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Zimmer's Gutsy Calls Help Propel Vikings to Win

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Mike Zimmer didn't grind through another week of practice and preparation just to take the 'L.'

The Vikings Head Coach didn't sit through a long flight to the West Coast and endure yet another tight game just to get the same result as previous weeks.

No, Zimmer arrived at SoFi Stadium looking for a win against the Chargers. And he and the Vikings got it thanks to an aggressive mindset when it mattered most.

"I like to win. The players know that I hate to lose," Zimmer said. "I talked to them about it this week, how much I hate it.

"And how hard we work, how hard we compete, how hard we study during the week, and practice, and we've got to start seeing the benefits of it," Zimmer added.

The Vikings once again found themselves in a close tilt in Week 10, repeating a similar storyline from the first two months of the season.

All but one of Minnesota's games this season has been decided by seven or fewer points, including Sunday's 27-20 win over Los Angeles.

Yet the Vikings were able to pull out the win and improve to 4-5 on the season thanks to a gutsy attitude from the head man that influenced Minnesota's offensive, defensive and special teams units.

The aggressiveness began early in the third quarter, when the Vikings faced fourth-and-7 at their own 33-yard line.

Minnesota ran a fake punt with rookie Kene Nwangwu, but officials blew the whistle mid-play.

The play might not have counted, but it set the tone that the Vikings were here to win.

"I just told the team, 'We're going to be aggressive.' If we get beat because we run a fake punt and don't get it, then we just have to suck it up and stop them on defense," Zimmer said.

That mindset continued later in the quarter. Minnesota trailed 17-13 and faced fourth-and-goal from the 1, meaning a chip shot field goal could have pulled the Vikings within one point.

Nope. Instead, Minnesota went for it, with Tyler Conklin hauling in a 1-yard touchdown catch.

Zimmer's aggressiveness and awareness then showed up on defense.

Leading by 10, he successfully challenged a completed pass that would have put the Chargers in the red zone.

Los Angeles ended up getting a field goal on the drive, but Zimmer made them work for it with the extra play.

But the game-defining play came just before the 2-minute warning. Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen had just turned a third-and-20 into a fourth-and-2 after an 18-yard connection.

The Vikings led 27-20, and the Chargers were out of timeouts. The decision, Zimmer, said, was an easy one to make.

"When it got in the fourth quarter, I knew we'd been there before a few times," Zimmer said of Minnesota's track record of close games in 2021. "So, I was just trying to figure out a way how we're gonna win the game.

"I told [Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak,] 'Be aggressive here. Try to go score.' And unfortunately, we got a [third]-and-20 on that drive," Zimmer added. "Fourth-and-2, and there's no way we're not gonna try to win the game right there."

Dalvin Cook took a toss and slithered for a gain of 4 to get the clock down to the 2-minute warning.

Ball game.

"Fourth down, we've got the ball in our hands, we need to go close out the game," said tight end Tyler Conklin. "Anytime you get the ball in Dalvin's hands, you feel good about the play call, so being aggressive and getting him the ball is what you want to do."

Cousins said: "I thought both fourth down calls were great. They hit. I think we needed both of them, too, to be able to win that game"

The Vikings got big days from Conklin and Justin Jefferson on offense, while Eric Kendricks led the way for a depleted defense.

But Zimmer made sure he pulled his weight, too.

"Yeah, [losing is] never going to sit well with him," Cousins said. "It gives us all a pit in our stomach. All week long, it hurts. I don't sleep well for several days after a loss.

"Football is so much more fun when you're winning," Cousins added. "This week will be, you'll have that wind at your back a bit more. But we've got to start stringing some together, you know?"

Zimmer said: "I wanted to end the game with the ball in our hands."

The Vikings did, ending the game with three kneel-downs in a victory formation. It was the first time they had done so all season.

"It's the best formation in football," Conklin said. "Every week, you have your Saturday walk through and you get in victory formation. That's what you want to be in at the end of the day on Sunday."