GREEN BAY—The last time the Vikings faced the Packers, they left Lambeau Field with a 42-10 lambasting. Since then, the Vikings have won two, lost three and have begun laying the foundation for their future.
"We went up to Buffalo and lost in the last second there. Then we won two games in a row and then we didn't play good enough against Chicago last week to win. We're still a young football team. I think in some ways we're improving offensively. Defensively we've improved, I believe, since that time," first-year head coach Mike Zimmer said.
At 4-6, the young Vikings and their rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, have an opportunity this week to avenge that lopsided loss in Green Bay in October by scoring an upset win this Sunday that would reverberate within the NFC playoff picture, and cap the rebuilding Vikings' season.
Every win's kind of defining for us right now. We're just playing one week at a time and trying to get going, but we understand the Packers are a tremendous football team. We understand they've had great tradition and history. They've been a great rivalry here. I wouldn't want to put defining on any victory unless it was the last one of the year. I think this would be a boost to our young guys, but we have to play a lot better than we did that Thursday night," Zimmer said, referring to the earlier loss to the Packers.
The Vikings are playing their home games this year outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium, as their new domed stadium is being built.
"It's been fine. Obviously, it's getting colder now, so we'll find out as we get going throughout the year, but the fans have been great. The atmosphere has been good. It really is a great stadium," Zimmer said.
Zimmer is a former defensive coordinator who is building the Vikings on the strength of defense and the promise of a franchise quarterback. Despite the lopsided loss against the Packers, the Vikings are No. 12 in overall defense, No. 8 against the pass, which is important to note since pass-offense is the Packers' calling card.
Is Bridgewater the guy?
"I think he's improving every day. We see in practice every day his understanding of the offense, the way he's reading defenses and the way he's performing. The big thing is he's taking good care of the football. He needs to take the next step as far as continually making plays with the ball, kind of like Rodgers does. We're pleased with his progress at this point. He's a great kid. He's a hard worker. He's got a lot of really good intangibles," Zimmer said of the rookie first-round pick.
Bridgewater missed the earlier meeting between the Packers and Vikings due to injury, but is expected to be under center this Sunday in a game of critical importance to the Packers' division-title hopes. To date, Bridgewater has thrown for 1,479 yards, four touchdowns, six interceptions and a 75.0 passer rating. He is experiencing as-expected rookie growing pains.
"I think Teddy's going to continue to get better each and every week. I'm not a fortune teller. I just go by what I see and every day in practice this guy wows me. He's going to continue to get bigger, stronger, a better knowledge of all the NFL defenses. That's what he is; he's a worker. Any deficiency he has, he works extremely hard at it. We're hopeful to that extent and I know Teddy is too," Zimmer said.
The Vikings' opponent?
"He's amazing. He's a surgeon. I've always had the utmost respect for him because he can do everything. He can run. He sees things. You've heard all these superlatives every week, I'm sure," Zimmer said of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who's leading the NFL by a wide margin with a 120.1 passer rating.
"They're so good at everything they do offensively. I'm really impressed with their offensive line. I think they're good. They're physical, they're tough. (Eddie) Lacy is a powerful, strong runner. Rodgers makes it all go. He looks like he's out there playing against a bunch of young kids."
Though relatively speaking the Vikings are kids, they don't play like it on defense.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - NOV. 19