by Mike Marek
As predicted from my column a couple weeks ago, the Vikings keep on winning. For all but the most pessimistic Vikings fans, it was an expectation that they were going to win against the Giants, but you have to give them some kudos for winning against former terror, Philadelphia, and going on the road to grab a win against the Lions. The hero behind the last three victories, a certain quarterback that was almost chased out, was Kirk Cousins.
Cousins has been nothing but phenomenal over the last three games. He has put up an amazing 10-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions with the only pick coming off a ball that hit Stefon Diggs in the face. Kirk has had back-to-back 300-yard-plus performances with four passing touchdowns in each. We can’t just give Kirk all the credit though. The once-maligned offensive line has gelled and turned things around. They have been able to give Cousins the most time in the league to throw the ball over the last three games. That combined with much improved play calling from the Vikings offensive brain-trust has quickly propelled the team to a 5-2 record.
The defining moment of the game, and potentially a preview for the rest of the Vikings’ season, came late in the fourth quarter as the Vikings were looking to seal the victory. It was third and short, and history said the Vikings were going to do the conservative thing and run the ball up the middle. This option would afford them to take time off the clock, while also giving them a decent chance that they would gain the first down. Classic Vikings’ move.
This time, something was different. Zimmer had decided it was time to grab the victory instead of chance they wouldn’t lose. The play call turned out to be a long shot to Stefon Diggs, and it paid off. Diggs was open deep and came down easily with the catch. He even covered up the ball with two hands to ensure that a fumble was an impossibility. The result? Game over, Detroit.
In my history of watching the Vikings, I can only remember one other call that I would I put in the category of “gutsy.” That was a play that happened over a decade ago against the Bears. Gus Frerotte was the quarterback. We had just finished a goal-line stand but as a result we were stuck on the one-yard line. The whole universe thought the Vikings were going to run, but instead Gus threw a pass to Bernard Berrian that went for 99 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that shocked the Bears, Vikings fans, and the rest of the universe. These sort of plays stick in your head for awhile, because they are unique for a generally conservative franchise. This year, however, I think Zimmer has something else in mind for the Vikings.
In his post-game conference Zimmer had the following to say about the out-of-character play call, “Well, we wanted to stay aggressive. We were moving the ball pretty well and felt like we had to. It was a play we had up after a play action and we had a chance for Diggs in space. There wasn’t much conversation. We didn’t come here to cower down … we came here to try and hit it.”
With that aggressive play call the game, and possibly the rest of the season, seems to have changed for the Vikings. In what may be Zimmer’s defining year, it’s time to go, and it’s time to go big. No more moral victories, or almost wins. Zimmer is clearly in win-now mode, and I am in the camp of him continuing to go for broke in what may prove to be his finest season leading the team.