Mike Zimmer had pressure mounting on him ahead of Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. Sitting at 0-2, the Minnesota Vikings needed a win and some momentum to keep the season from going off the rails. With his back to the wall, Zimmer made some defensive adjustments, leaned on his offense, and came away with a 30-17 victory.
It was an impressive win for the Vikings. But if they want to be relevant, they’ll have to do it again.
We’ve seen this act from Zimmer before. In 2019, rumors swirled about a potential trade to the Dallas Cowboys, and the Vikings entered their playoff game against the New Orleans Saints as heavy underdogs. Zimmer led the Vikings to a win with one of his best coaching performances and remained in Minnesota.
But the euphoria from that win didn’t carry over to the following week. The Vikings got hammered by the San Francisco 49ers, and the season ended with a thud.
The same thing happened on a macro scale last year. With a 1-5 start, Zimmer’s job was once again on the line, but he resuscitated the season with five wins over their next six games. Just as the Vikings climbed back to .500, they were brushed aside by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans on the way to a 7-9 finish.
That brings us back to Sunday’s game, where many things went right for the Vikings. Kirk Cousins was brilliant with or without his shoes on. Alexander Mattison filled in seamlessly for Dalvin Cook, the defense recovered after a shaky start, and Greg Joseph went 6-for-6 on field goals and extra points.
For one week, it was good to be in purple. But that formula needs to be repeated for the Vikings to be considered legitimate playoff contenders.
After losing the first two games, Zimmer believed Minnesota’s 0-2 start resulted from only a handful of plays. A late fumble doomed the Vikings in Cincinnati. A missed 37-yard field goal buried them in Arizona. Even a decision to go for a field goal from the one-yard line late in the game kept Seattle’s hopes alive — precisely the sort of thing that could come back to bite the Vikings if it shows up again.
“It’s a razor’s edge,” Cousins told reporters after the game. “You just have to prepare and play your highest level of football, so when those moments happen, they happen, but more often than not, they’re falling your way.”
Playing the highest level of football consistently seems to be a challenge for the Vikings. They started slowly against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the defense is becoming a problem. Even though Cousins has gotten off to a fast start, there’s always a portion of the season where he looks tentative. The defense has also had issues with Eric Kendricks and Bashaud Breeland leading the NFL in missed tackles at their respective positions.
All of these things could pop up at any moment and derail any renaissance the Vikings could be experiencing. The test starts next week when the Vikings host the Cleveland Browns.
If the Vikings can repeat this process against the Browns, they get to 2-2 with winnable games against the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers coming up. In the past, the middle portion of the season has been where Zimmer’s teams have springboarded into contention or slumped into mediocrity. The Browns game could be where we find out what type of season this is going to be.