After a loss the previous week, head coach Mike Zimmer talked about what a good team the Vikings had. After a win Sunday, there were no such pronouncements.
The Vikings blew a 10-point lead in the final three minutes and needed a 54-yard field goal by Greg Joseph on the final play at U.S. Bank Stadium to win 19-17 over winless Detroit, one of the NFL’s worst teams. That came on the heels of a 14-7 home loss on Oct. 3 to Cleveland, one of the league’s better teams.
“Well, it’s a win,” Zimmer said Monday. “And I think the good thing about it is that we’re not all happy about how we won. I think it’s easy, human nature, that the next week, when you win a game, that you’re maybe not as focused or something like that, and right now they need to be focused again.”
Next up for the Vikings (2-3) is Sunday’s game at Carolina (3-2). Zimmer said they have work to do, especially after having “struggled some offensively.”
After averaging 29.7 points in the first three games, the Vikings have averaged just 13 points in the past two. Inconsistent and conservative play on offense has led to boos ringing through the crowd Sunday.
“You never want your own fans to be booing you, but we’ve got to execute,” center Garrett Bradbury said. “Whatever play’s called, our job as players is to play, and coaches have done a great job of putting us in positions, and we trust whichever direction they want to go. (The boos don’t) get to us, but it’s just a little bit more emphasis on we’ve got to make plays.”
The biggest boos came during a stretch when the Lions took advantage of Alexander Mattison’ fumble at the Minnesota 20 inside the final two minutes to take a 17-16 lead with a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 0:37 on the clock. While the defense generally played well Sunday and the Lions had a short field after the turnover, linebacker Anthony Barr said they needed to be kept out of the end zone near the end.
“We just have to continue to be better in those end-of-game situations and try not to be in those positions where we have to put something together in 30 seconds to win the game,” Barr said.
Taking over at their 18 with 37 seconds left, the Vikings gained 46 yards on three plays to set the stage for Joseph’s winning kick.
Vikings rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw played his first NFL snaps from scrimmage on Sunday, but Zimmer was noncommittal about how much action he will get moving forward.
Darrisaw, the No. 23 pick in the draft, who made his overall NFL debut against Cleveland with one play on special teams, got in for 28 plays against the Lions. Rashod Hill started for the fifth straight game and played 39 snaps as the Vikings rotated left tackles.
Zimmer said Darrisaw “did OK.” Will Zimmer need to make a decision this week on his left tackle for the game against the Panthers, or might he still rotate the two?
“We’ll see how the week goes, and we’ll decide from there,” Zimmer said.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hill had the second-worst grade against the Lions of any Minnesota offensive player at 54.2. Darrisaw had the third worst at 55.5.
“(Darrisaw) was pretty dialed in,” said Bradbury, in his third season. “So it’s good to see. I’ve been there before, it’s your first game playing and there’s a lot of moving pieces and it might feel like your head’s spinning, but I thought he looked composed and under control.”
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen started Sunday for the first time this year and played a season-high 49 snaps, but Zimmer said that was too many.
“He probably played too much,” Zimmer said. “We’re trying to maintain him so … if we can keep him to 30, 35, we feel like we can maintain his athleticism, and power and things like that through the course of the year.”
Zimmer said Griffen “played really well.” He got the start over D.J. Wonnum, who was in for 40 snaps.