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01/02/2019 2:31 am  
After winning 14 games [url= http://www.authenticsclevelandbrowns.com/cheap-baker-mayfield-jersey]Baker Mayfield Color Rush Jersey[/url] , including his first postseason victory with Minnesota and a second NFC North title in four years on the job, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has a team set up to sustain such success.

 

The items on his to-do list are major issues, though.

Finding an offensive coordinator has become the top priority, following the departure of Pat Shurmur to become the head coach of the New York Giants. Then there’s the matter of working with general manager Rick Spielman to identify a starting quarterback for 2018, with contracts scheduled to expire for Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater.

The offensive coordinator will be determined first and likely have some input into the quarterback quandary, too, but sorting out the age, ability, cost, durability and unrealized potential of Keenum, Bradford and Bridgewater will be the more complicated and critical task.

Having been awake with angst until 3 a.m. following Minnesota’s 38-7 loss at Philadelphia in the NFC championship game on Sunday, Zimmer said at his season-ending news conference Tuesday that he hasn’t pointed his mind down that path yet.

”My whole focus was on the now and not so much the future,” Zimmer said. ”Rick and I talked about that earlier. We said, `Let’s just go through the season. Let’s figure it out after the season.’ We’ll go through that process and go from there and see how that goes. We’re just going to work through it.”

Though Zimmer was staying true to the status report, he also didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement of Keenum.

”I’m going to work through the process, just like I always do,” Zimmer said, when asked for a specific evaluation of the year Keenum had after going from unheralded backup to season-saver. ”We’re going to evaluate all the players. We’re going to evaluate everybody and go about our business like we always do.”

As for Bradford, whose knee injury yielded the position to Keenum [url= http://www.authenticsclevelandbrowns.com/cheap-denzel-ward-jersey]Denzel Ward Color Rush Jersey[/url] , Zimmer said Bradford told him on Monday that he feels like he is past the trouble that limited him to two starts in 2017.

As for Bridgewater, who took Bradford’s spot on the active roster for the second half of the schedule only to be bumped back to third string and did-not-suit-up status for the playoffs, Zimmer said the Vikings naturally would have preferred to see a fuller picture of on-field action following his recovery from a major knee injury. Keenum’s success made that impossible for Bridgewater, who hasn’t appeared in a high-stakes situation in more than two years.

”For him to even get to that point to where he was and be able to come out and practice and compete, get in a game, was a true credit to him,” Zimmer said, adding: ”He’s at the point where he can play. You just have to figure out where’s he at, because obviously we didn’t get to see him through games.”

Not many teams in NFL history will have such a strong season to come within one win of the Super Bowl, only to have the sport’s most important position in such an uncertain state, but that’s where the Vikings find themselves.

”I guess it’s unique, but it’s part of the process in the NFL,” Zimmer said. ”You work through it, and you go about your business.”

As for the offensive coordinator vacancy, Zimmer said he’ll take his time to try to get the right hire. He didn’t rule out internal candidates such as quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski, but he also acknowledged the benefit of new ideas from the outside.

The defense could not have been better in the regular season, ranking first in both fewest yards and points allowed, but it faltered over the final five quarters of the playoffs. Nick Foles and the Eagles torched this proud group for 456 total yards.

”I have to do a better job in some areas as far as maybe sticking to some things too much because we’re successful,” Zimmer said.

As for the Super Bowl that will be painfully played on the team’s home turf at U.S. Bank Stadium, Zimmer will not be in attendance [url= http://www.authenticsdallascowboys.com/cheap-connor-williams-jersey]Connor Williams Color Rush Jersey[/url] , in case there was any question. He’ll be at his vacation ranch in northern Kentucky, inevitably cringing from time to time about coming so close to the franchise’s first championship.

”Our fans were unbelievable the way they helped this football team out. They talked about bringing the whole state together, the state of Minnesota and Vikings fans throughout the world,” Zimmer said. ”That made me feel good, that we were able to bring a bunch of people and try to work for something for a common goal. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish it for them, so that is one of the disappointments.”

Rookie Colin Moran isn’t big on showing emotion, so he took it in stride after hitting his second grand slam of the season.

Manager Clint Hurdle, though, put the feat in perspective.

”Two grand slams in a year is pretty cool. Some guys don’t hit one their whole career,” Hurdle said after Moran’s slam helped carry the Pirates to a 7-5 victory against the San Diego Padres on Sunday. ”In his rookie season, too. He hunts pitches. He’s got a lot of confidence when he goes to the plate. He prepares.”

In fact, none of Hurdle’s 32 home runs over a 10-year career came with the bases loaded.

Corey Dickerson and Elias Diaz also homered for the Pirates, who took two of three games.

Moran connected off Tyson Ross with two outs in the fifth to put the Pirates ahead 6-3. He also hit a grand slam in the home opener on April 2, a 5-4 victory against Minnesota.

Ross, who singled and then had his first career stolen base a half inning earlier, faltered with two outs in the fifth. Austin Meadows doubled, Josh Bell walked and Josh Harrison beat out an infield single to load the bases. Moran then drove a 1-0 pitch to right for his eighth homer.

”It’s cool,” Moran said of hitting two slams in one season. ”But I guess it was just kind of nice to get some runs in there and get us the lead, so that was the biggest thing.”

The only other rookie in Pirates history to hit two grand slams in a season was Wally Westlake in 1947. Moran was the first Pirates player with two grand slams in a season since Jose Bautista in 2006.

”Those are cool things [url= http://www.authenticsdenverbroncos.com/cheap-bradley-chubb-jersey]Bradley Chubb Color Rush Jersey[/url] ,” Hurdle said. ”They don’t happen for everybody. They don’t happen to many guys whatsoever. It goes back to preparation, opportunity and then production, and he’s been able to pull that off. … He’s ready to hit. He knows what he’s hunting to hit.”

Moran made his big league debut with Houston in 2016, appearing in nine games. He appeared in seven games with Houston last season before being sent to Pittsburgh along with Joe Musgrove and two other players in the deal for Gerrit Cole. Moran had 34 big league at-bats coming into this season.

”He’s one of the calmest people I’ve ever played with,” Dickerson said. ”He just has no emotion. He has a good plan. He does the same thing every day. You don’t ever change stuff up. He’s very simple. Simple sometimes is the best in great moments like that. He came through.”

Dickerson homered in the second, his sixth, and Diaz homered leading off the sixth, his sixth.

The Padres closed to 7-5 on Wil Myers’ infield RBI single with one out in the sixth and then loaded the bases on Eric Hosmer’s walk. But Steven Brault got Hunter Renfroe to hit a flyball to right that wasn’t deep enough to bring in Jose Pirela, and Kyle Crick struck out pinch-hitter Christian Villanueva.

Crick (1-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the win. Felipe Vazquez pitched the ninth for his 17th save.

Ross (5-6), who has been mentioned in trade rumors, was chased by Diaz’s homer. Ross had his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs and seven hits, with three walks and no strikeouts.

”I didn’t throw the ball particularly well,” Ross said. ”I could’ve been a lot better with two outs and two strikes. That’s kind of where I really got myself into trouble.

”That big fifth inning, had two strikes on Meadows and two outs, and double to left and then everything kind of unfolded from there. Days like this happen. I still had a chance to win that game, just wasn’t able to put hitters away when I had two-strike counts.”

Said manager Andy Green: ”You’ve got two outs and nobody on and Tyson on the mound, you kind of like that situation right there. Next thing you know, bases are loaded and one pitch is hit out of the ball park, and that kind of changes the trajectory of the game. It’s a frustrating one.”

Pirates starter Jameson Taillon went 4 2-3 innings [url= http://www.packersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-marquez-valdes-scantling-jersey]http://www.packersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-marquez-valdes-scantling-jersey[/url]  , allowing four runs, three earned, and seven hits while striking out four and walking three. He got the first two outs of the fifth before allowing Renfroe’s homer to left, his fifth, that pulled the Padres to 6-4. Taillon allowed singles to Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje before making way for Edgar Santana, who struck out Freddy Galvis.

Ross hit a sacrifice fly that gave the Padres a 2-1 lead in the second. He singled with two outs in the fourth and then got the first stolen base of his career. He was stranded when Manuel Margot grounded out.

Renfroe also hit an RBI double in the third.

WEATHERS SIGNS

The Padres agreed to terms with LHP Ryan Weathers, their first-round selection, seventh overall, in June’s amateur draft. He is the son of former big league pitcher David Weathers.

UP NEXT

Pirates: RHP Nick Kingham (2-3, 3.82) is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Monday night’s opener of a three-game series at the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will counter with LHP Alex Wood (4-5, 4.00).

Padres: LHP Clayton Richard (7-7, 4.29) is scheduled to start Tuesday night’s opener of a two-game series at Oakland, which counters with RHP Chris Bassitt (1-3, 2.82).


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