If you believe in moral victories, the young, upswinging Vikings hung tough with one of the NFL’s best teams, were thisclose to tying the game in the final seconds, and QB Teddy Bridgewater bounced back to have one of his sharper games as pro. If you believe in crushing losses, the Vikings were solidly in field goal range when they decided to run one last play, and Bridgewater fumbled away the ball and the game.
On the Cardinals’ 31, down three, with the clock down to 13 seconds and Minnesota out of timeouts, the Vikings could have put the potential tie on Blair Walsh’s leg. Instead, they did this:
It backfired, but it was a defensible decision. This season Walsh is 6-of-7 on field goals between 40-49 yards, and 3-of-5 from beyond 50. From that spot, it would have been a 49 yarder. Definitely not a gimme, so the Vikings wanted to take one last shot at picking up a few yards then getting out of bounds.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said everything was on the table, including kicking from there.
“I thought about it,” Zimmer explained. “I thought about a lot of things. Throwing the ball in the end zone. But we were trying to get the ball out of bounds to get a little closer to kick the field goal and go to overtime.”
The play was conveyed clearly to everyone—the receivers would all head for the right sideline, and Bridgewater, taking the snap out of the shotgun, would either find someone outside the hash mark or throw the ball away.
“I had a clear understanding of the situation,” Bridgewater said. “We didn’t have any timeouts, couldn’t afford to get tackled inbounds. The play call was designed to at least push the ball down the field a little and allow the guys to make the catch out of bounds. But I had that clock running off in my head, was getting ready to throw the ball out of bounds and the guy just hit me from behind.”
A fine plan, just poorly executed. No one was able to get open against Arizona’s excellent secondary, and Bridgewater held on to the ball a little too long, stepping up into the pocket without realizing Dwight Freeney had shaken his man and was coming up from behind. It wasn’t a LOLVikings moment; just a microcosmic reminder that Minnesota isn’t as good at football as the Cardinals are right now. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.