Patrick Marek Headshot 3

by Patrick P. Marek 

 

I’m not saying that Kirk Cousins’ head wasn’t in the game in last Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers, but on a crucial fourth and goal play in the second half, Cousins scanned the defense, approached the line, and lined up to receive the ball from Vikings guard Uli Odoh, instead of his center, Mason Cole. Odoh jumped like a scalded cat, the Vikings were forced to burn their second precious time-out of the half, and Cousins eventually passed on a chance to scamper through a clear lane into the end zone and instead opted to launch an uncatchable ball to Justin Jefferson for a drive-killing incompletion.

Beating the 49ers and their bone-rushing run game on their home turf was always going to be a daunting task, especially since Minnesota had a patchwork defensive line that was held together by bubble gum, Flex Seal, and a prayer. The Vikings had to place unvaccinated defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson on the COVID-19 reserve list and defensive end Everson Griffen on the non-football reserve list after he had a mental health issue this week, and this was after losing Danielle Hunter for the season, and nose tackle Michael Pierce, who is on injured reserve.

Sheldon Richardson took over as defensive end, and 2020 fifth round draft pick James Lynch replaced Tomlinson at tackle. The defensive line that started the season as one of the most promising front fours in the league is now just a distant memory. After Rick Spielman inexplicably traded defensive end Stephen Weatherly to Denver, the team was forced to rummage through the waiver wire and sign guys off the street to try to stop one of the league’s best rushing attacks.

Were D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, Eddie Yarbrough, Armon Watts, Tashawn Bower and Kenny Willekes going to be an embarrassing recipe for disaster?  Surprisingly, that was not the case Sunday.

Aided by a heroic performance by the Vikings linebackers and defensive backs, the line did a decent job of pressuring Jimmy Garoppolo, and slowing down the 49ers rushing game. Admittedly, San Francisco still put up 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but that doesn’t tell he whole story. Ninety-five of the yards came during San Francisco’s run of 21 unanswered points. And the floodgates opened after an extremely questionable holding call was flagged on Patrick Peterson on a third down trick play. Despite the greased lightning rushing touchdowns by the amazing running back/wide receiver Deebo Samuel,

the Minnesota line’s performance was a fun to watch exhibition of exceptional effort, gang tackling, and (mostly) sound team play. After the dust settled it was easy to see that there is no way that the defense should shoulder the blame for this loss. The two biggest scapegoats for the Minnesota defeat were Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer. If that gives you an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, it should … because the team is going to be heavily leaning on both of them for the rest of the way as they attempt to make the playoffs.

Garbed in black and sporting mirrored sunglasses, Mike Zimmer was perched on the sidelines looking like he was doing his best Roy Orbison imitation.  Unfortunately, Zimmer has a better chance of winning a karaoke contest singing “Pretty Woman” than he does in ever mastering the art of being a top head coach in the NFL. As a head coach, Zimmer is a decent defensive coordinator. After eight seasons, Zimmer still hasn’t figured out how to properly manage the clock and use his timeouts. His decision to not take a field goal on the Vikings last trip to the red zone was just another example of the fact that he has reached his level of incompetence as a game manager. He is aggressive when he needs to grab sure points, and timid when the team needs to put their foot on the neck on their opponents and close out games.

Kirk Cousins is exactly as advertised. He puts up gaudy numbers and has a world-class arm, but he tends to check down to his safety valve receivers to pad his stat sheet … until he doesn’t. His interception at the beginning of the second half was vintage Cousins. Checkdown Charlie locked onto Justin Jefferson and threw into triple coverage for a game-changing interception. When you examine his statistics it looks like Cousins should be in the conversation for league MVP. Unfortunately, the ultimate stat line, his 5-6 record, is what really tells the tale of what is wrong with Minnesota’s millionaire unvaccinated signal caller. He is not a leader who inspires confidence. Just when he gets on a roll, puts on a string of superior performances, and Viking fans learn to trust Kirk and love the bomb, he transforms into “Bad Kirk” at the worst possible moment.

So, where do we stand? It’s clear that we are stuck with Zimmer and Cousins for the duration of the season, and perhaps beyond (sigh). Minnesota has a very winnable game at Detroit next week (watch out!), and a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The playoffs are beckoning. Will a playoff berth provide job security for Zimmer and a new contract for Cousins? Only Zygi Wilf and Santa Claus knows.

Until then let’s hug our children, pamper our spouses, give to charity, tip our newspaper and U.S. Mail carriers, and watch the Vikings with one eye shut. That way they’ll only look half bad.

Stay purple my friends.