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Dear Wilfs, as many have stated and begged for most of this season, can we finally start a new regime? Fans need some hope moving forward. When will the Wilfs hear enough of: this team fights like crazy, this team is resilient, etc.?
This is not Mike Zimmer's fault, but with his players letting him down week-in and week-out, a new voice is needed so a winning culture can be started. It's all about wins and losses. Please move on and start over so at least their hope in the future.
— Dave Kennet
A weak effort, and I really don't care how hard Coach Zimmer or the players "fought." Results matter, and this game is like our typical play for the whole season. I'm glad this is a short week. Looking forward to the Steelers.
— Jeff Ludwig
As usual after a loss, the emails poured into the inbox, with most of them striking the same tone that Dave and Jeff outlined above.
Before we dive into the state of the franchise, a disclaimer from me:
As I've written in multiple Mailbags, I will not advocate or call for people in the organization to be fired. That is not my role with the Vikings, and it is unfair of me to do so. That decision is up to the people Dave mentioned in his email.
One aspect of my job, however, is to answer fan questions in this Mailbag and get the pulse of both the team and the fanbase. Here's the truth about that…
With five regular-season games left for the Vikings in 2021, it's clear that Vikings fans have never, ever been more frustrated and ticked off in my nearly six seasons with the Vikings than they are right now.
And there are plenty of reasons to justify that anger, beginning and ending with Sunday's loss to a previously winless Detroit team that tried its best to give the game away late.
This was the 124th game in Mike Zimmer's tenure in Minnesota, as he now has an overall record of 69-54-1. I personally can't remember a more disappointing loss in that timespan.
After the game, Zimmer said his team will continue to keep trying to scratch and claw down the stretch.
"We're all disappointed, but we're going to keep fighting," Zimmer said. "We'll get some [injured] guys back next week. I anticipate getting quite a few defensive guys back, and we'll keep fighting."
He later added: "Obviously, our backs are to the wall, but they've been back against the wall for a while."
The Lions hadn't won a game in 364 days. They hadn't left the field with a win in 15 games, managing one tie in that stretch.
Yet they were the ones celebrating Sunday afternoon at Ford Field as the Vikings headed to the locker room is disbelief.
It was an embarrassing and inexcusable loss, and there's really no other way to put it. Yet, in a way, it also felt a little expected.
Zimmer has praised his team for being tough and managing to not get blown out this season. That is evident by the fact that 11 of Minnesota's 12 games this season have been decided by eight or fewer points.
But all of those close games mean you are simply playing with fire each and every week. Sometimes, you will find a way to squeak out a win, such as the Vikings did in Week 5 against the Lions.
And sometimes, you no-show long enough to let a team hang around and gain confidence, only to find yourself stunned at the buzzer at Ford Field.
View game action photos between the Vikings and Lions during the Week 13 matchup at Ford Field.
Given the fact that half our starting players are out, that definitely had something to do with the game. But that is still the most pathetic game I've watched this year. Even if we could somehow manage to [sneak] a playoff spot, I hope we don't.
— Brian Beck in South Dakota
I'm not sure anybody is thinking about the playoffs on this Monday morning. And truth be told, they probably shouldn't be. If you can't beat the previously winless Lions, who can you beat?
Yes, I know the Vikings have nice wins against the Chargers and Packers — two teams that are above .500 — but the rest of the results from this season are just maddingly inconsistent.
Minnesota has failed to capitalize on a bevy of chances to hold a comfortable lead and play a full, 60-minute game. Each week doesn't have to be a heart-pounding, headache-inducing event for three hours that drives people up the wall.
It is the Vikings own doing that they are 5-7 right now. Injuries are not an excuse, and neither is the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Every single team has had to deal with both of those issues this season.
That includes the Lions, who were without D'Andre Swift (their No. 1 running back) and Trey Flowers (their top edge rusher) on Sunday. Everyone has injuries, period.
Early on this season, we all saw the roller coaster the Vikings were riding. Losses that felt like they should have been wins, and wins that felt a bit fortunate they weren't losses.
Since the Vikings started 1-3, they have had a pattern in the ensuing eight games: two wins, followed by two losses … only to be followed by two wins and then two more losses.
Back in early October, the Vikings were two games under .500 and struggling to gain traction. Two months later, they are in the exact same spot. And given the talent on this roster, it's likely even more frustrating that we're still trying to navigate choppy waters at this point of the season.
That was a soul-crushing loss against the Lions. The first half was painful to watch on both sides of the ball, and things improved in the second half, the defense gave up yet another game-winning drive at the end. This doesn't feel like a team that has a winning instinct with the way they play at the end of most games. Cousins is now 2-26-1 [with the Vikings] when trailing in the fourth quarter. How are we going to fix that? Is it time to rebuild? Can we as fans hope for anything this year – or is it time to look to the next couple of years?
— John Muraksi
I covered most of the latter parts of John's email above when talking about the state of the franchise and the vibe of the fanbase.
He is spot on when talking about the first half that was dreadful to watch at times. The offense couldn't build a lead, the defense let Jared Goff throw it up and down the field and the team collectively couldn't rise to the moment.
John's point about not having a winning instinct stood out to me. A few years ago, the Vikings defense played with an attitude and dared teams to beat them.
Now? It almost feels a little expected that the unit will have some sort of gaffe along the way that proves to be costly.
The final drive was a combination of a lack of pass rush and an inability for the secondary to make a stop. Injuries were mentioned above, but the defense still had Harrison Smith, Xavier Woods, Bashaud Breeland — all starters — out there, along with Mackensie Alexander and Cameron Dantzler.
Nobody stepped up. Nobody made a play. And nobody helped seal a win.
Zimmer chose a conservative approach in the final seconds, and not just because he called multiple timeouts on the Lions final drive.
He said postgame he wanted to get a read on what Detroit's offense looked like, and that's fair. But one could also argue that it allowed the Lions to catch their breath a bit and get extra time to come up with plays.
And there was a cautious approach on the final few plays, too, as Zimmer sent just three rushers while dropping eight defenders in coverage.
"Everything's hindsight, I guess," Zimmer said when asked about his late-game approach.
That statement couldn't be more true, especially when you lose to a team that hadn't won a game in nearly a full calendar year.
Different week, same question … Why is this team so bad at 2-point conversions? Every 2-point try is a very bad play call with low probability of success. Why can't we figure this very basic situation to be successful with all the talent we have to work with?
— Jared from Minneapolis
When the season is all said and done, the Vikings lack of success on 2-point plays will likely stick out … and not in a good way.
Minnesota has tried seven different 2-point conversions this season. Only one has been successful.
This is a play that usually has roughly a 50-50 chance to hit. And this is a Vikings offense that features plenty of skill players who should be able to find a way to gain a yard or two depending on the situation.
The Vikings tried some flair on their first try Sunday, eventually handing the ball to rookie Kene Nwangwu on a sweep of sorts from the 2-yard line. Didn't work, and the Vikings still trailed 20-15.
Minnesota tried a more physical style on its next attempt, a handoff to Alexander Mattison from the 1-yard line. He was stuffed like the Thanksgiving turkey I ate a few weeks ago. The score remained 23-21.
The Vikings went to the air on their third try, but Cousins was off target to Justin Jefferson. The Vikings lead is now 27-23.
"Yeah, they weren't very good, I didn't think. We tried to run it in, smash it down their throats from the 1-yard line," Zimmer said. "We tried to hand the ball off to Kene. Those weren't the best."
Zimmer said above that everything gets put into hindsight. That's true, especially after a loss.
But if the Vikings didn't go for a single 2-point conversion Sunday, and instead kicked successful extra points each time, they would have had 30 theoretical points before Detroit's final offensive drive.
Maybe the Lions still score and go for their own 2-point play and the win? Maybe the game goes to overtime and the Vikings still lose? Or maybe Minnesota finds a way to squeak out yet another win.
The Vikings chose to chase points and it backfired. Was that the sole reason for the loss? Of course not.
But when it rains, it pours. And the Vikings must now find a way to regroup on a short week.
Minnesota plays Pittsburgh at home Thursday night.