ESPN reported that the DBs freelanced only on the first series of downs when Terence Newman covered Nelson. After Zimmer spoke to them, coverage was back to normal. Nelson had seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in that first half, as the Packers cruised to a 28-13 lead.
“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,” said Rhodes after the game, per the StarTribune. “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.”
In the second half, Rhodes stayed with Nelson, who ended up with two catches for nine yards.
“That’s what he was supposed to do the whole game,” Zimmer said of Rhodes, adding that he realized something was off when Newman approached him on the sideline asking to have a run at Nelson. “I said, ‘Do what you’re supposed to do.’ ”
An unnamed Vikings source told ESPN that Zimmer did not put a timeline on the situation as he spoke with reporters, leading to it being “blown out of proportion.”
Newman clammed up after the game, telling reporters, “I have no idea,” when asked about the players’ decision.
It’s just another link in the chain for this year’s Vikings, who were stranded for nearly five hours Saturday night when their team charter skidded off the runway at Appleton (Wis.) International Airport. The team has also seen a cavalcade of injuries to everyone from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to star running back Adrian Peterson to even Zimmer derail a season that began with a 5-0 start but has since crashed to a 7-8 record headed into Week 17.
Zimmer himself has not been immune. He missed a game after suffering a detached retina and his offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, resigned midseason. As Jim Souhan of the StarTribune points out, his “perceived strengths are taking a beating. In a crucial six-day stretch, his team gave up 72 points, lost two must-win games and displayed a lack of respect for his leadership.” Souhan adds, “Not long ago you would have named Turner, Rhodes and Newman among Zimmer’s most important professional relationships. Now one is gone and two appear willing to defy him.”
Zimmer saved the harshest criticism Saturday evening for himself.
“I need to do a better job. I haven’t done a good enough job this year,” he said. “After the season, I’m going to sit down and evaluate everything, not just the players and not just the evaluations that we do on players, but everything — myself included.”