Tom Powers column: Vikings’ passive decision spells doom in the end
MINNEAPOLIS -- The most disappointing thing about Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers is that the Vikings did not go down fighting. Instead, they surrendered by giving the football to Aaron Rodgers so he could run out the clock.
MINNEAPOLIS - The most disappointing thing about Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers is that the Vikings did not go down fighting. Instead, they surrendered by giving the football to Aaron Rodgers so he could run out the clock.
For almost 57 minutes the Vikings had hung in there against a very talented team. They made mistakes. They were flagged for awful penalties. At times, the offense looked like a 1987 Yugo trying to chug up a steep hill. Yet they kept the score close.
And yet when opportunity came knocking, Mike Zimmer refused to answer the door. He didn’t even peek through the keyhole.
Toward the end, it looked as if all the elements had aligned for a possible upset. Suddenly the atmosphere on this grayest, gloomiest of days appeared supercharged.
Teddy Bridgewater threw a short touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, then completed a two-point conversion to Charles Johnson to make it 24-21.
On the two-point conversion, Green Bay’s Mike Neal was flagged for roughing Bridgewater. That tacked 15 yards onto the kickoff, meaning Blair Walsh would boot from midfield. That was important. They had just two time outs left and there was 3:23 to play.
If ever there was a time to take a chance on an onside kick, this was it. Go for it. Be aggressive. Play to win. And, geez, don’t give the ball back to Rodgers without a fight.
Zimmer said he thought about an onside kick.
“I did. I did,” he said. “In hindsight, I probably should have.
We were trying to pop it up and keep it in play and try to pin them back down in there deep. I assumed that we could stop them, also. “ Bad assumption. Worse, Walsh misfired on the kickoff, getting too much leg into it.
“Yeah, we called almost a pooch down the field,” Walsh said. “Try to hang it as high as you can, put it probably on the 5- or 10-yard line. I just hit it a little deep. “ Touchback. The Packers took over at their 20 and ran out the clock behind Eddie Lacy, who was trouble all day.
Minnesota really should have at least tried the onside kick. Other than a bit of field position, what does it matter if the Packers get the ball at their 20 or, had they recovered the kick, closer to their 40? They still were going to run the ball three times. Either the Vikings stopped them or they didn’t. Why not attempt to keep the football in the final minutes? “There was like three minutes left or something,” Zimmer recalled. “And I figured they were going to run the ball three times. I figured we’d stop them. I was trying to pin it down in there. I don’t know. Hindsight. “ There’s no guarantee the onside kick would have been a success, of course. But there didn’t appear to be a lot to lose, either.
“It’s disappointing any time you let a team run the clock out at the end and not give your offense an opportunity to get in there,” Zimmer said.
I mean, we can sort of understand his point of view with regards to field position.
“That was part of it,” Zimmer said. “If they get one first down or two first downs they had a chance for a field goal, too. All those things entered my mind.
Anyway, for a coach who went for it on fourth-and-one near midfield in the second quarter - and made it - he sure made a wimpy non-call here.
Not everyone will agree. Zimmer’s players stuck up for him.
“I figured we’d kick it deep,” John Sullivan said. “What you’re playing for there is a three and out. Our defense played excellent all day. “ The defense did good job against Aaron Rodgers, mostly because the secondary covered well. That same defense also struggled to contain Lacy (138 total yards), who ran effectively all afternoon. Chances of keeping Lacy wrapped up at the end seemed slim.
Otherwise, the Vikings played a decent enough game. On offense, Bridgewater was up and down and round and round. In the first half, especially, he was launching balloons. He was just all over the place.
He had his moments, though, making several good throws. In other words, he did almost enough. That can be said for the whole team: The Vikings did almost enough. And in the end, a passive decision cost them at least a chance of doing something special.
Too bad, really, because it might have been a finish for the ages.
Tom Powers is a sports columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a media partner of Forum News Service.