Enough things happened in the Vikings’ 21-18 overtime victory over the Rams on Sunday that one interesting nugget perhaps was lost in the shuffle.
The Vikings won the overtime coin toss and, instead of taking the ball, chose to give the Rams the ball and take the wind. Let’s take a look at the factors and history relating to that decision by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer:
• How bold was the decision? According to SI.com, there have been 530 overtime games since 1974, when the NFL added an overtime period to regular-season games. In only 11 instances (2 percent) has the team that won the coin toss elected to kick off — including, of course, Sunday’s game.
A fantastic website called quirkyresearch.blogspot.com details all of those games and tells us that in every case, weather was a factor in the decision — including Sunday with Zimmer and the howling wind at TCF Bank Stadium.
“It wasn’t an easy one, I can tell you that,” Zimmer said. “The guy kicked a 60-yard field goal earlier with the wind. I thought, ‘Man, I don’t want to give them an opportunity to kick another long field goal to win the football game.’”
It worked out, of course, with the Vikings forcing a three-and-out and then driving for the winning field goal. In fact, six of the 11 teams who have chosen to kick off to start overtime have gone on to win the game.
It seems like a much easier decision since 2012, when the NFL changed its overtime rule. The first team to score used to win; now it takes a touchdown on the first possession to end the game. If the receiving team makes a field goal, the opponent gets a possession, too. And if the receiving team doesn’t score, the opponent can win with a field goal, as the Vikings did.
Both of the teams to kick away in overtime since the rule change — the Patriots in 2013 and the Vikings on Sunday — have won. It will be interesting to see if other teams try the same thing in poor weather.
• How bad was the wind? Well, we don’t exactly know because neither team even attempted a field goal or extra point into the wind.
The Rams attempted five field goals (four makes), all with the wind. The Vikings attempted two field goals and an extra point, all made and all with the wind. But Rams coach Jeff Fisher did say his decision to go for a two-point conversion into the wind in the first quarter was influenced by the conditions.
That decision impacted the result, too, since the Rams missed their two-point conversion and the resulting point differential influenced the Vikings’ decision to go for two later (which they converted) to make it 18-15.
That set the stage for a game-tying Rams field goal and overtime, leading us to Zimmer’s decision — one rooted in practicality but one that was bold nonetheless.