National Football League

Truth Be Told...

December 26, 2020

It was the quote heard 'round the Christmas dinner table. 

Before the 2020 season, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer – known throughout his career as a defensive mind – pointed out that defense is indeed his forte.

Said Zimmer back in August, "I've never had a bad defense. Ever."

Dating back to the late 1970s, Zimmer has held only defensive roles in his coaching career, including serving as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys (2000-2006), Atlanta Falcons (2007) and Cincinnati Bengals (2008-2013), before becoming the head coach of the Vikings in 2014. 

But on Saturday, defense was far from what Minnesota hung its hat on. 

The Vikings gave up 52 points in a loss to the New Orleans Saints, and Minnesota allowed Saints star running back Alvin Kamara to find the end zone six times on the ground. 

New Orleans also tallied 583 totals yards, 36 first downs, and averaged 8.0 yards per play. 

Needless to say, after the game, Zimmer was not fond of his team's defensive effort.

"Yeah, this is a bad defense," Zimmer said. "Worst one I've ever had ... Really disappointed defensively. You've gotta work really hard to give up 52 [points]."

The 52 points allowed by Minnesota were not only the most in Zimmer's tenure as head coach, but the most that the franchise has given up since October of 1963.

But is this year's version the Minnesota defense really the worst defense Zimmer has ever had?

The stats say that he's not being hyperbolic. 

This season, the Vikings rank 27th in both yards allowed per game (391.7) and points allowed per game (29.3), a significant drop-off from last season, when Minnesota finished 14th in yards allowed (341.6) and fifth in points allowed (18.9). 

The 2020 Vikings rank as Zimmer's worst defensive unit statistically since he took over in Minnesota, and from a league rankings standpoint, only Zimmer's 2007 Atlanta Falcons defense was worse. 

That Falcons team ranked 29th in both yards allowed per game (355.5) and points allowed per game (25.9), but from a pure numbers point-of-view, this year's Vikings team is worse defensively. 

Something is clearly amiss with the defensive unit in Minnesota this season. In Zimmer's six years at the helm, the Vikings have never finished lower than 11th in the NFL in points allowed per game, and have never finished lower than 14th in yards allowed per game. 

In 2017, the Vikings finished atop the league in both categories, and eight times since the year 2000 has a Zimmer-led defense finished in the top 10 in both statistics. 

Zimmer will have plenty of time to rectify the defensive side of the ball, considering Minnesota was eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and will wrap up its season on Jan. 3 at Detroit. 

Time will tell if Zimmer's defense can return to the glory days of a few short years ago, or if it will continue down the path laid out in 2020, all the way into 2021. 


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