SEATTLE – Mike Zimmer faced a decision ripe for second-guessing. If it works, he’s applauded for being aggressive. If it doesn’t, he looks foolish.
The latter happened. And then the worst-case scenario happened.
Of course, it did. Because these are the Vikings.
And Russell Wilson is Russell Wilson.
Zimmer gambled, Wilson pounced on a second chance, and the Vikings blew an opportunity to win a game that felt significant enough to alter the narrative of their season.
Instead, they were left to stew on a red-eye flight home after the Seattle Seahawks turned new life into a 27-26 win at CenturyLink Field.
The game offered a basket full of headline-worthy developments, but Zimmer’s coaching decision will receive most scrutiny.
The Vikings led 26-21 at the two-minute warning. They had fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 6. Gain one yard and the game is essentially over. A field goal would force the Seahawks to score a touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime.
If they failed, Wilson had a chance to engineer a winning drive from 95 yards away.
Zimmer went for it. It backfired. The whole thing fell apart.
I would have done the same thing.
That was my reaction in real time. Obviously, that reaction looks wrong knowing the outcome. But in real time, yes, go for it.
The Vikings entered the game with a 1-3 record. They were on the road against an undefeated team. They had momentum. They had a chance to end the game against a defense that has been uncharacteristically bad. I don’t have a problem with being aggressive in that situation.
“It was about a half a yard,” Zimmer said. “If we got the half a yard, we win the game. I was trying to win it. I told them [his coaches] on the headset, ‘We didn’t come here for this. Let’s go win it.’”
Alexander Mattison didn’t gain the half-yard. He was stuffed at the line, and Minnesota sports fans could see the impending doom from half a country away.
Wilson showed off his magic, completing two fourth-down passes to DK Metcalf, the first for 39 yards and then a 6-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left.
The Seahawks went 94 yards in 1 minute 42 seconds.
The Vikings defense crumpled, unable to make one play to seal the game, but the offense took ownership for putting their teammates in that situation.
“That was a great situation to just end the game,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “It’s on us as an offense to get one yard.”
The game felt like four different games. Four different Acts in a play.
Act 1: Sheer domination by the Vikings.
Act 2: Oh no.
Act 3: How did that happen?
Act 4: Zimmer’s gamble backfires.
The first half went better than anything Zimmer could have reasonably scripted. The Vikings recorded 15 first downs in the half. The Seahawks ran 18 plays. A 13-0 halftime lead was a shocker.
Then … gulp.
Dalvin Cook caught a short pass on the first offensive play of the second half. He turned to run but immediately grabbed his groin area, hobbling out of bounds without trying to fight for yards.
He went to his knees, then up the tunnel to the locker room. Cook returned for one play, but he ran gingerly on a decoy and left the game for good.
Two turnovers by Kirk Cousins — a fumble and interception – and that 13-0 lead dissolved into a 21-13 deficit in a blink.
The Vikings rallied with Cousins showing resiliency, Mattison running hard in place of Cook and Eric Wilson grabbing a clutch interception.
The Vikings gave themselves a chance to win. They needed one yard for a knockout punch. Zimmer trusted his offense.
It didn’t work out. Some fans will hate the move. Some will agree.
The Vikings needed one yard against a defense that ranks last the NFL in yards allowed. Being aggressive in that situation wasn’t reckless.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org