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Monday Morning Mailbag: Recapping Finale, Turning Page to 2020

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Absolute credit to the 49ers. Great scheme. Great execution. They were far and away the better team [Saturday]. FAR and away. In virtually every phase. When you lose by 17 points and only score 10, it's tough to pick on one area. I wish we had taken a few more deep shots. Maybe get lucky with a contested ball or a PI. All I know is this team looked very different from the team I saw in New Orleans. Credit SF but like Zimmer said after the opening week Monday night loss in SF a few years ago, I didn't recognize this team.

It seemed clear the offensive game plan was short passes and runs on the perimeter. None of which produced meaningful yards. On defense it seemed like the scheme was to sacrifice a few yards while going for a strip. That only worked once, and it was way too late when it did.

Even special teams. When have you seen Marcus Sherels fumble a punt. And twice? Crazy.

Shout out to my season MVP Dan Bailey. Kicking for Minnesota brings some heavy historic baggage. He didn't flinch and looked steady all year. He would be my top signing priority.

Tough decisions ahead. I like our coaching staff and hope we keep our main guys. Plenty of time to discuss and debate free agents and the draft. For now I'm enjoying the memories of a great season that ended two games too soon.

– Jeff from Sacramento, California

You are correct, the 49ers on Saturday were the better team and earned a win and trip to the NFC Championship Game. It was certainly a painful loss that I know will sting for a while.

There were ups and downs on all phases, as you pointed out. As far as game plan, Coach Zimmer did say during his postgame press conference that they did have a couple more deep throws that were dialed up but didn't end up getting made. Here was that quote:

"Well, I think that we had some called and we didn't throw them. We threw the [41-yard touchdown to Stefon] Diggs, we had a couple others called during the course of the game, and for whatever reason, they didn't get done."

It was very unlike Sherels to muff a punt, and Zimmer told reporters that wind was an issue there.

Dan Bailey certainly had a fantastic season! He proved to be very reliable, as did punter/holder Britton Colquitt.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "tough decisions," as there are every single offseason. We know that a team is never exactly the same two seasons in a row, so we'll see how everything unfolds this offseason.

I appreciate your final sentence and approach to the difficult loss – continue to enjoy those memories, and join us in looking forward to the 2020 Vikings season.

Given the poor performance of the OL, the need for more linemen is obvious. Two of the first three picks in the draft should be linemen. Either that, or a huge free agent signing.

The Vikings were embarrassed by the 49ers. A very hard game to watch. The gap between the two teams is huge.

– Fred from Arlington Heights, Illinois

Thanks for your comments.

The Vikings were outplayed in the trenches at San Francisco, to be sure. There is no denying that. Minnesota struggled to move the chains against an incredibly talented 49ers defensive front. That group is extremely physical, and they played well enough to win. The Vikings did not.

That being said, there were several games this season in which the Vikings offensive line demonstrated its unique athleticism and ability to get to the second level, which showed up by solid execution and big outings for Dalvin Cook. Every game is different, and every defense is different. I am not making excuses for the way yesterday's game went; I just am making a case against blanket statements.

It's interesting every year to see how the Vikings approach the NFL Draft and which positions they target. I use the word "target" intentionally because it's worth remembering that a team could have its eye on a player who gets taken off the board, and that could alter the respective team's next move.

As a reminder, the Vikings focused on the offensive line when they drafted linemen in the third, second and first rounds, respectively, from 2017-19. They also signed left tackle Riley Reiff (in addition to former Vikings tackle Mike Remmers) as a free agent in 2017.

Is it time to move on from Zimmer? We have such an incredible amount of talent, but year after year our guys come up short. I can't help but wonder if their leadership is holding them back.

– Alex from Montana

There are some numbers worth noting about Coach Zimmer's time in Minnesota since taking the helm in 2014.

He is 57-38-1 through six regular seasons and 2-3 so far in the playoffs.

Zimmer and Hall of Famer Bud Grant are the only two (out of nine) head coaches in franchise history to lead the Vikings to 10 or more wins in three of their first six seasons.

Also, just over a week ago, Vikings President/Owner Mark Wilf voiced the ownership's support of Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman:

We value Mike and Rick's leadership, and we have every intent of Mike continuing as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick leading our football operations, next year and beyond.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.

We have a good QB, two great WRs, good TEs, an improved OL and a top-10 defense but couldn't even make it a good game in San Francisco. What is it going to take for the Vikings to succeed next year?

– Ray

The Vikings were able to improve from an 8-7-1 showing and missing the playoffs in 2018 to a 10-6 mark this season. In a strong NFC, that meant the No. 6 seed.

Winning division games is usually of great importance when trying to make the postseason, but Minnesota went 2-4 in NFC North play this season. The Vikings will look to improve on those results in 2020.

Matchups between teams can be quite important. The 49ers and Vikings share some similarities with their offensive schemes, but San Francisco was able to neutralize Minnesota's running game, affect the passing game and pound the football on offense.

With all the cap space that we don't have and some players not playing up to contracts they sign, how can we move forward with no room?

– Toby from Alaska

You're right that the Vikings cap space is tight. What I've learned in my time with the team, however, is to never doubt the abilities of Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski.

There likely will be tough decisions to make, as there are every season, but one thing I'm sure of is that Brzezinski, Vikings GM Rick Spielman and the rest of the organization will be working tirelessly to best set up this team for success.

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