Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, a typically conservative play-caller, was playing to win on Sunday night against the Seahawks.
After two successful fouth-down conversions, Zimmer’s final gamble on fourth-and-inches with under two minutes left in the game seemed foolproof. If the Vikings, protecting a five-point lead, convert, the game is over. If they don’t, Seattle has to go 94 yards in the waning minutes of the game.
What followed left many in disbelief as the Vikings were stopped and the Seahawks went the distance, capping a game-winning drive with a fourth-down TD with 15 seconds remaining to secure a 27-26 victory. Backup running back Alexander Mattison was stopped short of a first down that would have iced the game, while MVP frontrunner Russel Wilson drove his team down the field and connected with D.K. Metcalf for the game-winning touchdown.
The stat engines say Zimmer made the right call, but if they kick a field goal do the Vikings win? We can’t be certain, but the worst-case scenario was overtime.
Zimmer said in his postgame press conference he has no regrets.
“I knew if we got the half-a-yard we win the game. I told them in the headset ‘we didn’t come here for this, let’s go win it,’ ” Zimmer said. “I’m not going to second guess that stuff.”
But after a second single-point loss in three weeks where the Vikings outplayed two undefeated teams in the Titans and Seahawks, Minnesota is still looking for answers at 1-4.
“It’s frustrating. They’re disappointed they fought their rear-ends off tonight,” Zimmer said. “Just keep fighting, keep getting better.”
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Offense Was Clutch Until It Needed to Be
The Vikings, leaning on the offense for the first time in Zimmer’s tenure, executed their game plan from the first drive, taking the ball 12 plays for 77 yards and a touchdown by Dalvin Cook.
The drive was highlighted by a fourth-down pass completion from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson that extended the drive and established the Vikings willingness to take chances against an opportunistic Seattle team.
After forcing the Seahawks to punt on their first drive, the Vikings again chewed up the clock with a 17-play, 10-minute drive that ended with a 52-yard Dan Bailey field goal and zapped the life out of the Seahawks defense. Dalvin Cook gained three yards on fourth-and-1 that drive as the Vikings were 2-for-2 on fourth down conversions int he first half.
The Vikings kept the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands for the majority of the game, dominating time of possession 39:28-20:32 by sustaining five 10-plus play drives, the most in franchise history since 1991.
But when Seattle got their chances the Vikings completely collapsed, giving up 21 points in a three-minute span of the third quarter as a result of a fumble and interception thrown by Cousins that gave the Seahawks a short field twice.
The offense closed the game with a pair of lengthy drives: the first ending in a touchdown pass to Adam Thielen to re-gain the lead, while the second ended with Mattison being stopped on fourth-and-inches and led to Wilson’s late-game heroics.
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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.