It was the same postgame script when Mike Zimmer spoke to reporters after Sunday’s loss.
The Minnesota Vikings had just been through a war, falling to the Arizona Cardinals on a missed field goal by Greg Joseph. The 0-2 start could have unleashed a rant from Zimmer, who has been known to distrust kickers. Instead, he saw the positives.
“I think today was encouraging, honestly,” Zimmer said. “About the heart that we played with today, the fight that we played with today. If we play like that, we’ll win a lot of games. They may all come down to this like the last two have [but] as long as we do that and keep fighting and trying to get better…I think we’ve got a chance.”
Zimmer mentioned that his team could be 2-0 with a handful of plays, but that buried the lede. After falling to 0-2, the Vikings are in the same place they’ve been in since 2017 and in dire need of a new direction.
It begins with the lead-up to Sunday’s game. The Vikings were considered underdogs after a lousy performance in Cincinnati. The Cardinals had just trounced the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, so it wasn’t surprising to see most national pundits predict an Arizona victory.
But that’s not how things have played out during the Zimmer era. Zimmer always performs his best when his back is against the wall. Just when you think he’s about to lose his team, he breaks out one of the greatest defensive schemes ever, and the Vikings come away with a win that nobody expected.
That almost happened in the desert, where the Vikings got off to a fast start behind Kirk Cousins. With three early touchdowns, Minnesota had a 20-7 lead and the opportunity to run the Cardinals off the field. Instead, they gave up a pair of touchdowns to fall behind 21-20.
They had a chance to take the lead before halftime, but the Vikings moved to the 50-yard line before running the ball twice and burning their final timeout. Two incompletions later, the Vikings decided to kick a 53-yard field goal and then squib kick to give Arizona the ball at their own 35. The next thing they knew, Matt Prater drilled a 62-yard field goal, and the Vikings were down at the half.
Even considering the Nick Vigil pick-six, the defense had its issues stopping the Cardinals’ offense. Kyler Murray threw for 400 yards, and nobody in a white jersey could find Rondale Moore. Bashaud Breeland got hurt after a long gain, and the Vikings made a big stop late to keep them in the game.
The script was flipped when Cousins led a last-minute drive to put Minnesota in field goal range. With 40 seconds left, Zimmer ran the clock down and trusted Joseph on a 37-yard attempt. The kick sailed wide right, and the Vikings were 0-2.
On Sunday, the Vikings had a lot of the same. The same start. The same play calling. The same clock management. The same defense. The same kicker. The same gut-wrenching moment. It was like watching a rerun of the past 60 years of Vikings football.
This is why the Vikings need to put their foot in the ground and move on from this regime if things don’t change this season. For years, Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have used the same tactics hoping it would get them to the Super Bowl. Instead, they wound up in the middle of the pack looking to take the next step.
If the Vikings don’t act soon, the same scenario that has kept this duo around could happen again. A mid-season turnaround could give ownership just enough hope they’re turning the corner, and they’ll be holding a Cousins extension before you know it that gives Vikings fans the same thing since he showed up in 2018.
It should drive everyone insane until it ends. But until then, Sunday’s loss will herald more of the same.