, tackling well and playing solid coverage.

Against the Packers in November the Vikings missed four tackles on Eddie Lacy, and Lacy had his best game of the year. They lost contain on Aaron Rodgers, letting him get outside the pocket and make key plays. Rodgers’ overall stats weren’t great but he was able to make enough such plays to get the win.

There were coverage breakdowns, most notably the one by Xavier Rhodes on a scramble drill that let James Jones get open for a big gain. All teams will have occasional breakdowns but that week the Vikings had a lot. And this is a team that doesn’t have a lot of breakdowns.

The two other times this year when the Vikings let themselves get that much out of their game? The opener against San Francisco and the debacle against Seattle.

The Vikings clearly were too jacked up for the opener against the 49ers and completely lost their composure. Ditto against Seattle.

Mike Zimmer would likely admit, if you asked him point-blank, that his t-shirt ploy ahead of the Green Bay game probably contributed to his team being too jacked up when they took the field that particular week.

Zimmer doesn’t want his team jacked up, he wants his team focused and business-like. And that’s why he ditched the gimmicks.

Next: Linval Joseph probably won't play vs. Packers

There is no question in my mind that if the Vikings keep their composure Sunday night and play their game, they can and will beat the Packers.

If they let themselves get out of their game again like they did in their three truly bad losses of the season, they will get embarrassed.

A coach who emphasizes discipline and has his team buying into that philosophy doesn’t need dumb gimmicks to get a better effort out of his men. Mike Zimmer is still learning too.