The Vikings defensive backs apparently decided to ignore head coach Mike Zimmer – one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL – for the game plan against Jordy Nelson Saturday.
And Nelson proceeded to torch them.
The Packers wide receiver had 2 TDs and 154 yards (the fourth-highest total in his career) against the Vikings, helping propel the Packers to that dominating 38-25 win. But almost all of that came in the first half, when the Vikings cornerbacks decided to have whoever was on Nelson's side cover him – rather than have top cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadow Nelson no matter where he lined up.
Here's part of what Rhodes told reporters after the game, via ESPN:
"Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That's how we felt as DBs that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we'd always played against them and played our sides, we never followed, so that's what we felt as DBs. That's what we went with."
So clearly that plan worked out well.
Zimmer said after the game he noticed the DBs had gone rogue when Terrence Newman came over and asked the head coach if he could have a shot at blanketing Nelson. To which Zimmer said he told him, "Do what you're supposed to do," (meaning follow the head coach's game plan).
NFL.com notes Nelson caught 7 passes in the first half, for 2 touchdowns and 145 yards – that was while being covered by whichever corner was on his side. Sometimes that was Rhodes.
Rhodes then shadowed Nelson the entire second half, and he caught 2 balls for 9 yards.
"Well that's what he was supposed to do the whole game," Zimmer said of Rhodes staying on the Packers' big target. "Someone decided that they weren't going to do that, but ... "
In the first Vikings-Packers game of the year, a 17-14 Minnesota win, Nelson had 5 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Rhodes did not play that game because of an injury.
It's a concerning development, coming toward the end of a season that's already been pretty close to the year from hell for the Vikings. There haven't been any indications of a rift between players and Zimmer up to this point – so maybe it's simply frustration over going 2-8 over the past 10 weeks.
But an act of mutiny by some members of the defense? That's worrisome. And will be worth keeping an eye on as we head into the final regular season game.