Asked if he considers himself a “pie or turkey guy,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer thought for a second before revealing the secret X Factor in his Thanksgiving Day game plan.
“Probably a wine guy,” he said. “Turkey and wine. Red wine.”
Zimmer spent 15 of his first 24 NFL seasons coaching games on Thanksgiving. Thirteen came as an assistant in Dallas, while the past two were spent in Detroit as Vikings head coach.
This Thanksgiving, Zimmer will shift to his late-season practice schedule. All remaining Thursday practices will be moved to the morning, giving his players extra rest on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
So, at some point this Thursday afternoon, Zimmer, his players, coaches and the entire Vikings organization should shift into sweatpants, bow their heads and give thanks for …
Family, friends, good heath, etc., etc. …
And, oh yeah, that 29-29 tie against the Packers at Lambeau Field back in Week 2.
Wait. Didn’t the Vikings leave Green Bay grousing about how the tie felt like a loss? Didn’t rookie placekicker Daniel Carlson get whacked the next morning for missing all three field-goal attempts, including two in overtime, one of which was a 35-yarder as time expired?
“It felt like a loss, yes,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “Because if we kick the field goal, we go home and we’re happy.”
What say you, Packers coach Mike McCarthy?
Given the choices of whether the tie felt like a win because of Carlson’s miss or a loss because of the highly questionable and widely controversial roughing call on Clay Matthews that negated a probable game-ending interception in the final two minutes of regulation, McCarthy’s selection was:
“The second thing you said, with the officiating,” said McCarthy, whose Packers (4-5-1) play the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night. “But that’s football.”
Also, a Purple-clad fan should remember that Carlson’s last-second miss was the second of the day. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts when he missed a 52-yarder at the end of regulation.
So, eight games later, with the raw emotions of Carlson’s last miss long since dissipated, the tie can be viewed more favorably.
“We don’t feel good about not winning,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said.
But, Xavier …
The Vikings (5-4-1) head into Week 12 clinging to the NFC’s sixth and final playoff seed because of that tie, which likely was going to be a loss before it likely was going to be a win. Seattle (5-5) is the seventh seed followed by Dallas (5-5) and Green Bay (4-5-1).
Had the Matthews penalty not been called and the Vikings lost, they would have dropped to 5-5 and moved down three spots to the ninth seed. By virtue of multiple tiebreakers, Seattle would have been the sixth seed followed by Dallas and Green Bay.
“I preach wins more so around here than ties,” Zimmer said. “But, then again, I did think [in September], ‘Maybe it will help us. But it could hurt us, too.’ So I don’t really know.”
Matthews’ roughing call on Kirk Cousins took place with 1:45 left in regulation. The Vikings trailed 29-21 and took possession at their 25-yard line.
Cousins threw deep for Stacy Coley, but was intercepted by Jaire Alexander, who returned the ball 54 yards to the Vikings’ 18. After the flag, the Vikings went 60 yards in eight plays and 1:06.
Zimmer pointed out that Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was flagged for a similar hit on Aaron Rodgers. But Kendricks’ penalty nullified only a first down incompletion in the second quarter.
After the Matthews penalty, the NFL Competition Committee reportedly was uncomfortable with how roughing calls were being enforced leaguewide. It met via conference call after Week 3 and issued points of clarification on “techniques that constitute a foul.”
Roughing calls have slowed since that early-season surge. Further proof that perhaps the Vikings should give thanks that their 29-29 tie wasn’t a 29-21 loss and 5-5 record heading into a prime-time rematch with a quarterback who’s 4-12 on the national nighttime stage.