MINNEAPOLIS -- In an era when turnovers are viewed as a salve for ineffectual defense in some corners of the NFL, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer doesn't see them that way. The coach has nothing against takeaways -- what defensive coach would? -- but he has refused to consent to his players gambling for them at the expense of good technique.
"It’s just my philosophy, really," Zimmer said. "I know the more turnovers you get, the more opportunities your offense has to score and things like that, but I’ve never wanted to be a team that, 'Hey, I’m going to jump this,' or, 'I’m going to do that.' It’s more because I think you can give up a lot of big plays that way as well, and so I’d rather get them being fundamentally sound. I’m not saying I don’t want to get turnovers."
Enter the Atlanta Falcons, who have committed 16 turnovers in their last six games. The Falcons have lost four of those games, dropping from the ranks of the undefeated to the NFC's last playoff team at the moment. Quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown 10 interceptions this season, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, none of them have come when he's been under pressure. Might this be the weekend the Vikings can take a more hawkish approach to turnovers?
"[Not having more of them is] probably as much my fault as anything," Zimmer said. "We stress fundamentals and those things and I wouldn’t say we’re a gambling football team. But I think throughout my career we’ve been about middle-of-the-pack most of the time. We’ve never been real, real great, but they tend to come in – you get a couple here in this game, you miss a couple games, then you get two or three more. It’s kind of like the Oakland game. We get a couple, then we don’t get anything the next week. We’ve just got to keep working on it, keep stressing it."
Ryan threw a critical interception deep in his own territory last week when Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson dropped into coverage after showing blitz, intercepting a pass Ryan had intended for Jacob Tamme over the middle. If the Vikings can fluster the quarterback with some of their pressure looks, they might be able to create a few of their own opportunities.
"They’ve had some interceptions," Zimmer said. "Typically when you get turnovers, it’s pressure on the quarterback, it’s hitting the ball, the second guy in hitting the ball."