Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s task of retooling a vaunted Vikings defense is off to a rough start.
The Vikings faced an offensive onslaught by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a 42-34 loss on Sunday, the most points the Vikings have allowed since Zimmer took the reigns of the franchise in 2014.
“It’s not what we’re used to, it’s not what we’re about here,” safety Harrison Smith said in a postgame press conference, per Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson.
Surrendering 524 total yards of offense, the Vikings gave up the most yards to an opposing offense since 2018 — when the Rams put up 556 total yards.
No Zimmer-led defense has finished outside of the top six in points or yards allowed since 2015.
The Vikings struggled to sustain drives on offense after an initial 8-play scoring drive, capped by a Dalvin Cook touchdown. The Vikings had the ball for 18 minutes, 44 seconds, the lowest amount of time in franchise history.
Kirk Cousins gave up an early safety and interception in the first half of the game that helped the Packers take a lead and assert their game plan. He finished the game with 19 of 25 pass completions for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
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Vikings Missing Danielle Hunter
The Vikings pass rush was shorthanded on Sunday after Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter was placed on the injured reserve list last Wednesday.
Yannick Ngakoue, acquired in a trade with the Jaguars, became the target of the Packers pass protection and faced several double teams. Ngakoue registered zero tackles and pressures in a limited role on Sunday as the Vikings pressured Rodgers on seven of 44 dropbacks.
Rodgers faced no pressure on 18 straight dropbacks, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. Rodgers completed 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in a game where he was not sacked while Devante Adams posted a career-high 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Hunter will miss at least two more games before he can be reactivated on the Vikings roster. He has the most tackles (85), hurries (110) and pressures (154) among edge rushers in the past two seasons.
Over the past 2 seasons among Edges
Danielle Hunter ranks:
➤ 1st in Pressures (154)
➤ 1st in Hurries (110)
➤ 1st in Tackles (85)
— PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) August 30, 2020
Many rookies got their first taste of NFL action on Sunday and it was a bitter one. Third-round cornerback Cameron Dantzler handled himself in a starting role but did see struggles facing a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback would fare. He gave up a 45-yard touchdown to Marques Valdes-Scantling.
First-rounder Justin Jefferson caught two passes for 26 yards and was used as an after-the-catch weapon. The Vikings only had Jefferson in on three-wide receiver sets as he used in a limited role.
First-round cornerback Jeff Gladney was limited to a special teams role in his NFL debut, while second-round offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland was ruled inactive before the game.
The Vikings, filling many holes on the roster, will need to see more contributions from rookies moving forward.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.