Say what you want about Mike Zimmer, he gets it. He knows you’re sick of the one-score games. Of the blown leads. Of the fact that the Minnesota Vikings can’t ever make it easy.
“Okay, another fun night,” Zimmer said sarcastically as he took the podium for his post-game press conference. “You know, that team that played in the first half for us was pretty darn good, and I think could probably beat anybody.
“That team that played in the second half probably could get beat by anybody.”
That’s an understatement. The Vikings have only played in one game that’s been decided by more than one score, their 30-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3. The Pittsburgh Steelers game, which they won 36-28, should have felt like that game. Instead, it felt like every other one. And, man, it’s starting to wear on the legions of people who support them.
I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I think it qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment.” The actual definition of cruel and unusual is debated among law professors, but we all know it when we see it. The Vikings have been up by seven points in every game except for their loss to the Detroit Lions. The previously winless Detroit Lions! They’re 6-7 and need to win three of their next four games to get into the playoffs.
In the middle of the season, Adam Thielen said it would be nice to step on the gas and beat a team soundly. They have yet to do so since he said that. The stress from these close games can’t be good for Marge in Bloomington. Or Tim in Marshall. It might be the end of Mary in Albert Lea.
Dalvin Cook ran for 205 yards, including 154 in the first half – besting Adrian Peterson’s franchise record. However, he needed to be that good. Cook carried the Vikings in a game where Cousins went 14/31 for 216 and had two picks.
“My feet hurt,” Cook said when asked why he wasn’t wearing shoes after the game. “You’ve gotta give the dogs a break. I’m good, though.”
We’re talking the same Dalvin Cook who was carted off in Week 12 against the San Francisco 49ers. His play should have elevated the Vikings on Thursday. And for 30 minutes, it did. Minnesota led 23-0 at the half and 29-0 in the third quarter.
Then Pittsburgh scored a touchdown on a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Immediately after the kickoff, Cousins targeted Justin Jefferson deep and turned the ball over on an interception. The Steelers tacked on another score to make it 29-14. The Vikings went three-and-out. Pittsburgh scored again. Now it’s 29-20.
Look, they won the game. Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for 62 yards to make it 36-20. But then Cousins nearly threw a pick-six, and the Steelers scored again. This time they completed the two-point conversion. It’s 36-28. The Vikings punted on the next drive. A 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers down the field with 2:16 left. He nearly connected with Pat Freiermuth in the end zone as time expired. A two-point conversion would have sent this into overtime.
How did it get this far? How can a game where they were leading 29-0 come down to a Harrison Smith pass deflection in the end zone on the final play? Why were both Detroit games as close as they were? How did the Cincinnati Bengals take them into overtime? Didn’t they have a 14-point lead over the Baltimore Ravens at one point?
You could go down the entire schedule. We all know what has happened to this point.
It’s almost not worth recapping the Pittsburgh game because it was kind of like the Carolina Panthers game or the Arizona Cardinals one. Zimmer is aware of it. So is Cook. Kirk Cousins tried to offer reassurance after the game.
“It’s just tough to let them get back in the game,” he conceded, “but we’ll learn from it and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
They should. Out of respect to the US Constitution, if nothing else. We the people can only take this so much longer. Our forefathers didn’t intend for the great people of the Upper Midwest to endure this kind of punishment.