Football, coaches like to say, is a game of matchups.
That's true for coaching in the NFC North, and the matchups are no longer favoring Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer is 63-46-1 as the Vikings' coach. That's an impressive record that has granted him longevity. He is the longest-tenured coach in the division. Only six NFL head coaches have held their current jobs longer than Zimmer.
Look at the matchups he's currently facing in his most important games, though, and a Vikings fan might have reason to worry.
On Sunday, the Vikings lost another almost-must-win game, this time 33-27 to the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings have lost two straight to fall to 6-8. They could theoretically make the playoffs, but would have to win at New Orleans and Detroit and then have the NFL bracket chosen by the same fools who chose the college football playoffs.
Sunday's loss means that Zimmer is 1-5 against the Bears' Matt Nagy, who just three weeks ago was thought to be coaching for his job.
Zimmer is 1-3 against Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, another young offensive coach Zimmer seems to think of as an affront to grumpy old defensive coaches.
And the Detroit Lions, having fired the ridiculous Matt Patricia, will likely hire a talented offensive coach who may know how to use players like Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay and D'Andre Swift.
The only time Zimmer has beaten Nagy was earlier this season, when the Bears were playing Nick Foles at quarterback, and were without running back David Montgomery, who has begun playing like a star the last two weeks.
Zimmer's only victory over LaFleur came earlier this season at Lambeau Field.
The Vikings can cite plenty of excuses for their mediocre season, including key injuries and opt-outs. But they remain stocked with star-quality players, including perhaps the best combination of running back and outside receivers in the league.
Yet the Vikings find themselves third in a four-team division, ahead only of one of the worst-run franchises in all of sport.
Sunday, they frequently looked frazzled and disorganized in key moments. For the second time in three years, they faced the Bears in an important game late in the season and watched Mitchell Trubisky, widely regarded as a bust, torch their defense in a hard-to-stomach loss.
When the Bears beat the Vikings 24-10 at the end of the 2018 season, Cousins and Adam Thielen argued on the sideline. On Sunday, Cousins glared or yelled at a couple of receivers and tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the same red-zone sequence, and Justin Jefferson seemed to yell toward Cousins after the quarterback missed him in the back of the end zone.
There were two sequences that made all the difference on Sunday.
Zimmer chose to go for a first down when facing fourth-and-1 from his own 34 with about six minutes left in the second quarter, with his team trailing, 17-7. That felt like an act of desperation even before Dalvin Cook was stopped, and the Bears took advantage of the field position to kick a field goal.
Late in the fourth quarter, Cameron Dantzler made a brilliant interception in the end zone. The Vikings had the ball on their own 20 with 2:57 remaining, trailing 30-27.
This Vikings team isn't the defensive powerhouse it was in 2017. This was a game the offense needed to win, and it was given a chance.
And that offense, featuring all of that skill-position talent and one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks, could not produce a single first down. On fourth-and-1, Cousins tried to bootleg right, was pressured, and threw a hopeless pass.
"I think the defense needs to look in the mirror, too," Zimmer said.
Fourteen games into the season, the Vikings have beaten one quality opponent (the Packers) and would require a miraculous sequence of events just to squeak into the newly-created seventh playoff seed.
Zimmer's performance on Sunday may help Nagy keep his job.
The NFC North's young coaches may become a threat to Zimmer's.