Minnesota’s Five Most Boneheaded Decisions From the Lions Loss

Mike Zimmer
Dec 30, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Truthfully, Minnesota’s Lions loss provides us with far more than 5 decisions to choose from. That was a disaster of a performance from the coaching staff. Some will say that the Vikings fell into the trap, but that really shouldn’t have been a possibility. They lost the week before against the 49ers, a team that is similarly competing for the NFC Wild Card. In other words, Minnesota shouldn’t have strolled into the game thinking they were world-beaters.

It was this reality that led me toward picking the Vikings for a convincing win. Their motivation ought to have been at an all-time high. Snag the no-doubter against the Lowly Lions (who are now the Kardiac Kitties) and get things going in the right direction. Alas, the Vikings did what they do best: fall short of expectations.

It is this propensity for mediocrity that has led most Vikings fans toward a full-scale online protest of the coaching staff. I’ve long been a Mike Zimmer fan, but it appears as though it’s now time to move on. He had eight years and was behind one of the greatest moments in franchise history: the Minneapolis Miracle. The unfortunate reality is that those miracle moments haven’t happened nearly enough.

Yesterday’s loss to the Lions featured some awful decision making from Minnesota’s head coach. There was also a brutal play from a player or two. Here are my top 5.

5) Overthinking the OL

Christian Darrisaw wasn’t able to get into the lineup following his injury against the 49ers. Instead of simply putting Rashod Hill at LT, the Vikings opted to completely shuffle their line. Oli Udoh – who started every game at RG – was put in at left tackle. He finished the game as the offense’s worst-ranked player. The domino effect involved needing to slide Mason Cole over to RG (an idea we’ve flirted with) and then re-insert Garrett Bradbury (who really ought to be kept on the bench) into the lineup. Why all this shuffling? The Lions were rolling into the game without Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers, their top two edge rushers, so it’s not like Minnesota would need to put Hill on an island against an elite DE. This decision made things needlessly complicated for Minnesota’s offense, contributing to the Lions loss.

4) Brutal End of Half Strategy

The Vikings were down 17-6. That simple fact was reason to be upset. These are the Lions. Minnesota had an opportunity to make it a one-score game by, at the very least, kicking a field goal at the end of the opening half. 17-9 is far better than 17-6. Neither of those scores were a reality in the end.

In the end-of-half situation, a team’s mandate is twofold: get points and kill the clock. The team needs to drain the time as it steals back momentum by putting points on the board. Minnesota accomplished neither of these goals. Their garbled mess of a 4th & 10 play led to Detroit getting the ball back in pretty good field position. They marched down the field to kick a FG, extending their lead to a full 14 points. 20-6 heading into the half was a needlessly large deficit.

3) 0/3 on 2-Point Conversions

It’s the first one that’s the most egregious. Instead of kicking the PAT to make it a 4 four point game – and therefore still very manageable if the Lions kick a FG – Zim decided to go for two points. Of course, we all would have applauded a successful attempt as yet another instance of good things happening when the team is aggressive. Getting to that point, though, requires Minnesota to, you know, succeed.

The play design was for Kene Nwangwu to sneak the ball in for the quick score. The problem was that the OL got blown up and the Lions weren’t really confused. Confusion and competent line play (see point #5 in this list) were crucial ingredients in this 2-point stew. Both were missing, so the play didn’t materialize. The Vikings were thus down by 5 points.

2) Refusing to Pressure Goff

Jared Goff is a solid NFL backup QB. He’s starting in Detroit since they have no other option. Yesterday, he looked like a legit starter, a remarkably embarrassing reality for a defensive coach with a lot of pride. Take a peak at the final drive:

Refusing to bring more pressure is an inexplicably poor decision. It’s made even worse by the fact that Zim made that mistake repeatedly. Look, I get that Hunter, Griff, Barr, Kendricks, and Peterson were absent. Losing those guys is difficult, and yet one could argue that their absence makes pressure more important.

Blake Lynch had already gotten home a couple times. Why not at least have him as a QB spy who could come on a delayed blitz?

1) Dantzler’s “Coverage”

I offered a few thoughts on Twitter on this topic:

A few thoughts to elaborate on the most significant play in Minnesota’s loss to the Lions. Look at the three defenders in the middle of the field. All three stay square as they hold strong at the line; they very reasonably recognize that the line is all that matters, especially since they have help over the top. Breeland opens his hips and gets some depth, but his man actually worked beyond the goal line.

Pause the video after a second: Dantzler opens his hips when the Detroit receiver is still 8 yards from the endzone. It was a truly baffling, horrendous decision from Dantzler. The sophomore corner has great upside, but his lack of awareness on that play was among the worst components of the game.

If you’ve got other ideas for completely boneheaded decisions, let me know on Twitter @VikingsGazette. There are options aplenty.