Vikings go against Mike Zimmer's strategy for covering Jordy Nelson

ByBen Goessling ESPN logo
Sunday, December 25, 2016

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As Jordy Nelson had a banner day against the Minnesota Vikingson Saturday, the team's defensive backs apparently devised a strategy to cover the Green Bay Packers wide receiver independent of what coach Mike Zimmer wanted.

After Minnesota's38-25 loss to the Packers, Zimmer explained that the Vikings had planned for cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shadow Nelson. Rhodes, though, said the Vikings' cornerbacks had decided on a different plan during the week, opting to have Rhodes stay at right cornerback, with veteran Terence Newman or second-year player Trae Waynes at left cornerback.

It wasn't until the second half that the Vikings put Rhodes on Nelson, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

"In the first half, Terence Newman came over and said something to me like, 'I can cover this guy; let me have him,'" Zimmer said. "I said, 'Do what you're supposed to do.'"

Rhodes held Nelson to two catches for 9 yards in the second half.

"That's what he was supposed to do the whole game," Zimmer said. "Someone decided they wouldn't do that."

The Vikings refrained from putting Rhodes exclusively on Nelson when he last faced him in 2014, and Rhodes didn't play in the Vikings' first game against the Packers this season. Rhodes, though, had earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl this year by shadowing receivers likeOdell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins and Dez Bryant, and had drawn similar assignments against players like Calvin Johnson and Alshon Jeffery in recent years.

But against the Packers, Rhodes said the Vikings' cornerbacks wanted to play on their typical sides because it was what they had done in the past.

"To be honest, I really don't want to answer that," Rhodes said, before saying, "A matter of fact, forget it," and then deciding to open up.

"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," he said. "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."

Nelson's 154 yards were the fourth most in his career, and his most in a game against the Vikings.

"It's one of those things that, we have multiple guys out there that can make plays, so it's hard for teams to focus on one player," Nelson said. "They started doing it later, but we can all play different positions, so they were able to continue to move around, and we were able to make plays."

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