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Monday Morning Mailbag: A Vikings Win That Feels Like a Loss?

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Is there such a thing as a disappointing win? Can the offensive play calling now be seen as inconsistent and predictable after 5 weeks? Sadly, I think so on both fronts.

— Rob in Akron, Ohio

Welp, this was about as ugly a win as you could think of, with so many emotions rolled into the final few minutes.

There might have been some boredom when the Vikings led 16-9 after 58 minutes of play. There was certainly some shock and exasperation when Alexander Mattison's fumble led to the Lions taking the lead.

And while there was certainly elation after Greg Joseph's game-winning, 54-yard field goal … it's evident that fans feel some sense of frustration, too.

Entering Sunday's game, the Vikings had lost three games by 11 combined points. And I wrote in recent weeks in the Mailbag that while the Vikings had been close, the only stat that truly matters is wins.

I'll stay consistent in that mantra by also saying that about Sunday's win, no matter how unpleasant it was at times. NFL teams take victories in any manner possible, and the Vikings will do the same.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, after weeks of pumping his team up after losses, took that approach Sunday afternoon.

"It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but it was a win, and we'll take it," Zimmer said. "Sometimes when you win games like that, it's a good thing because it evens out at some point if you can keep plugging along.

"I'm proud of our guys, the way they fought, not particularly proud of the way we played, though," Zimmer added.

Zimmer is spot on. It's always easier to fix miscues after a win, but there's also the realization that the highlight reel from Week 5 won't be too lengthy.

More importantly for Zimmer's squad, the difference between 2-3 (which the Vikings are) and 1-4 (which they almost were) is massive. Now, the Vikings can actually get to .500 next week against Carolina.

Snatching a loss from the jaws of victory would have put a big hurdle in their playoff hopes before mid-October.

View game action photos of the Vikings battling the Lions in the Week 5 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.

I don't understand why Coach Zimmer absolutely refuses to try win games. Every single time he has a lead, they go ultra-conservative and predictable on offense. Can someone please tell Zimmer and Klint Kubiak this isn't the 1950s. You need to be aggressive and go try to win games. All five games this year we have been outcoached on both sides of the ball. It may be a win in the books, but I sure don't feel very positive about this outcome.

— Jared in Minneapolis

I know we won, but Sunday's game feels like a loss and doesn't inspire confidence. I would like to see the Vikings coaching staff be more adaptable to game situations. Justin Jefferson was unguardable, yet we played conservative and ran the ball instead, which led to a close game. We dominated the Lions in everything but the scoreboard. Stop the conservative approach! If we aired it out today, then we wouldn't need a long FG as time expires.

— Rich Cherkas, a concerned fan in Sioux City, Iowa

Jared and Rich's emails sum up the majority of the vibe I felt from Vikings fans after Sunday's win … mostly when it pertains to the Vikings offense, and especially when it pertains to the Vikings offense in the second half.

Let's dive into a few numbers.

Minnesota's offense has scored 10 touchdowns through five games, with Adam Thielen accounting for four of them and Jefferson hauling in three scores.

Yet after a commendable second-half rally in Week 1, how many offensive touchdowns do you think Minnesota has scored in the final two quarters against Arizona, Seattle, Cleveland and Detroit?

View postgame celebration images from Week 5 as the Vikings beat the Lions.

Zero. Yes, the Vikings have been held out of the end zone in the past eight quarters after halftime. For comparison's sake the Vikings defense has accounted for seven points (a Nick Vigil pick-6), while the offense has tallied 18 points in those second halves.

What's the reasoning behind that? And there surely is one because four games, to me, makes it clear that this is a trend.

It's no secret the Vikings mindset is to have a run-first approach, and that's the case whether Dalvin Cook is in the game or not. Even with Cook inactive on Sunday, Mattison still toted the rock 25 times, one off of his career-high set against Seattle in Week 3.

That's Minnesota's approach unless they are down by multiple scores, and even then it feels as if the Vikings rely on the run at times. To put it as simply as possible, that's the way Zimmer prefers to win games … with a strong running game that eats up the clock coupled with a defense that forces turnovers and gets pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Is that the most modern tactic? Nope. But nobody has ever argued against Zimmer being an old-school coach.

The Vikings ran 29 offensive plays in the first half Sunday, with 15 of them coming through the air. Minnesota then ran 35 plays in the second half, with 21 of them being passes.

So the Vikings actually threw the ball more against the Lions, but it just perhaps didn't feel like it at times because Kirk Cousins totaled just 89 passing yards before the final drive.

Some of that has to do with Detroit focusing more on Jefferson. He had five catches for 104 yards before halftime, and two catches for 20 yards after the break.

But it also simply comes down to execution, which Adam Thielen referenced postgame when asked about the second-half struggles.

"That's a great question. I don't know. I don't know. We've got to make plays. When the opportunity is there, we've got to make a play and that's just how it is," Thielen said. "And that goes (for) offensive linemen, running backs, receivers, quarterback, that's everybody. Whatever play is called, we've got to make the most of it. We haven't been doing that."

Both Zimmer and Cousins referenced the Lions changing up their coverages as to why Jefferson didn't make as big an impact late as he did early.

That's to be expected though. This is the NFL, and it's up to both sides to adapt as the game goes on.

I'll close out this ramble by saying that the Vikings offense likely needs to find answers for their second-half struggles if they want to get to .500 next week before their bye. Teams usually do self-scouts during their bye weeks, so Minnesota could reevaluate more in Week 7.

The schedule is too tough to be denied second-half offensive touchdowns going forward.

Hi Eric, going down by a point with 37 seconds left could be a blessing in disguise. The kid [Greg Joseph] really needed to get a game-winning kick under his belt. Has to be a great confidence builder for him.

— Joe from Pennsylvania

I'm not sure if I'd call it a blessing in disguise, but good for Joseph for hitting that final kick.

He said after missing against Arizona that he would be ready the next he was in that situation, and he promptly delivered.

It wasn't a perfect game for him by any means, he clunked a 49-yard attempt earlier in the quarter. It was accurate but short because he said he hit too much of the turf. That was also his reasoning why he missed the extra point against the Cardinals, so that will need to get fixed going forward.

But yes, Joe, coming through in the clutch will do wonders for Joseph and the Vikings going forward.

And if we've learned anything about the Vikings so far, it's that they will be in close games more often than not … and that Joseph will be called on again in another late-game situation.

I am in disbelief about this team. Far too talented to be this bad. I don't know why this offense is so predictable. Sure, we won, but there is no urgency to figure out WHY the things we are doing are not working. Did the same thing last week against the Browns. Same plays, same results!! I don't question Zimmer very often, but the decision to not play our starters in preseason is coming back to haunt us! When this offense is rolling, they're very good, but no consistency. Christian Darrisaw looked great when out there. Skol!

— Ray Sparks

I covered the bulk of Ray's email in previous answers. But aside from having similar feelings as other Vikings fans, Ray brought up a very important name in Darrisaw.

The Vikings 2021 first-round pick was active for the first time last week but played just one special teams snap and none on offense.

That changed Sunday when he entered the game for Rashod Hill on Minnesota's third drive. And while the two didn't exactly rotate drives, both played a good amount in Week 5.

After the game, Zimmer said the plan was to get the rookie some work against Detroit.

"He's practiced 12 times. He's still got a ways to go," Zimmer said. "He's still got a ways to go. We're just trying to break him in easy. It's really got nothing to do with conditioning now. It's about practice time."

According to the tweet below from Chad Graff of The Athletic, Hill played 37 snaps while Darrisaw was on the field for 27.

It's not a huge surprise that Darrisaw hasn't been rushed into a starting role as he's worked his way back from a minor procedure in August.

But he was a first-round pick for a reason, and Sunday was the first step to him eventually gaining the starting left tackle gig. Maybe it's not Sunday against the Panthers, but his time will come.

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