Vikings DBs say they didn’t disobey Mike Zimmer on coverage plan

Xavier Rhodes #29 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Lambeau Field on December 24, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Minnesota Vikings defensive backs insisted on Monday there was no intention to disregard head coach Mike Zimmer’s game plan for guarding Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson in Saturday’s loss to the Packers.

Instead, they called it a “miscommunication” on the first series of the game.

Zimmer wanted cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shadow Nelson in man coverage. Instead, Rhodes stayed on one side of the field and did not follow Nelson.

“It was a miscommunication corrected after the first series. There’s no issues. We’re all on the same page. We got beat,” veteran cornerback Terence Newman told reporters on Monday, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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Zimmer on Monday took some of the blame for the miscommunication, explaining that coaches changed several of their defensive calls late in the week.

“I probably wasn’t specific enough in the things I was asking them to do,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer said that after speaking to the defensive backs and watching the coaches’ film of the game, he doesn’t think there were any plays in which Rhodes or Newman or any other players, deliberately defied orders.

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“They played the coverage that was called but they might have messed it up,” Zimmer said.

That’s a different response than players gave on Saturday, when Rhodes said players decided among themselves to change their coverage plans on Nelson on their own because Rhodes had not been assigned to shadow Nelson in previous games against the Packers.

“We felt as a team, as players, we came together and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers. Us as DBs felt like we could handle him,” Rhodes said Saturday. “That’s how we felt as DBs that we could stay on our side and cover him.”.

Turns out, Zimmer’s plan was the right one. Nelson caught nine passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, with most of his production coming in the first half. He caught a 15-yard pass with Newman in coverage on the opening series of the game, and then had a 21-yard touchdown later in the first quarter, when it appeared the Vikings were in a zone defense, with Nelson lined up in the slot.

Rhodes was nearly exclusively in man coverage against Nelson in the second half, when Nelson had just two catches for nine yards.

The potential mutiny and subsequent backtracking is just another bizarre chapter in the Vikings’ late-season collapse. Minnesota started the season 5-0 but were eliminated from postseason contention with the loss to the Packers.

Throughout what had been a disappointing season, the Vikings had at least been able to point to a strong defense, including the leadership in the secondary from Newman.

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Now, with the season over, Zimmer had to defend the integrity of Newman and others. Reports after the game on Saturday indicated it was Newman’s idea to change the coverage.

“Terrance and I have a great relationship. He can come to me about anything at any time,” Zimmer said. “Terrance would be the last guy ever in the world to be belligerent or go against anything that we do.”.

Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones.

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