For all but four minutes, the Vikings looked like the better team last Sunday against the Seahawks. But when the game came down to a Russell Wilson two-minute drill, the Vikings young defense’s naivité was put under a microscope.
After three straight incompletions that led to a fourth-and-10, rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler looked lost tracking a ball intended for D.K. Metcalf, who caught the pass to extend the Seahawks’ eventual game-winning drive.
.@dkm14 came up HUGE on 4th down 💪
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 12, 2020
All-Pro safety Harrison Smith made it clear that the four-game buffer of a pseudo-preseason is over — the Vikings rookie class will be treated like anyone else from here on out — after his in-the-moment reaction to the blunder by Dantzler.
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‘Cam, Cover Your F****** Guy’
In the clip below, NBC cameras captured a close-up shot of Smith’s conversation with Dantzler immediately after the Seahawks’ go-ahead TD. While you can’t hear Smith, the words he has for the rookie are apparent.
I’m a bad lip reader. He’s saying, “Cover your pumpkin pie,” right? Seems like a sensible cooking tip for the holiday season. pic.twitter.com/nCE0buMakW
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) October 12, 2020
It was a rough night for Dantzler who’s been considered the Vikings No. 1 cornerback. Wilson targeted Dantzler in coverage 11 times and completed six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Third-year veteran Mike Hughes, who made his first start in two weeks after dealing with a neck injury, gave up three catches for 37 yards on six targets, while first-round rookie Jeff Gladney gave up a catch for 13 yards on the single pass thrown his way.
“These young corners, they’re going to have to learn by being in these instances, being in these situations,” Zimmer said after the game. “They’ve got a lot of things on their plate, learning who the good receivers are and where their splits are and how the receivers run their routes, studying where the back is. I mean, all the different things that they have to learn. And now we have to put it into the fourth quarter and these two-minute situations where they understand, ‘OK, now is not the time to be aggressive, now is the time to be cautious.’ It’s all a learning process for them. I still feel good about Dantzler. I think he’s going to be a heck of a player. I thought Gladney played really good in the slot and did some really nice things.”
Cousins Keeping Positive
The final drive was a moment of boiling frustration that had been mounting for weeks as the Vikings young lineup continues to take its burns in their baptism by fire. The Vikings are 1-4 and had the chance to steal a win in Seattle that the team had earned, out-playing the undefeated Seahawks for the majority of the game.
Players and coaches stuck to the script and kept it cordial in the press conferences, but Kirk Cousins did illuminate the situation in the locker room currently.
“When I look around our locker room, I don’t see guys who are a problem,” Cousins said. “And you would be surprised at how often that can be the case in a locker room where you have certain guys who just haven’t figured it out. In our locker room, just as people the way they work, the way they serve their teammates, the way they play. Down to the very last guy, I just feel really good about our group. At the end of the day, what matters is wins and losses and we have to have a better record than we do right now.”
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.