NFL coaches love to open news conferences the way Mike Zimmer did the day after Sunday’s 24-16 win over the 49ers.
“Overall, it’s a good win,” the Vikings coach said. “And a good learning experience.”
In other words, Zimmer gets to be 1-0 and unsatisfied for legitimate reasons, not the kind coaches make up. He gets to pat a player on the back literally while kicking him in the butt figuratively. He gets the confidence-building victory and overconfidence-blocking ammunition in the form of blown coverages and a need to run the ball better to keep Hercules Rodgers seated this Sunday.
Overall, it was a good week for the Vikings. They were one of seven returning playoff teams to survive the annual uncertainty of Week 1 in a league that no longer uses the preseason to get the varsity squad ready for the regular season.
That means five of their peers weren’t so fortunate. They were casualties of the Week 1 guessing game.
And, yes, that includes Pittsburgh, the Vikings’ fellow returning 13-win No. 2 seed from the AFC. The Steelers tied the Browns, creating the best ESPN crawler zinger in memory: “Browns best start since 2004.”
The four returning playoff teams that lost were Buffalo, New Orleans, Tennessee and Atlanta.
The Bills proved that Nathan Peterman and a poor defense will get you humiliated 47-3 in Baltimore. Young Nathan, who went 5-for-18 for 24 yards and two interceptions, was benched as the 29th quarterback in history to throw enough passes to qualify for an official 0.0 passer rating.
Somewhere, Tyrod Taylor is smiling.
In New Orleans, the Saints’ pass defense hasn’t forgotten how to grant miracles in the past eight months. As a 9½-point favorite at home, the Saints allowed Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to complete 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.
And a nation of suicide pool players wept. In fact, a friend of a friend reports that he heard of a pool in a faraway state in which 1,316 out of 4,311 participants (30.5 percent) selected the Saints to win straight-up as the no-brainer pick of the week.
The Falcons can be excused overall since they played at Philly in prime time. But Matt Ryan’s 57.4 passer rating cannot.
As for Tennessee, Mike Vrabel was the only one of seven new head coaches to be handed a team that had a winning record and made the playoffs a year ago. He lost at Miami in the wildest game of the week, a seven-hour, two-weather delay, 34-point fourth-quarter shootout in which Marcus Mariota was bad before getting hurt.
If not for Matt Patricia’s opening debacle against the Jets on Monday night, Vrabel would have had the stinker of the week among rookie NFL head coaches making their debuts.
Somewhere, Jim Caldwell, who went 9-7 in Detroit last year, smiles as Patricia nurses the reputation-rattling prime-time gut punch of a 48-17 loss to 21-year-old Sam Darnold, the youngest starting quarterback in the NFL since the 1970 merger.
Joining the Vikings as returning playoff teams to weather Week 1 were the Eagles, Patriots, Jaguars, Chiefs, Panthers and Rams.
The Eagles found a way to continue winning without Carson Wentz. The Patriots avoided the Week 1 hiccup they had a year ago.
The Jaguars held the host Giants to 15 points in Saquon Barkley’s debut and OBJ’s return.
The Chiefs found a quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) and showcased the league’s most electric player (Tyreek Hill). The Panthers were bad offensively, but doubled the Cowboys’ eight points.
And the Rams closed the week out by suggesting that putting all their eggs and dollars in this year’s basket could pay off.
As for the Vikings, their win at home over the previously undefeated Jimmy Garoppolo checks in somewhere in the middle of the pack of seven.
Better than Carolina’s offensively and certainly Kansas City’s defensively. As steady as New England’s. Not as overwhelming as the Rams’.
And that’s fine with Zimmer. A win, but still a lot to work on.