Despite having the top two wide receivers in the league, the top running back, a 13-0 lead at halftime, and keeping the Seahawks to zero third-down conversions, the Minnesota Vikings once again landed back in Minneapolis empty-handed. How can this be possible? I’ll break it down for you
Masterful game plan and preparation
Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff came to the game designing a defensive game plan with deep safety help for the young CB group limiting Russell Wilson’s passing lanes and allowing the pass rush to rack up four sacks in the first half. Offensively Gary Kubiak decided to stick with the formula of success feeding Dalvin Cook the ball gashing the weak Seattle front defensive line. The Vikings looked like a well-oiled machine taking care of business as a dominant team with a commanding 13-0 lead at the half.
Forgetful 3rd quarter
Dalvin Cook suffered a groin injury in the third quarter that altered the game plan when it shouldn’t have. Although with less elusiveness Alexander Mattison is a very capable replacement with similar YPC production enough to continue to carry out the load of a run game. This is when Kirk Cousins loses the script and tries to become something he’s not and he will never be, a scrambler. On a scramble to his right side, he tried to lob a pass to Justin Jefferson that ended up being intercepted. On the subsequent drive, Chris Carson went on a power run getting easily in the end zone. Things did not get better when Mike Zimmer began moving his safeties closer to the line of scrimmage allowing Russell Wilson to find DK Metcalf for an easy TD pass on man coverage. The Seahawks went on a 21-0 run.
The analytics vs old fashioned game management dilemma
After Gary Kubiak made adjustments and Kirk Cousins valiantly brought the Vikings the length of the football field for a TD, Mike Zimmer in a tug of war with the analytics wizards agreed to chase points too early in the ball game going for a two-point conversion. A costly decision. To make matters worse the play selection should have been one to give one of your top two wide receivers in the league a chance. Instead, a QB run was the choice and with Cousins’ little mobility it was doomed from the get-go.
Epic 4th quarter ends in dismay
The Vikings kept it going with the same formula sticking to their game plan and despite the abysmal play of right guard Dru Samia, Kirk Cousins had another great drive that found Adam Thielen in the end zone. The Vikings took the lead 26-21. On a subsequent drive, Russell Wilson was intercepted by LB Eric Wilson almost sealing the game for Minnesota. The Vikings once again got in the red zone utilizing the run game and were faced with a 4th and inches at the six-yard line. Making the right call Mike Zimmer went for all the marbles instead of kicking the FG but Alexander Mattison missed the gaping hole on his right side for a walk-in TD and was stopped short.
The real play of the game
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had to go 94 yards to score to win the game. On a 4th and 10, Mike Zimmer once again decided to bring safety Harrison Smith to the line of scrimmage for an attempt at a fake blitz. With Wilson playing at an MVP level, he easily spotted this and went long with a 39-yard completion picking on rookie CB Cameron Dantzler’s man coverage. Smith was late with the safety help, as well. The Seahawks went on to convert on another 4th down in the red zone to win the game. In the end, good teams find a way to win games and bad teams find a way to lose them. And coaches are part of the team as well.
1-4 vs 0-5 Falcons
Vikings now host another familiar foe in the Atlanta Falcons. At 0-5 the Falcons have nothing to lose but their own pride, if that. As I said last week the Vikings are so close yet so far away from being in contention, they could easily be a 3-2 team (but they could also easily be 0-5). If they are capable of fixing the right guard position and the back and forth between common sense coaching and analytics they might actually be one of the best teams in the NFL.
If not all that talent is just being wasted for no reason, not to mention another wasted year on Kirk Cousins’ massive contract.