Bloody Sunday, Black Monday for the Vikings

The Vikings beat the Chicago Bears in their 2021 season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium by the score of 31-17 but there was almost no joy in Mudville. The win, which included perhaps the Vikings best second half of the season, serves only to give them a lower draft pick (by one position), come up short of record numbers for the star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and marked the final game of head coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman with the Vikings. Whether you loved Zim or loathed him, the end of the Zimmer era is a sad day in Purple Nation.

The Vikings looked as though this season finale was more like a funeral for Zim in the first half of the game, as the offense did their 3-and-out dance while the defense did the bend-but-don’t-break-until-right-before-halftime deal and got down 14-3 at the break. But with a turnaround unlike any seen this season, Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes and Patrick Peterson brought home a pick-six for 28 second half points (21 in the fourth quarter) and a rare, non-one-score victory.

While plenty of Vikings fans (and certainly the two network broadcasters trying to hold an audience) were pulling for Jefferson to get 17 more yards and break Randy Moss’s single-season record, the record should have come last week in the 16th game of the season to make it the most meaningful. Yet the broadcasters were disappointed, the fans at The Vault rained down a chorus of boos (despite the win), and Zimmer was resolute, likely showing some respect to his counterpart, Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who was just was likely to (and did) lose his job.

“I don’t care about records. I only care about wins,” Zimmer told reporters after the game regarding the record.

Clearly emotional and certainly stinging with how the 2021 Vikings season has gone, Zimmer put off media questions about his status until he learned something (admitting he hadn’t at that point). But Monday morning it was announced early that both Zimmer and Spielman had been let go after eight and 16 years (respectively) with the organization. The immediate road ahead for the Vikings and their fans now opens wide, as the difficult job of replacing two people who gave their all for the organization have taken their leave. There is plenty of news to come as the Vikings pick apart the remains of this failed, non-playoff season. Coaching changes are the first moves to take place, but they will be closely followed by new hires and difficult personnel changes in the coming weeks.

Joe Oberle and co-host Mark Craig from the Star Tribune and myself are here with the Vikings Territory Breakdown to cover it all. Craig will have plenty of insight as he has been digging through the Black Monday fallout all week.

Tune into this VT breakdown and check out the following topics:

  • Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman hit the hard and dusty—what happens next?
  • Justin Jefferson falls short of the Moss record and Vikings twitter-verse explodes.
  • A quick review of the strange season finale with the Bears.
  • Another statistical gem from Cousins—accompanied this time by a win.
  • The offensive line gave Cousins nothing in the first half and then completely changed it around at half. What gives?
  • Changes ahead for the Vikings organization.
  • Personnel changes in the offing—can the Vikings afford their veterans:
  • Kirk Cousins—says he wants to remain a Viking—do they keep or trade him?
  • Anthony Barr—big cap hit, does he become a casualty?
  • Harrison Smith—he is getting older but he still has it—can the team afford him?
  • Danielle Hunter—are the injuries going to just keep happening or is he worth keeping around?
  • Adam Thielen—wide receiver room looks pretty good. Should the Vikes fish or cut bait?
  • Patrick Peterson—defense needs him, but will he be back?
  • The Bears played it right? They played hard for the tape and still get the better draft pick. The playoffs are set. Who is going to knock out the Packers for us?