Peter King of The Monday Morning Quarterback opened by talking about things he's admired out of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer over the years.
Zimmer's decision to have the Vikings defense take the field with the wind at their backs against the Rams added another reason. Zimmer bucked tradition, although a similar decision by Bill Belichick worked out for the New England Patriots two years ago. King noted:
*In the 42 years since the NFL adopted overtime as a rule, this was the 530th OT game. Only 10 times had a coach not taken the ball if given the choice to start the extra period. Even with the wind as a factor, it didn't seem as if there was much of a decision to make. Who'd want to hand the ball to a team with the hottest running back in football, Todd Gurley, to start OT, especially after he had run for 52 yards in the last 12 minutes of regulation? *
*Coaches who have made such a call know they will either be ridiculed or lionized. In 2002, taking the light wind and trusting his defense in overtime backfired on Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg in Champaign, Ill., the Bears' home that year while Soldier Field was being refurbished. Chicago took the ball on the first possession and drove to the winning field goal. That was in the last half-season of Mornhinweg's forgettable 5-27 reign. Two years ago Bill Belichick actually did it, handing the ball to Peyton Manning in Foxboro on a brutally cold November night with 22-mph winds swirling around Gillette Stadium. "The wind," Belichick said. "It was definitely significant." On the fifth possession of overtime, New England kicked a field goal to win, 34-31. *
The wind Sunday was listed at 14 mph, with gusts up to 26 mph, and only six of the game's 36 points in regulation had been scored in the open end of the stadium.
King detailed how the Vikings defense responded to the display of confidence:
*Terrific diagnosis by safety Harrison Smith on first down. He burst through the line, got a great pursuit angle on Gurley, grabbed his arm and waited for reinforcements. Nose tackle Linval Joseph smothered Gurley for a six-yard loss. Then it was pretty easy. A screen to Tavon Austin was stuffed, Nick Foles threw an incompletion, the Rams punted, and the Vikings took over at their 49. They drove to the Rams' 22, mostly using Adrian Peterson's legs to get there, and Blair Walsh, with the wind, blasted a 40-yard perfecto halfway up the net. Vikings 21, Rams 18. *
"It was the wind," Zimmer said, sounding like Belichick. "I thought, 'Man, I don't want to give them the opportunity to kick another long field goal to win the football game.' So, we decided to defend the goal."
Backing up bold move
ESPN.com's Ben Goessling wrote about the decision as well, saying "It's been a while since the Vikings have had a defense sturdy enough to back up such a bold move."
*It's a group aggressive enough to pressure quarterbacks 26.8 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but disciplined enough to rank fourth in the league in fewest plays of 20 yards or more allowed (25). *
The group has earned enough of Zimmer's confidence that the coach has deferred after every opening coin toss that he has won this year. And the D has won enough of his faith that the coach stuck by his group in overtime, even with two defensive starters out and two other defenders sidelined by injury.
Pro Bowl consideration for Linval Joseph?
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling wrote in three observations from the Vikings-Rams game that "nose tackle Linval Joseph should be a shoe-in for the Pro Bowl this season."
He was the key in holding Gurley under the century mark for the first time in over a month, registering three tackles for loss, four more solo tackles and 0.5 sacks. Zimmer *recently raved about Joseph as perhaps the best nose tackle he's ever coached.*
The topic was also covered by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
Click here to vote for Joseph and other Vikings.
Griffen's pressure leads to penalty, punt
In his "Five Extra Points," Mark Craig of the Star Tribune noted a play by Everson Griffen that helped keep points off the board. Craig wrote:
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein went 1-for-2 on field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. The reason he didn't get a third crack at a long field goal in the fourth quarter can be credited to defensive end Everson Griffen's great inside spin move to pressure quarterback Nick Foles into an intentional grounding penalty on third-and-7 at the Vikings 37-yard line. "[Left tackle Greg Robinson] thought I was going to go outside, but I set him up and then hit him with my spin move inside," Griffen said. "I kept working my moves and hit it when I needed to." Although Griffen didn't get the sack, the penalty is the same: loss of down at the spot of the infraction (11 yards). The Rams punted rather than try a 65-yard field goal.