Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Vikings’ 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, which moved them within range of an NFC playoff spot for the third time in four seasons.
The win came on the heels of a week in which head coach Mike Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to that post.
There were a lot of questions in the media last week about whether some high-ranking Vikings officials such as Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman were in danger of losing their jobs. There was a headline in this paper that read: “Pressure is staring right back at Zimmer.”
But Wilf said there is no question about who will be leading this franchise next season.
“I have full confidence in Zim and the entire coaching staff,” Wilf said.
And what about the future of Spielman?
“Full confidence, full confidence. I think they are doing a great job,” he said.
In his 14th season as owner and chairman of the franchise, is Wilf happy with the direction of his team?
“Absolutely,” he said.
Offense comes out hot
At the end of the first quarter Sunday, the Purple had outgained the Dolphins 202-47 in total yards and built a 21-0 lead.
Zimmer was asked if that was because of the change to Stefanski and whether Stefanski called the plays on Sunday.
“I thought Kevin Stefanski did a nice job and I thought he got a lot of help from the other offensive coaches,” Zimmer said. “They did a nice job of preparing and getting the team ready to play offense. I thought the offense felt good.”
Did it make things easier on Zimmer getting those three early scores?
“There was a little pressure on me today to make sure I made the right decision,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully it continues.”
The Vikings finished with 220 rushing yards on 40 carries, their most rushing yards since Week 10 of 2015, when they rushed for 263 yards in a victory over the Raiders.
Dalvin Cook led the way with 136 yards and two scores on 19 carries to go along with a 27-yard catch.
Zimmer said the team made changes in the offensive game plan.
“We ran some other things, kind of got back to our roots a little bit,” he said.
When it came to Kirk Cousins, Zimmer said the Vikings quarterback made one bad decision, which resulted in an interception return for a touchdown. But overall Cousins completed 14 of 21 passes for 215 yards and two scores compared to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who passed for just 108 yards against an unstoppable Vikings pass rush.
“I thought [Cousins] played very well, efficient,” Zimmer said. “Obviously the one interception for a touchdown wasn’t good, but the rest of the day was great.”
Let the defense loose
Tannehill was sacked just once in the first half, but the Vikings put together one of the most dominant stretches in team history in the second half, when they sacked him eight times.
The second-half sack tallies went like this in the postgame book: Anthony Barr for minus-9 yards, Danielle Hunter for minus-8, Eric Kendricks for minus-12, Mackensie Alexander for minus-9, Sheldon Richardson for minus-3, Tom Johnson for minus-8, Hunter again for minus-6 and Everson Griffen for minus-10.
The Vikings have recorded eight sacks or more in a game 21 times in team history, but eight sacks in a half is a team record.
The 71 yards lost to sacks for the Dolphins was the third-highest mark in Vikings history, trailing only a 31-14 win over Chicago in 1969 and a 37-7 win over the Falcons in 1970.
“They played good the whole game,” Zimmer said. “We gave up a 75-yard touchdown and three points before the half, but we played really good in the red zone there. Then once the score got high I was able to turn them loose and let them rush the passer.
“We had some blitzes that they were max-protecting quite a bit today. Once we got them out of some of those max protections and changed up some of our pressures, I thought I was able to let them loose.”
Yes, and maybe the biggest thing for the Vikings and Zimmer is that the team is fully healthy heading into its final two games.
“That always helps,” Zimmer said. “They were fresh this week and ready to go.”
Local roots for Robbie
If you want one of the great success stories in the early days of the NFL you need to look no further than Joe Robbie, who made his name as a lawyer in Minneapolis before becoming the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
In June 1965, the AFL announced it would expand for the 1966 season, and the NFL announced it would expand by 1967.
The city of Atlanta, with its newly built Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, applied for a franchise in both leagues, and in early June a group from Atlanta was awarded an AFL franchise if the group could gain an exclusive agreement with the city to use the stadium.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was able to convince the city to pick the NFL, and Atlanta was awarded an NFL expansion franchise for 1967.
In addition to Atlanta, the AFL had been looking at Philadelphia as a potential expansion city. But on Aug. 16, 1965, the AFL announced it had awarded an expansion franchise to Miami and a group headed by Robbie and actor Danny Thomas. Robbie bought out Thomas in 1966.
Robbie told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1989 that he considered building Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, which he financed himself and opened in 1987, “the most difficult project I’ve ever taken on. Nothing I’ve done has given me more satisfaction.”
Robbie hired Hall of Fame coach Don Shula to coach the Dolphins in 1970.
Robbie watched as Shula led the team to two Super Bowl titles, including the lone undefeated season in NFL history when they went 17-0 in 1972.
They beat the Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII, when they scored 24 unanswered points to start the game.
The Dolphins won five AFC titles under Robbie’s ownership, and he owned the team until 1990.
Robbie died in January 1990 at the age of 73.