1. Scoring more touchdowns from the red zone is Shurmur’s top priority. New offensive coordinator, same results for a Vikings offense that was ranked 28th in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage entering Week 9. The Vikings under Pat Shurmur scored two TDs and one field goal in five trips inside the Lions 20-yard line. Their second trip, after LB Chad Greenway picked off Lions QB Matthew Stafford, was comically bad. They were forced to punt after a pair of penalties, a negative run and a sack that put them back at the 40-yard line. The offense did deliver on its final chance, with TE Rhett Ellison scoring on a clever running play after Sam Bradford connected with Stefon Diggs on fourth down. But for the third week in a row, squandered opportunities inside the red zone proved costly for the Vikings, who definitely miss Adrian Peterson in that area.
2. Zimmer’s key late-game decisions left game in question. Let me start off by saying that Mike Zimmer did not miss a kick, he did not get stuffed on fourth down and he did not let Lions WR Golden Tate slip out of his grasp in OT. But he erred by not letting more time run off on the final Vikings drive. Before Ellison’s touchdown on third down, he had two timeouts and could have let time tick down under 15 seconds before using one. There was a chance that a penalty could give the Vikings a first down and more shots at the end zone. But scoring with as little time left as possible would have given the Lions less time to respond. On defense, Zimmer, typically an aggressive play-caller, only sent a three-man rush with 17 seconds left in regulation, giving Stafford time to complete a 27-yard pass that put Prater in position to tie the score. Zimmer later second-guessed himself for that.
3. The Vikings need to give Hillman more opportunities. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata have both averaged well below 4.0 yards per carry since Peterson was injured in Week 2. Poor blocking has been the main culprit, but neither of those two has showed an ability to consistently make something out of nothing. Enter Ronnie Hillman, the speedy veteran who sparked the offense Sunday with a 14-yard run on a pitch play and a 32-yard gain on a swing pass in the fourth quarter. The Vikings went back to that pitch one too many times, but Hillman did almost break loose on that 14-yarder. McKinnon is still the most talented athlete in this backfield, and Asiata is their only runner with power. But Hillman, who has 1,884 career rushing yards, showed he might not be “just another guy.” Give him more carries and see what he can do.