Vikings’ Mike Zimmer Has Strong Message After Snapping Losing Streak

Mike Zimmer

Getty Vikings coach Mike Zimmer took an aggressive approach to the team's offense on Sunday that led to a 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at Sofi Stadium.

Entering Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers on a two-game losing skid, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told his team how fed up he was with losing.

“I like to win,” Zimmer said in a Nov. 15 postgame press conference. “The players know that I hate to lose. I talked to them about it this week, how much I hate it.”

He channeled those frustrations and told his team on Sunday they would be the aggressors.

“I thought (the Chargers) would go for it on fourth down a lot more than they did today. I just told the team we are going to be aggressive,” Zimmer said. “If we get beat because we run a fake punt and we don’t get it, then we just have to suck it up and stop them on defense.”

The Vikings did just that, converting twice on fourth down, including a four-yard run by Dalvin Cook on the game’s final drive that effectively clinched a 27-20 victory that breathed new life into the Vikings’ season.

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Playing to Win

After showing a tendency to play conservatively with the game on the line the past few weeks, the Vikings embodied a win-at-all-costs mentality in the final quarter. They hogged the ball, dominating time of possession 10:07 to 4:53.

“I didn’t care about (the four-minute drill),” Zimmer said of the team’s game-sealing drive. “I wanted the ball in our hands. That was really what we were trying to do — try to go score if we needed to and clock that down. They used their timeouts and we were able to win the game.”

Cook finished the game with 94 rushing yards and a touchdown while adding 24 receiving yards on three receptions. His Week 10 status was a talking point throughout the week after he was accused of domestic assault by an ex-girlfriend. However, it proved not to be a significant distraction, with the Vikings snapping their two-game losing streak coming out of the bye week.

“Dalvin is an extremely resilient, competitive person that is a great team leader,” Zimmer said. “I’m proud of him. I love the way he plays. I love the heart that he brings. He’s one of my favorite players of all time.”

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Zimmer Puts Trust in Cousins

After weeks of fizzling out on offense and stranding the defense for lengthy series, the Vikings showed more adept clock and situational management. That came, in part, with trusting Kirk Cousins to close the game.

A Luke Stocker facemask penalty that backed the Vikings up to first-and-25 on their game-clinching drive had the makings of another fourth-quarter meltdown fans had become accustomed to this season.

Instead, the Vikings stuck to the plan and stayed aggressive, passing on the following three downs: a five-yard catch-and-run to Tyler Conklin on first down; an incomplete pass to Conklin on second down; and a clutch 18-yard catch by Adam Thielen that set up Cook’s fourth-and-2 conversion to clinch the game.

“I got in the fourth quarter, right, I knew we had been there before a few times. I was trying to figure out a way we’re going to win the game,” Zimmer said. “I told Klint, ‘Be aggressive here and try to score.’ Unfortunately, we got a first-and-20 on that drive, then we were fourth-and-two. There is no way we were not going to try to win the game right there.”

Cousins and Thielen connected for a 16-yard gain on third-and-9 earlier in the fourth quarter that set up what proved to be Cook’s game-winning TD.

“It’s big. I do think that sometimes (Cousins) needs to be aggressive with the football. I thought he was today, especially in the second half,” Zimmer said. “He has to trust everybody. If he has to hum a couple in there and it gets tipped or something, so be it. That’s why we are a team.”

Cousins completed 25 of 37 pass attempts for 294 yards and two touchdowns, while Justin Jefferson led all receivers with nine catches on 11 targets for 143 yards — including a pair of spectacular, deep contested catches by the second-year star receiver.

With the win, the Vikings, 4-5 on the season, are a half-game out of the NFC playoffs and have a 42% chance of making the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight.

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