Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Monday Morning Mailbag: Analyzing Zimmer's 4th-Down Call vs. Seahawks

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

I have rarely second-guessed Mike Zimmer, but I am as steamed as I ever have been after the game over the decision not to take 3 points. The offense had driven all the way down the field and killed almost all of the clock. Absolutely ridiculous.

— Brad Lewis in Schenectady, New York

If we kick field goal, we win or least it goes to overtime!

— Toby Smart

Let's dive into it, as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's decision to go for it on fourth down late in the game will likely be analyzed by everyone and their mother in the coming days.

To recap, here was the scenario: The Vikings led 26-21 and faced a fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 6-yard line coming out of the 2-minute warning. The Seahawks had one timeout remaining.

The outcome, of course, was that Alexander Mattison was stopped for no gain. And then Russell Wilson put on his magician's hat yet again and drove the Seahawks 94 yards for the game-winning score.

If the Vikings get the yard, the game is over. Simple as that.

According to a stat shown during NBC's Sunday Night Football, a field goal would not have changed the Vikings win percentage of 94 percent. A Vikings conversion would have given Minnesota a 100-win percentage, and a Seattle stop would have left the Vikings with a 74-percent chance to win.

Courtney Cronin, the ESPN Vikings reporter, tweeted out similar numbers. She noted that ESPN's win probability model had the Vikings with a 98-percent chance to win by going for it, and that they would have had a 97.8-percent chance to win had they elected to attempt a field goal.

Do I agree with Zimmer's decision to go for it and try and seal the game? YES.

Here's why:

The Vikings entered Sunday night's game at 1-3, having endured a rough opening month of the 2020 season. Now, leading late in the fourth quarter, you have a chance to gain a yard — when you have already run for 201 yards — to secure a signature win and give your slim playoff hopes a heartbeat.

If the Vikings convert, they move to 2-3 and get a reeling Falcons team at home in Week 6 that just fired their general manager and head coach. Win that one, and you're suddenly 3-3 at the bye and ready for a fun 10-game stretch.

But lose in Seattle — a place that has become a house of horrors for the Vikings — and it's tough to imagine the postseason with a 1-4 start. The Vikings were a yard away from a 2-3 record, and a boatload of confidence.

Yes, kicking a field goal there puts the Vikings up by eight points, and forces Wilson to engineer a game-tying drive that includes a 2-point conversion. With the way Wilson is playing this season, that outcome would have likely happened.

And then what if Wilson gets the ball in overtime and scores against a leaky Vikings defense and Minnesota's offense never touches the ball again? Then maybe we're all wondering why Zimmer didn't just go for the win when he had the chance.

The Vikings needed a single yard to win. The Seahawks needed 94 yards to win. Give me the chance to get a yard and seal the deal.

To close, perhaps Zimmer doesn't make the decision to go for it if he didn't understand the magnitude of Sunday's game so early in the season. He wanted to give his team a jolt, and getting that yard would have sent a message to his players that he believed in them not only Sunday, but for the rest of the season as they try to dig out of the 0-3 hole and make a run at the postseason.

I'll let him have the final word.

"We came here to win so I'm not going to second guess any of that stuff. We didn't get it done," Zimmer said before a long pause. "Everybody else will [second-guess the call]. Let them."

What's happened to Irv Smith, Jr.? This was supposed to be a bit of a "breakout" year for him, but instead we're hardly hearing his name called (except for when he commits penalties).

— Joel Luker in Ohio

A great question from Joel, which came in before Sunday night's loss to the Seahawks.

Entering Week 5, Smith had just two catches for 14 yards, and was targeted just six times in four games. Plus, as Joel mentioned, he had also committed a few costly penalties earlier in the season.

But Smith was a factor against the Seahawks, hauling in two catches for 28 yards on the first drive alone, which topped his 2020 production to date.

Smith finished with four catches for 64 yards and was targeted five times, showing a glimpse of what has been expected of him since the start of the season.

Zimmer said last week that the team had some plays designed for him in Week 4 against the Texans, but the coverage dictated a throw elsewhere. It was surprising to see him not be involved at all, since many people, including myself, projected a breakout season for him in 2020.

Hopefully his involvement in the offense in Week 5 is a sign of things to come.

With James Lynch from Baylor, where is his development at? He has not seen the field. The Vikings are desperate for inside pass rush. The guys they have in there now are not doing the job.

— Duane Miller

Much like Joel above, Duane's email came in a few days ago. And it was also a timely one.

Why wasn't he playing in the first four games? The coaching staff must have thought he wasn't ready to contribute just yet.

But after being inactive for the first four games of the season, Lynch got his chance to show his stuff in his NFL debut in Seattle.

And he delivered with a second-quarter sack of Wilson, one of four Vikings sacks in the first half. Lynch showed good power in driving the lineman back, and then closed on Wilson when he had the chance.

The Vikings did need to get a bit more pass rush than they've been getting, and Lynch provided that in a big moment. Perhaps he showed Minnesota's defensive coaches that he's ready for a bigger workload in a situational pass-rush role.