1. Zimmer’s mistake made it four-point game
According to Mike Zimmer, it was Mike Zimmer who completely botched the first play of the second half. And the result could have been disastrous considering that Zimmer’s ill-advised blitz call handed Miami a 75-yard rushing touchdown and cut the Vikings’ lead to 21-17. “I told the players that was my fault,” Zimmer said. “I was trying to be aggressive today. But the guys bailed me out.” The Dolphins called a simple run up the middle for rookie Kalen Ballage. Right guard Jesse Davis moved Sheldon Richardson to the right. Then, because of the overload blitz call, center Travis Swanson was able to shield nose tackle Linval Joseph and linebacker Anthony Barr. Ballage did the rest. “I had it in my mind that I was going to call it,” Zimmer said. “And they caught us. It was my fault.”
2. On third-and-goal, Rhodes muscled Parker
Ballage’s 75-yard touchdown would have tied the game if not for cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ manhandling of 6-3, 216-pound receiver DeVante Parker in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 7 right before the half. The officials allowed them to jockey, elbow and fight for the ball just inbounds. The 6-1, 218-pound Rhodes won and Miami settled for a 25-yard field goal. In Seattle last week, Rhodes drew two penalties, including a 31-yarder for pass interference. Zimmer was asked about that penalty and how Rhodes leads the team in penalties, as he has every year he’s been in the league. “Some of it is when you’re a power forward, you have to play like a power forward,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes he gets a little to physical. That’s part of his game. So it probably won’t be the last time it happens.”
3. Offensive line overcomes penalties
The offensive line dominated a run defense that ranked 29th and seemed more than half asleep until Kirk Cousins threw his pick-six while leading 21-0. The 220 yards rushing is the most by a Vikings team since the 2015 team racked up 263 at Oakland. But … Four of the six penalties called on the Vikings were on the offensive line. Two came on the same drive. Center Pat Elflein was flagged for illegal man downfield in the first quarter and illegal use of hands in the third quarter. The Vikings scored a touchdown after his first penalty. The second negated a first-down catch by Stefon Diggs and led to a punt. Guards Tom Compton (holding) and Mike Remmers (false start on third-and-9) were flagged on the drive that ended with Cousin’s pick-six. Remmers’ false start came one snap before the interception.
4. Sherels makes Dolphins punter pay
There’s more to punting than a big leg. Just ask Miami punter Matt Haack. He averaged 50.1 yards on seven punts, including a 63-yarder. But when returner Marcus Sherels fielded that 63-yarder, the nearest Dolphin was 13 yards away. Haack outkicked his coverage big-time. “I knew he had a big leg,” Sherels said. “He kind of drove it and I knew our guys would do a good job blocking it.” Jayron Kearse blocked the nearest Dolphin, giving Sherels the open sideline. “I love JK,” Sherels said. Sherels went 70 yards before being tripped up at the 22. With the offense in a brief funk at the time, the return gave the Vikings a 36-yard field goal and a 24-17 lead. Sherels finished with 116 yards on five returns (23.2). The 116 yards are second-most in team history. Sherels also holds the top spot (119) and the fifth spot (100).
5. Now that’s the kind of game Barr is capable of
Most fans are begging for Anthony Barr to turn heads like the former first-round pick used to do. Like someone with his diverse skill set should do on a more consistent basis. Well, Sunday was a head-turner. The 72nd game of Barr’s career was his first multi-sack game. He also had a game-high seven tackles. With the Vikings leading 21-0, he had back-to-back plays in which he sacked Ryan Tannehill and tackled Kenyan Drake short of a first down on third-and-13. In a 4-3 defense, we shouldn’t expect Barr to put up 3-4 edge rusher numbers. But Sunday was the kind of fun that Barr and his fans should enjoy more often. “I don’t think stats always tell the full story about the player and the defense,” Barr said. “People like to cling to that. We play unselfish for the most part, and when we do, we play well.”