I’ve repeatedly called Mike Zimmer’s defense aggressive, his coaching style brash, but never has he crossed the line into “dirty” territory. That special place is reserved for coaches like Gregg Williams, whose ties to the Minnesota Vikings trace back to 2009, when his New Orleans Saints defense nearly crippled Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game. It was later revealed that Williams was the architect of the team’s “Bountygate” scandal — a deliberate injure-for-money operation designed to motivate defensive players.
After his year-long suspension following the league’s investigation, Williams spoke on the scandal and his role in the matter. “One of the things was it was on my watch, but there was nothing that hasn’t been done in the last 50 years in the sport and there was nothing done to try to hurt somebody,” he said.
Zimmer would have to disagree, especially after yesterday’s chippy, playoff-like game that saw Rams players repeatedly target Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings’ second-year quarterback was the victim of not one, but two questionable hits late in the game, with the final blow knocking him out for good. You’ve seen the play; Bridgewater scrambles and slides, but Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner launches himself into the quarterback’s head, briefly knocking Bridgewater out. It was clearly a dirty play, and one that left Zimmer furious at the podium:
“Well, we’re a disciplined football team, we do things right. That’s why we are the least penalized team in the league, because we play by the rules, we continue to play by the rules and just because other teams don’t do it doesn’t mean we’re going to do it.”
The game could have easily turned and become ugly after Bridgewater left for the locker room, but Zimmer supressed the fire to keep his team focused. They stuffed the Rams on the first overtime series and rode the legs of Adrian Peterson to a victory. For the second time in as many weeks, Blair Walsh kicked the game-winning field goal to move the Vikings to 6-2 and a share of the NFC North lead.
More than the play of Linval Joseph, Peterson, and Anthony Barr, it was the Vikings’ composure, discipline, and restraint that secured their fourth-straight victory. Despite the Rams’ best efforts to swing the game in their favor, Minnesota followed Mike Zimmer’s calm, collected script to yet another win.