EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Jets had closed to within 10 points of the Vikings with 18 minutes left in the swirling, swaying and gusting wind tunnel that is MetLife Stadium.
Like a golfer going to a knock-down shot to win the British Open, the Vikings decided to travel by land to seal the deal. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, much to coach Mike Zimmer’s delight, called back-to-back runs.
The result: a two-play, 51-yard, soul-crushing touchdown drive that Latavius Murray capped with a 38-yard run. The Vikings’ lead was padded to 17 points en route to a 37-17 victory.
“Sometimes, we get impatient,” Zimmer said of DeFilippo’s handling of the running game. “We have to control the clock, we have to control the running game. In the first half, we didn’t really stick with it at times.
“You can’t just run the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball. Or throw the ball, run the ball, throw the ball. Sometimes you have to run and run again.”
Especially on a day like Sunday. Winds were out of the northwest at 16 mph, but the gusts were much stronger and unpredictable.
“This,” said Vikings kicker Dan Bailey, “was the second- or third-windiest game I’ve been a part of.”
He then laughed at what happened on his missed field goal from 42 yards.
“I hit that one right where I wanted to,” he said. “But it caught a gust that held it up. And then it just fell off to the left. If I had to kick it again, I’d kick it the same way.”
Punter Matt Wile had punts of 66 yards with the wind and 37 yards against the wind.
“On the 37-yarder, the ball moved when I dropped it to punt it,” he said. “The wind was gusting like crazy on that one. And swirling all day. You might feel like it’s going left, but the ball gets up and goes right.”
And then there’s this from receiver Aldrick Robinson, who got spun around on a third-down deep ball incompletion in the second half.
“I lost it in the wind,” he said, laughing. “I was set up to make the catch over my one shoulder. Then it looked like the ball was going to end up on my other shoulder. I turned, but then the ball ended up where I was originally.
“I played here a long time ago when it was windy like this. I think it’s just the way the stadium is built and the way they let the wind shoot through the place.”
The Jets won the coin toss and deferred. The Vikings took the ball, while Jets coach Todd Bowles elected to defend the north end zone.
When it came time to open the second half, the Jets took the ball, and Zimmer was asked which end zone he wanted to defend.
“The wind was really swirling, so it was hard to tell which way it was going,” he said. “We were kicking in the second half, and I said, ‘Well, whatever Todd did I am going to do because he knows the stadium way better than me.’ ”
Each team had 17 possessions. Each punted eight times. The Vikings went three-and-out seven times, while the Jets went three-and-out six times.
The quarterbacks had 20 completions and 20 incompletions in the first half. The Jets muffed a punt. So, yeah, weather was a bit of a factor that won’t show up in any of Pro Football Focus’ cold, hard numerical assessments.
The weather wasn’t a factor when DeFilippo called those key back-to-back runs. Not when rookie Roc Thomas gained 23 yards on his only carry. And not when Murray popped the 38-yard clincher against a blitz call.
“The running game wasn’t pretty early on, but we stuck with it,” Murray said. “We caught them when they brought two guys off the edge. I split them. And if they bring pressure like that, there aren’t many guys in the secondary to stop the run.”
And no wind to deal with.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org