Offensive-Minded Mike Zimmer Should Stick Around
Entering Sunday, the (3-5) Minnesota Vikings hadn’t won a football game in nearly one full month (October 17 vs Panthers). Even more infuriating? They probably should’ve won all three. Instead, their purple backs were up against wall against an (5-3) LA Chargers team ready to plant their flag atop the AFC West, looking down on Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Hope inside Vikings Nation was difficult to find. Mike Zimmer, Klint Kubiak and Kirk Cousins had finally hammered fans into hopelessness with their mallet of offensive conservatism. That’s because the losing game script had become too monotonous to warrant any positivity.
(scene 1): Jump out to a lead in the first quarter with aggressive and creative play calling.
(scene 2): Sit on your lead and get more conservative as the game progresses.
(scene 3): Too much trust in your defense and a run-first until it’s too late offensive mentality leads to a close loss.
Winds of change
Shortly after the football kicked off inside of SoFi Stadium (3:05 CT), the script changed. But not the way fans had hoped. Instead of jumping out to an early lead, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense stumbled out of the gate.
But after a slow start for both teams, the punches started flying in the 2nd quarter. Kirk Cousins got hot, thanks in large part to his connection with Justin Jefferson and Tyler Conklin. Justin Herbert also fought back admirably, throwing his own TD late in the first half.
When the dust settled and teams entered the locker rooms for halftime, it was the Vikings standing (barely) on top, 13-10. ‘Ah, we’ve seen this before’, is what most of us were thinking.
Can’t wait for the passing offense to go into hiding now that the Vikings have a lead.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) November 14, 2021
2nd Half Miracle
But as the 2nd half unfolded, something miraculous seemed to be happening. We waited… and waited… and waited for the classic 1st-and-20, 2nd-and-10 run plays but they never came. Where were the 3rd-and-long dump-off passes, a Zimmer/Kubiak/Cousins offensive staple?
All of the nervous play calling and fear-filled decision-making that fans had become so accustomed to seeing from Minnesota’s 2nd half offense suddenly disappeared. Kirk Cousins prospered, while throwing to his best weapons and Dalvin Cook thrived against boxes that weren’t stacked with defenders.
And the later into the game we got, the more aggressive the Minnesota Vikings offense became. I had to pinch myself a few times to be sure what I was watching was reality. They weren’t forced into playing with the aggressiveness we witnessed, either. LAC grabbed a 4-point lead right out of halftime but that was quickly erased after the Vikings converted on an aggressive 4th and goal play-call later in the 3rd quarter.
Shocking, I know. But wait, it gets crazier.
The Final Exclamation Point
Throughout the 2nd half, Zimmer and Kubiak put the ball in their $35 million QB’s hands and said, “go win us a game”.
So that’s exactly what Kirk Cousins did, continually daggering the Chargers whenever his team needed him. The Vikings held onto the ball for 11.5 of the final 15 minutes including a 12-play TD drive to start the 4th quarter. After LA kicked a FG to cut the lead to seven, Kirk and the offense ate up all 4:36 remaining on the game clock with a 10-play game-sealing drive that magnified the difference in Mike Zimmer’s mentality.
It included two possibly devastating penalties that set the offense back into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations, all of which Cousins (with the help of his many weapons) pulled out of. Instead of giving the ball back to Herbert, Kirk finished the game in victory formation.
On their final game-sealing (4:36) drive vs LAC, the #Vikings trusted their offense to overcome two gut-wrenching penalties that set the sticks way back.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) November 15, 2021
– Holding (1st-20, 2nd-17)
– Off facemask (1st-25, 3rd-20, 4th-2) pic.twitter.com/zD6Y7iAHRG
There’s no chance Mike Zimmer from weeks 1-9 is letting Kirk Cousins fling it around in his own territory, with a late lead. But that changed on Sunday. Hell, the Vikings lead this game throughout the entire 4th quarter and they never stopped coming.
Different Zimmer Going Forward?
Only time will tell us whether Mike Zimmer has turned a new leaf. But, yesterday’s aggressiveness resulted in a win and that has to push him into his offensive trust fall. If Zim knows what’s best for his team and his own future, this will be the turning point of the Minnesota Vikings’ season and his coaching career.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan