The Minnesota Vikings‘ season has been one of the most enigmatic in the team’s history.
From turnovers and safeties in the early weeks that led to a crippling 1-5 start, to winning five of their next six on the shoulders of the offense’s resurgence, the season has been defined by a handful of plays.
The Vikings offense executed with ease on Sunday, racking up 407 total yards against the Chicago Bears, who kept pace with Minnesota by scoring on six consecutive drives. Just when the Vikings defense made a play — Cameron Dantzler’s interception in the end zone — to give the offense the ball back with three minutes and down by a field goal, the offense crumbled.
A fourth-and-1 decision to run a play-action pass where Bears nose tackle Brent Urban leaked through the pass protection to disrupt the play before it could develop has become the defining moment that cost the Vikings the game, and practically dashed their playoff hopes.
Charean Williams, a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, made a case as to why Mike Zimmer, who was uncharacteristically aggressive on fourth downs, will be “perhaps in the hottest seat in the NFL” entering next season after several questionable play calls on fourth down.
“Mike Zimmer has proven to be very aggressive this year — I think more than any other year — and he’s gone for it on multiple occasions you probably would question a bit,” Williams said on Pro Football Talk. “This is why the Vikings are where they are… on the outside looking in. And why Mike Zimmer’s going to go into next season on the hot seat, perhaps the hottest seat of anybody in the NFL.”
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Why Didn’t the Vikings Run Cook on Fourth-and-1?
Williams and Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk questioned the decision to run play-action and not hand off to Dalvin Cook, who finished the game with 132 rushing yards.
Florio claimed that an overly aggressive call to run Cook on fourth-and-1 on their own 34-yard line midway that resulted in a turnover on downs midway through the second quarter proved to be a factor in the.
Minnesota’s defense held Chicago to a field goal on the ensuing drive, however, the Vikings may not have been chasing those three points to tie on the final drive of the game had they just punted. There’s also the consideration that the offensive line wouldn’t have been as morally defeated after several stabs up the middle resulted in no gain.
Vikings Have Become Predictable
After Dalvin Cook ran roughshod through the Green Bay Packers coming out of the bye week, it seemed that the Vikings could simply enforce their game plan on the opposition.
But as tougher defenses emerged through the schedule, it proved Minnesota had become too predictable.
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin noted that the Vikings ran the ball more on second down than any team at a 47.6% clip. Minnesota, owning the fifth-highest designed run-play percentage, per Cronin, has essentially been running the clock out on themselves while trailing in the second half in each of their past five games, forcing the offense into a corner when there could be more scoring opportunities found in a more balanced attack.
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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.