EAGAN, Minn. — Defensive end Everson Griffen was so irritated by the Minnesota Vikings’ multitude of penalties Sunday that he did some research when he got home.
The Vikings were penalized 12 times for 112 yards in their 28-10 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Griffen was the culprit on one of those flags, for being offsides.
“We’ve just got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot by getting these penalties,” Griffen said Monday. “Penalties are big. I looked up the stat (Sunday) night because I was very interesting in seeing, and we’ve got 44 penalties. …. We’ve got to figure out a way to decrease these penalties because they’re going to kill us down the road.”
The Vikings are tied for third in the NFL in penalties. The only teams with more are Atlanta, which has 49 and is 1-4, and Washington, which has 45 and fired head coach Jay Gruden on Monday after a 0-5 start.
Until now, the Vikings have been one of the NFL’s least penalized teams under coach Mike Zimmer. They had 92 infractions last year, tied for the second least in the league. In 2015, they had an NFL-low 88 penalties.
Through five games, the Vikings (3-2) are on pace for 141 penalties this season.
“I’ve been talking to the team all year long about them,” Zimmer said. “So, we’ve just got to clean them up. We had four pre-snap penalties offensively (Sunday). We had some holding calls. We had some (defensive pass interferences). … We’ve got to get the players in better positions so they don’t create penalties, and that’s really the big thing.”
Griffen had what could have been a big play wiped out in Week 4 by a penalty. On the first series at Chicago, he thought he had recovered a fumble at the Bears’ 33, but the play was nullified by a holding call on safety Anthony Harris. Chicago drove for a touchdown and won 16-6.
On Sunday against the Giants, Harris was called for another penalty that wiped out another big play by Griffen. On New York’s first series, Harris was called for illegal contact on third and 7, nullifying a sack by Griffen and linebacker Anthyony Barr and giving the Giants a first down at their 48.
“The last two weeks, (on) the first third down of the game, we’ve let them move on because we’ve had a penalty in the back end,” Zimmer said.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they were able to stop the Giants after they reached the Minnesota 39, and they had to punt.
Several other penalties Sunday could have really hurt the Vikings. One was on nose tackle Linval Joseph in the third quarter, when he knocked over long snapper Zak DeOssie on a successful 28-yard field-goal attempt by Aldrick Rosas and was called for unnecessary roughness.
Trailing 18-7, the Giants took the three points off the board and had first-and-goal at the 5. Minnesota’s defensive stiffened, and the Giants settled for a 32-yard field goal by Rosas.
“Clearly, we got a lot of penalties (Sunday),” Joseph said. “That’s something we’ve got to work on.”
Following the win, Vikings players were given Monday off in addition to their regular day off Tuesday. Griffen figures they will hear more from Zimmer Wednesday about penalties.
“I think penalties is a concentration thing, a mental thing,” Griffen said. “I’ve got to key the ball better (on his third-quarter penalty), and it was that one millisecond when I just got distracted, and I jumped offside. … (Zimmer’s) going to have something for us to fix it, but we just have to get it done ourselves.”
Zimmer agreed that Griffen’s offsides and the pre-snap penalties “could be a concentration thing.” However, he said others have to do with technique.
“You don’t have your body in the right position, and that’s what leads you to grab and hold, the things that you’re not supposed to do,” Zimmer said
Whatever the reason for the flags, Griffen said something needs to be done in a hurry.
“Our penalties are ridiculous,” he said. “So we have eliminate them.”