The losses keep coming and the pressure is growing for the Minnesota Vikings.
You can see it on kicker Blair Walsh, who missed his fourth extra point of the season in a 26-20 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
You can see it in the desperate defense, the unit that carried the Vikings to a 5-0 start on the strength of dynamic playmaking, a relentless pass rush and a group that turned turnovers into touchdowns.
And you can see it in a decimated offensive line that lost its fourth tackle of the season when Jake Long tore his Achilles tendon against the Redskins, leaving them with few options going forward.
”This team is used to winning. So, they don’t like it,” Zimmer said of his team’s four-game losing skid. ”They’re frustrated by it. I’m frustrated by it, but the bottom line is we need to win football games. The best way to do that is do what we normally do, prepare, win the crucial situations of the game, study, work hard in practice, play hard in the games and execute.”
Finding answers to what ails the Vikings does not figure to be easy.
Zimmer again was noncommittal on Walsh’s future with the team. The Vikings brought six kickers in last week to work out, but ultimately decided to stick with the incumbent. But he leads the league in missed extra points and the issues appear to have rattled him. Walsh was at team headquarters on Monday working out, but Zimmer said he planned to speak to GM Rick Spielman later in the day about it.
”We’re going to see what all the options are,” Zimmer said. ”We’re going to see what the options are at tackle. We’re going to see what the options are at kicker, and then make a determination and go.”
Long joined Matt Kalil, Andre Smith and Phil Loadholt as offensive tackles to suffer season-ending injuries. Left guard Alex Boone talked about making the move to left tackle to try to fill in the gap, but Zimmer declined to discuss that specific option on Monday.
To make matters worse, the defense has not been the elite unit that it was at the start of the season. Opponents are getting rid of the ball quicker to neutralize the pass rush, injuries to Captain Munnerlyn and Eric Kendricks have weakened them and a group that did not allow more than 16 points in a game during the 5-0 start has given up 89 points in the last four weeks.
”We’re trying to press, trying to make these plays,” cornerback Terence Newman said. ”We’re not just letting them come to us. We’re not technically sound. We’re kind of guessing here and there and it’s not helping us.”
Munnerlyn missed the Redskins game with a sprained ankle. He said Monday that he is hopeful he will return on Sunday at home against Arizona, but it was too early to tell. Even watching on his television at home, he said he could see his defensive teammates trying too hard to make big plays to swing the momentum.
”The fire’s been lit, to be honest with you,” Munnerlyn said. ”We just don’t know how to put the fire out right now. … We’ve got to put this fire out and start back winning football games around here.”
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