MINNEAPOLIS - The leaders in the Minnesota Vikings’ locker room are stepping up when Mike Zimmer needs them the most.
After one of the most difficult weeks of the season between injuries, COVID-19 issues and a lawsuit facing Dalvin Cook, the Vikings earned a 27-20 win at the L.A. Chargers. They snapped a two-game losing streak, improved to 4-5 on the season and are now just a half game out of the final playoff spot in the NFC.
Kirk Cousins completed nine passes to Justin Jefferson for 143 yards, Cook ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, Tyler Conklin had two touchdowns and Eric Kendricks got a sack and interception on Justin Herbert. The Vikings’ playmakers stepped up when they were needed the most, with the season potentially on the line.
They’ve had every reason to give up on the season, but the battle continues.
"Biggest thing is character in the locker room. I think it was important that we won yesterday because they keep giving great effort, and they haven’t had a lot to show for it," Zimmer said Monday. "I think that should energize us even a little bit more. When you’ve got good character in the locker room, guys continue to fight."
The Vikings now welcome the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
ZIMMER GETS AGGRESSIVE WITH 2 FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS
Mike Zimmer is often criticized with a conservative approach on offense that centers on running the football. Sunday, he opted to gamble in a pair of fourth down situations. One resulted in a touchdown, the other put the game away.
With a 4th-and-goal inside the Chargers’ 1-yard line late in the third quarter and the Vikings down 17-13, Cousins floated a pass to Conklin, who ran under it for a touchdown after two Chargers’ defenders collided on the play.
Up 27-20 with about four minutes to play, Cousins hit Jefferson for 26 yards on a 3rd-and-6. On a 3rd-and-20, he hit Adam Thielen for 18 yards. Facing a 4th-and-2 in L.A. territory with the game on the line, Cook got a pitch and took it three yards for a first down. The Vikings went into victory formation, and ran out the clock.
"It’s really the situation. At the end of the game when it was 3rd-and-20 and we got 18, I’m thinking let’s try to win the game now," Zimmer said. "If we get an opportunity to win the game, then we’re going to try and win the game."
PROMISING NEWS ON DAKOTA DOZIER, GARRETT BRADBURY AND HARRISON SMITH?
The Vikings were without six players Sunday due to COVID-19 issues, but got some potentially promising news on Monday. Dakota Dozier and Garrett Bradbury were back at TCO Performance Center. Dozier was reportedly hospitalized Tuesday night after having trouble breathing. Bradbury missed his second straight game, and Mason Cole filled in at center in his absence.
Zimmer said he also expects safety Harrison Smith, who has to be out at least 10 days in COVID-19 protocols, back at the team facility on Wednesday. He’s also hopeful to have Anthony Barr back from a knee injury, and Patrick Peterson back from a hamstring injury that put him on injured reserve.