But even insiders close to the team have questioned the true intentions of the celebration.
Cousins, who punched Zimmer in the chest several times, screaming his coveted catchphrase, ‘You Like That,” may have had underlying intentions after he potentially saved his coach’s job by leading a game-winning drive against the Detriot Lions.
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The Vikings offense struggled in the second half due to conservative playcalling. They ran the ball six times on second-and-8 or longer, resulting in a total of just 12 yards, with the longest run going for five yards, per team reporter Eric Smith.
In the second half, the Vikings managed three drives of 40 yards or longer. Their other drives went: Three plays for 2 yards, three plays for minus-4 yards, three plays for 6 yards, four plays for 3 yards and three plays for 2 yards.
The Vikings were playing to protect a seven-point lead instead of running up the score on a defense that Justin Jefferson gashed for 104 yards in the first half. Jefferson saw two targets the rest of the game and Adam Thielen didn’t have a catch until the final, game-saving drive that led to Greg Joseph‘s 54-yard field goal.
“When Justin Jefferson ends the first half with 104 yards and he gets two targets in the second half, that’s not enough,” Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling said on the Access Vikings podcast. “Especially when you don’t have Dalvin Cook, you have to find a way to get the ball in (Jefferson’s) hands more than you did.”
Why the Vikings aren’t unleashing its star power on lesser opponents remains a mystery — one that’s likely leading to frustration in the locker room. Cousins may have vented those frustrations.
“It certainly looked awkward,” Goessling said. “I asked around about it after the game. From Cousins’ perspective, it was a celebration that looked awkward. The ‘You Like That’ though, I wouldn’t be shocked if that had a tinge of ‘Look what we can do when you give us a chance in a short amount of time like they didn’t.’ ”
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Lack of Trust
Star Tribune reporter Andrew Krammer added to Goessling’s observation that there seems to be a lack of trust in the offense.
“It seemed like every time they got into a tough situation, it was, well, let’s run a screen and see what happens. They just kinda gave up on the play, and that shows there isn’t any trust from coaching staff into their players on offense. That, to me, all boiled down into Kirk shaking Mike Zimmer. ‘You like that? Look what we just did for you on offense.’
“I don’t know if that was the impetus for Kirk doing that, but he has every reason at some point to be like ‘put the ball in our hands and let us go after it and try at least and not sit on the ball like they have and be so conservative.’ ”
“When you’re a 2-3 team like this, you can see it splitting at the seams. They’re not totally finger-pointing, but you can sure see the roots of it,” Krammer said.
The Vikings will need to reconvene quickly to climb out of their 2-3 rut with some of the steepest competition upcoming. Their next six opponents have a combined 21-9 record, five of which have only one loss.
“I could see that stretch breaking their spirit,” Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan said on the Access Vikings podcast. “Especially after that when you have as many players kind of in limbo as far as their futures that the team has.”