Mike Zimmer knows good defense. He's been coaching it in the NFL for the past 27 years. His recent units have been the backbone of Vikings teams contending for the NFC North crown and more.
His latest, however, is the primary reason Minnesota was eliminated from playoff contention Friday night with a 52-33 loss to the Saints. Zimmer took further aim at it afterward.
"This is a bad defense," he said. "Worst one I've ever had."
The proof was in the Christmas Day pudding. New Orleans collected seven touchdowns, including an NFL-record-tying six from Alvin Kamara, 583 yards of offense and 36 first downs. Minnesota did register two turnovers but no sacks or tackles for loss. The Saints never punted.
"You have to work pretty hard to give up 52," Zimmer said. "Couldn't stop the run, couldn't cover well, didn't get any pressure on the quarterback, couldn't tackle."
In turn, the Vikings couldn't win. Their offense did its job, trading scores for three quarters to make it a 31-27 contest heading into the final frame. But the Saints kept marching on, adding three more rushing TDs in the fourth as part of a 264-yard output on the ground.
The loss sealed Minnesota's first losing season since 2014 and put the spotlight squarely on its biggest problem in 2020: the defense. The Vikings (6-9) have played nearly the entire season without Pro Bowlers Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr, and the month of December without All-Pro Eric Kendricks.
"We're a little undermanned, but they should play better than that," Zimmer said. "I'm not trying to make excuses, it was embarrassing today."
It was a performance that was part of a year's worth the proud Vikings coach certainly won't celebrate.