Vikings Pro Bowler Shades ‘Dead’ Crowd’s ‘Christmas Hangover’ in Rams Loss

Anthony Barr

Getty Vikings linebacker called out a quiet crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium following a 30-23 loss to the Rams on December 26, 2021.

Mike Zimmer did something he’s unaccustomed to as the Minnesota Vikings‘ head coach.

The 65-year-old coach got into the pregame huddle to fire his team up — a task he’s opted to delegate to his player leadership in his eight-year tenure in Minnesota.

The reason why?

Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr claims it was due to a “dead” atmosphere in U.S. Bank Stadium despite the matchup having severe playoff implications.

“I asked Anthony Barr why Mike Zimmer got in the pregame huddle to fire the team up, which is something he normally doesn’t do,” ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported following a disappointing 30-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. “Barr said he felt Zimmer did it to help the Vikings ‘find our energy’ because it felt ‘dead’ inside US Bank Stadium.”

The “lack of buzz” in the Vikings’ home stadium could have been many things, and Barr speculated it was potentially a “Christmas hangover,” per Pioneer Press beat reporter Chris Tomasson.

Justin Jefferson echoed Barr, saying “we didn’t have any energy the first quarter,” Cronin reported.

Apparently, the Vikings fan base has become emotionally numb after the weekly rollercoaster they’ve endured with Minnesota, which played its 14th game decided by a single possession this season.

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Failure to Launch

Barr took Zimmer’s presence in the pregame huddle to heart, snaring a pair of interceptions that placed Minnesota in the red zone twice. The first interception gave the Vikings possession at the Rams 11-yard line. However, Minnesota came away with only a field goal.

“We got to get points off turnovers, preferably touchdowns,” Kirk Cousins said, per Tomasson. Despite winning the turnover battle 3-1, the Vikings came away with just 10 points off turnovers.

The Vikings’ inability to play complementary football and capitalize on their opportunities was a primary factor in their loss, which leaves Minnesota with a 10% chance of making the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight.

A loss on the road next week against the Green Bay Packers would render a Vikings victory in their season finale against the Chicago Bears meaningless with less than a 4% chance of making the postseason. But if Minnesota can win its final two games, the Vikings’ odds jump to 54%, with several factors needing to play out elsewhere in the NFC.

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Running Game Misses Dalvin Cook

For most of the game, the Vikings defense had Matthew Stafford‘s number, snagging three interceptions and allowing Stafford to complete just 21-of-37 pass attempts for 197 yards for a 46.8 passer rating.

Minnesota failed to sustain drives in a game where the Rams won in both trenches — and the absence of Dalvin Cook, out with COVID-19, proved to be a vital blow to the offense. The Vikings averaged just 3.0 yards per carry, with backup running back Alexander Mattison leading the way with 13 carries for 41 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles chewed up clock time when it mattered in the final quarter. The Rams sustained scoring drives of 11 and 13 plays, keeping the ball away from the Vikings for 10 minutes, 13 seconds. Sony Michel saw 13 of his 27 carries on those two scoring drives. He finished the game with 131 rushing yards and a touchdown.

The Vikings made quick work when they did have the ball and had their backs against the wall, trailing in the final quarter. Cousins led a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that left eight minutes on the clock before getting the ball back, down by 10 points, with 2:03 left in regulation.

Needing a touchdown and the field goal, Minnesota took care of the field goal before the Rams recovered an onside kick to seal the game.

Cousins completed 9-of-10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown on the team’s final two drives, finishing the game with 315 passing yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 93.6 passer rating.

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