Lunchbreak: Zimmer, Vikings Showed Aggressiveness on Pair of 4th-Downs

Following the Vikings tough home loss to the Saints, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune wrote his weekly “Five Extra Points” column in which he delves into observations made of the contest.

One of Craig’s takeaways focused on the pair of fourth-down decisions made by Vikings Head Coach Zimmer during the game.

Craig called the decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 “spot on” late in the first quarter, and he pointed out that the gutsiness paid off for Minnesota. Craig wrote:

The Saints led 7-0, and the Vikings were one offensive possession into the game. But Zimmer alertly knew that kicking short field goals early is a good way to lose to [Drew] Brees. Picking on cornerback P.J. Williams for the third time in seven snaps, [Kirk] Cousins hit Stefon Diggs for the tying touchdown.

The Vikings second fourth-down attempt occurred early in the second half, when Minnesota trailed 17-13 and looked to regain the lead. Zimmer opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 45.

In shotgun formation with five wide and an empty backfield, the pass was swatted from [Laquon] Treadwell’s grasp.

Craig said that the aggressive approach “was acceptable” but opined that the formation would have been better off showing “the threat of a run or a sneak, especially since the Vikings were running the ball well.”

The Saints took over on downs. Although the Vikings defense held the Saints from getting in the end zone despite the favorable field position, New Orleans was able to kick a field goal and extend its lead by another three points.

Craig’s other takeaways looked at Treadwell’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following Adam Thielen’s second quarter fumble, an interception on a pass from Cousins to Diggs, Zimmer’s challenge of Michael Thomas staying in-bounds and the multi-faceted threat of Taysom Hill for the Saints.

Positive, negative takeaways from Vikings loss to Saints

The Vikings defense contained Brees, and their offense moved the ball.

But ultimately, critical mistakes were Minnesota’s downfall in its Sunday Night Football loss to New Orleans.

In its weekly “Refocused” writeup following a game, analytics site Pro Football Focus shined a spotlight on both negative and positive takeaways from the Vikings Week 8 loss. The PFF analysts wrote:

The Vikings offense runs through their top two receivers. Thielen and Diggs [each] recorded 100 receiving yards in the contest. The only two mistakes from this week are what kept them from winning, as the Saints forced a Thielen fumble at the end of the half, and then Diggs and Cousins not being on the same page gave the Saints an easy pick six.

The offensive line for the Vikings was missing its starting left guard (Tom Compton) and tackle (Riley Reiff). In the first half, it looked like they would be just OK, but that changed quickly in the second half. The Saints defensive line was too much for the Vikings, as they pressured Cousins on a consistent basis.

PFF pointed out that Brees was held to a “below-average statistical game” and that running back duo Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara did most of the damage, totaling 106 yards rushing and an additional 60 yards through the air.

Nonetheless, the Vikings defense overall was the bright spot of Sunday’s game.

The Vikings defense did its part against a high-powered Saints offense, limiting them to under 300 yards of total offense. They weren’t able to generate much pressure on Brees, but when they did, it resulted in positive defensive plays, such as the interception.

After a big first quarter, Michael Thomas was limited the remainder of the game. Credit rookie Holton Hill, Trae Waynes and company for bouncing back and holding him under 100 receiving yards.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints under the lights for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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