With Mike Zimmer out as the Vikings head coach, what are some of the best games during his run in Minnesota?
An era of Minnesota Vikings football ended on Monday. After eight seasons, a 72-56-1 record, 2 NFC North titles, and an NFC Championship Game appearance, it was decided that Mike Zimmer will no longer be the head coach of the Vikings. This comes after a disappointing 8-9 season and back to back losing seasons. Looking back on the past eight years here are 5 notable games from Mike Zimmer’s tenure.
5: Vikings come up clutch on Primetime in Dallas (2019)
After a slow 2-2 start, the Vikings won four of the next five games putting them at 6-3 during the 2019 season. Minnesota then traveled to Arlington, Texas to face the high-powered Dallas Cowboys for a Week 10 Sunday Night Football matchup.
Behind a pair of Kyle Rudolph touchdown receptions, the Vikes took a 14-0 first quarter lead. The Cowboys came back and led 21-20 before Dalvin Cook scored on a fourth and qoal towards the end of the third putting Minnesota up 28-21 (with a Rudolph 2-point conversion). Dallas added a field goal early in the fourth. Later in the quarter, Dak Prescott led a potential scoring drive where the Cowboys needed a touchdown. But, that’s when Zimmer’s defense stepped up and here’s how it played out for the fans who don’t recall…
2nd and 2 from the Vikings 11: Ezekiel Elliott up the middle for no gain.
3rd and 2: Elliott again takes the ball, but this time is wrapped up for a loss of three by Ifeadi Odenigbo.
4th and 2: Prescott throws a short pass to Elliot in the flats where Eric Kendricks records a nice PBU.
The Cowboys would get the ball back, but Prescott’s desperation pass was picked off by Jayron Kearse in the end zone. A huge 28-24 NFC win moved the Vikings to 7-3 on the year.
Final: Vikings 28, Cowboys 24.
4: Zimmer’s defense shuts down the league’s best offense (2017)
Weeks 10-17 of the 2017 season were brutal for the Vikings. Five of the final seven games were on the road, which included three playoff teams and a Detroit Lions team that finished 9-7. However, this Vikings team was up for the test finishing the second half of the season with a 7-1 record.
One of the less talked about games of the Zimmer era, the Vikings-Rams 2017 matchup may have been the best defensive performance by a Zimmer-led Vikings team. The Los Angeles Rams rolled into U.S Bank Stadium with a 7-2 record and the NFL’s No. 1 offense. But, it was the league’s best defense that got the last laugh. The Vikings shut down Sean McVay’s Rams holding them to 7 points and forced a key turnover in the red zone. Zimmer’s defense held Todd Gurley to a season low 37 rushing yards on 15 attempts. In all, the Rams gained just 254 total yards which was their second lowest total all season.
Meanwhile, the Vikings put up 451 total yards and Adam Thielen put the icing on the cake with a 66-yard touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Final: Vikings 24, Rams 7.
3: Upset at the Superdome (2019)
Fans might have different feelings about this game because it saved Mike Zimmer’s job. No one expected the Vikings to go into The Big Easy and beat the 13-3 New Orleans Saints. It looked less obvious when the Vikings turned the ball over 5 minutes into the game. The Vikings defense held its own and got pressure on Drew Brees when they needed to. On offense Kirk Cousins, Cook, and Thielen played well enough to take a 20-10 lead in the third quarter.
The Saints would claw back, though, and Wil Lutz sent the game into overtime tied at 20. Fortunately though, the Saints offense wouldn’t see the ball in overtime. Cousins delivered a dagger to Thielen at the Saints’ two-yard line and three plays later Rudolph silenced the Louisiana crowd by snagging one over P.J. Williams in the corner of the end zone.
It would be the last playoff for the Vikings to this day and the last playoff appearance of the Mike Zimmer era. The Vikings stunned the Saints on the last play for the second time in three seasons.
Final: Vikings 26, Saints 20 (OT)
2. Zimmer’s first win at Lambeau (2015)
It did not take long for Zimmer to turn the Vikings around when he was hired in 2014. Two years after a 5-10-1 season with the league’s worst defense, a young Vikings team went 11-5 improving to the league’s 5th best defense. To clinch the Black and Blue division, the Vikings had to go into Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Teddy Bridgewater only threw for 99 yards and Adrian Peterson only gained 67 yards on the ground, but much like the 1970’s, the Vikings defense kept the Packers out of the end zone for three quarters. Aside from a young Adam Thielens fake punt, the most exciting play came off a Captain Munnerlyn 55-yard scoop n score making it a 20-3 game.
The Packers made it a one possession game in the fourth quarter but for the rest of the way the Vikings defense bent, but didn’t break. Green Bay reached the Vikings 13, but on fourth down Xavier Rhodes intercepted a bad Rodgers pass in the end zone. The Packers again got the ball back, but Rodgers hail mary attempt (which he had a couple good ones that season) fell short.
the Vikings came away with a 20-13 victory clinching the first of two division crowns in the the frozen tundra.
Final: Vikings 20, Packers 13.
1. Minneapolis Miracle (2017)
The 2017 season was the peak of the Zimmer era and the Vikings defense during his tenure. Forget what happened the next week in Philadelphia, remember how you felt when Stefon Diggs ran into the end zone sending the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. This game was no doubt the peak of the Zimmer era. Everything that the Vikings had built from 2014 led to the most magical moment in Vikings history.
The first half was dominated by the Vikings. Zimmer’s defense forced two early turnovers off of picks by Anthony Barr and Andrew Sendejo. On offense Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray both found the end zone. After being held scoreless for nearly 40 minutes Brees led a fierce comeback that had the Vikings down 24-23 with 10 seconds left at their own 39. That’s when the magic happened. Case Keenum connected with Diggs for what would be one of the greatest moments in NFL history.
Final: Vikings 29-24
Unfortunately the Vikings weren’t able to go and host a Super Bowl with Zimmer. But, there is a lot of good from the past 8 years of Vikings football. Zimmer will go down as the third winningest coach in franchise history behind Bud Grant and Dennis Green and he brought this team out of the bottom tier of the NFL when he was hired in 2014. Change was necessary but there are plenty of good moments to remember from Zimmer’s teams.