Ben Goessling's Second Thoughts
A look back at the Vikings' 26-20 victory over New Orleans.
TWO Players who stood out
Everson Griffen: Coach Mike Zimmer put Griffen and Danielle Hunter at defensive tackle spots on some third downs, looking to exploit mismatches with the middle of the Saints line rather than testing their two strong tackles (Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk). Griffen whipped guard Andrus Peat, using his deep bank of pass-rushing moves to finish with 1½ sacks and three quarterback hits.
Anthony Harris: The interception he made — his seventh in 16 games — was the kind of play at which Harris has excelled all season; he started as the lone safety in the middle of the field, tracked back with Trae Waynes (who was carrying Ted Ginn's route deep), and put himself in perfect position to take away an underthrown Drew Brees pass from Ginn.
TWO Areas of concern
Tackling: The Vikings missed 10 tackles, which tied their highest total of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. They struggled especially with Taysom Hill, the Saints' multi-position dynamo who eluded Stephen Weatherly on his 11-yard read-option run, dragged defenders on a 9-yard gain for a first down in the fourth quarter and bounced off Anthony Harris on a 28-yard gain two plays later.
Shamar Stephen's health: The defensive tackle suffered a knee injury on Sunday, and his status bears watching this week as the Vikings prepare for a 49ers offense that mirrors their own in terms of how often it uses heavy personnel groups. If the Vikings are without Stephen on Sunday, they'll need Jaleel Johnson to play well against the run as well as the pass.
One Big question
Does the win mean all of the questions about the Vikings' future have been answered?
Coach Mike Zimmer called speculation about his job status "silly," citing the 60% clip at which the Vikings have won since he took over in 2014, but the matter isn't resolved quite yet. Both Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman have deals that expire after the 2020 season, and it's worth pointing out what ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday about Zimmer not wanting to coach as a lame duck. In other words, the 63-year-old coach is eyeing a contract extension — and it would follow the Vikings would do one for Spielman, as well, to keep the two on the same track.
But now that offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski can interview this week with other teams for head coaching openings (the Browns and Panthers are known to be interested), the Vikings will have to decide if they want to risk losing the 37-year-old. The smart money is on the Vikings giving Zimmer a new contract sometime this offseason, but the coach could be looking for his fifth offensive coordinator if another team hires Stefanski. This time, there seem to be some in-house options, whether Gary Kubiak wants to resume play-calling duties, quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak is ready for a promotion, or the Vikings contemplate bringing Pat Shurmur back after the Giants fired him.