In a league that judges teams and players by what they’ve done lately and where they stand now, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer feels pretty good about his team.
At least for now.
After a shaky start, the Vikings have put together solid performances in back-to-back wins over the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles to give them a 4-2 won-loss record going into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
The Lions will be facing a balanced team with playmakers on both sides of the ball.
The Vikings’ defense ranks fifth in yards allowed per game (310.3). The offense has scored 66 points in the last two games while rolling up 490 yards against the Giants and 447 against the Eagles.
“I’m staring at a really good Minnesota football team,” said Lions head coach Matt Patricia. “I’m staring at a team that has a lot of talented football players.
“That team is on fire right now. They’re getting ready to come down here and play a great game.”
Meet this week's opponents, the Minnesota Vikings.
All things considered, Zimmer should feel pretty good about his team and its chances to make a run to a third playoff appearance in his six seasons as head coach.
“I feel good about the last two weeks,” Zimmer said in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media. “In this league, every week is a new week. We have to continue to play the way we’re playing.”
Zimmer quickly shifted into words of caution.
“We still have a lot of mistakes that we need to clean up,” he said. “We had too many penalties in both of the last two games. We fumbled the ball in the last two games.
“Detroit is always a tough place to play. It’s always a team in our division that’s always a fight when we play them, and they are really good on both sides of the ball.”
The turnaround in quarterback Kirk Cousins’ play the last two games, a moment when they reversed the momentum in Sunday’s win over the Eagles, and their defensive pressure are encouraging signs for the Vikings.
Captain Kirk: Cousins is the trigger man on an offense stocked with playmakers – wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook. But he’s often been criticized for misfiring in key situations.
The critics were at high volume when he struggled in the first four games, throwing three TD passes against two interceptions. Cousins rebounded with two TD passes against the Giants, four against the Eagles and one interception against the Eagles. He had passer ratings of 138.6 against the Giants and 138.4 against the Eagles.
Cousins didn’t have to shut out the noise because he doesn’t pay attention to it, Zimmer said.
“The best thing was, he started playing good,” Zimmer said. “He really doesn’t stay in touch with the media all that much as far as what they’re saying, or the fans or anything like that. I think he understands he has a chance to have a good football team around him.
“If he just plays like he’s capable of playing, we have a chance to be good.”
Stopper: The Vikings dug in and took control after the Eagles made a comeback last week by putting the brakes on Philly’s offense and stepping on the accelerator on their own offense.
It was a strong response after the Eagles had cut Minnesota’s lead to 24-20 with a touchdown and field goal on consecutive possessions in the third quarter.
The Vikings put together two long TD drives – 75 yards in nine plays, and 88 yards in eight plays – that ended in an 11-yard pass to Diggs and a one-yard run by Cook.
“That was a key moment in the game,” Cousins told reporters after the game. “I could feel the momentum slipping. Momentum is a big thing in football. You forget about that. It could have gone either way.”
Vikings’ D, hit squad: The ability to get pressure on the quarterback and control the line of scrimmage has been the foundation of the Vikings’ defense under Zimmer, and this season is no exception.
Danielle Hunter, who’s coming off a career high 14.5 sacks a year ago and his first Pro Bowl berth, has led the rush with six of the team’s 17 sacks.