Zimmer has no regrets going for win on 4th and inches

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings scores a touchdown against Quandre Diggs #37 of the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on October 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. ((Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images))

Half a yard, and the Minnesota Vikings could enjoy their flight home from Seattle Sunday night. Half a yard, and they leave CenturyLink Field with a key road win, a 2-3 record and put themselves firmly back in the NFC Playoff picture.

But Alexander Mattison didn’t get that half yard. He was stopped short of the line to gain on 4th and inches, and it was time for Russell Wilson to go win a game for the Seahawks. Wilson drove Seattle 94 yards, hitting D.K. Metcalf on 4th and goal from the 6 with 15 seconds left in regulation for the game-winning score. In a game of several twists and turns, the Vikings come home 1-4 after a 27-26 loss.

“Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking loss tonight. We all have a sick feeling as we head back to Minnesota,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after the game he doesn’t regret going for it on 4th and 1, with the Vikings up 26-21 late in regulation. Kick a short field goal, they go up 29-21 and force Wilson and the Seahawks to get a touchdown and two-point conversion to extend the game.

Convert the 4th and inches, and the Vikings can run out the clock. They ran for 201 yards on the night and converted two other 4th and short situations earlier in the game. But they needed 202 yards.

“I knew it was about a half yard. If we got the half yard, we win the game. I was trying to win it. I told them in the headset we didn’t come here for this, let’s go win it,” Zimmer said. “We came here to win, so I’m not going to second guess any of that stuff. We didn’t get it done. Everybody else will, let them do it.”

“It’s on us as an offense, we needed 1 yard and we’ve got to get that done to win the game, to end it with us as the offense on the field,” said receiver Adam Thielen, who finished with nine catches for 80 yards and two scores. “We had an opportunity, they made one more play than us.”

To further complicate matters, the Vikings lost Dalvin Cook to a left groin injury on the first series of the third quarter. He went to the locker room to be evaluated, came back to the sideline and went back in for one play before standing on the sideline the rest of the game. Zimmer said he'll have an MRI on Monday.

Cook scored the Vikings’ first touchdown for the fifth straight game to give Minnesota the early 7-0 lead and finished with 22 touches for 89 total yards. He had 17 carries for 65 yards, and entered the game leading the NFL in rushing. In his absence, Mattison finished with 20 carries for 112 yards, and three catches for 24 yards.

The Vikings and Zimmer put together the perfect recipe to beat Wilson and the Seahawks, at least for a half. They out-gained the Seahawks 217-66, ran 41 offensive plays to Seattle’s 18 and dominated the time of possession, having the ball for 20:16. The Vikings defense also got to Wilson for four sacks, and it translated to a 13-0 lead at the half.

Everything changed when Cook went down, and the Vikings didn’t finish.

Wilson hit Will Dissly for a 19-yard touchdown to get Seattle on the board in the third quarter. Cousins then lost a fumble. Two plays later, Wilson hit D.K. Metcalf over Cameron Dantzler for a 13-yard score, and the Seahawks had a 14-13 lead.

Cousins then tried to hit Justin Jefferson, and K.J. Wright made a leaping interception. On the next play, Chris Carson went 29 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks scored 21 straight points in 1 minute, 53 seconds of game time.

Cousins, who passed for 249 yards on the night, hit Thielen for a 3-yard touchdown to get the Vikings within 21-19 in the third quarter. Cousins tried a sneak for a two-point conversion, but the play was stuffed.

He connected with Thielen again on a 6-yard score to give the Vikings a 26-21 lead with 7:08 remaining. That set up the crazy finish the Vikings have come to expect when facing the Seahawks in recent years.

Minnesota had its chance to seal the victory after Eric Wilson intercepted Russell Wilson with 5:56 remaining. All that stood between the Vikings and a win was a half yard, which Mattison couldn’t pick up.

The Vikings needed one more stop, and couldn’t get it. Facing a 4th and 10, Wilson hit Metcalf down the sideline over Dantzler for 39 yards to keep the game alive. Then on 4th and goal from the 6, Wilson hit Metcalf again for the game-winner, with Anthony Harris draped on him in coverage. Wilson was just 4-of-12 on the final drive, but made the plays when it mattered.

“We had a couple chances to win the game on defense that final drive, we just have to finish the game. We’re right there, the plays are right there to be made, we just have to finish it,” Eric Wilson said.

He’s right. They did everything but finish. The Vikings sacked Russell Wilson four times. They held Seattle to 0-for-7 on third downs, they had just 18 first downs and ran only 52 offensive plays. Seattle only had the ball for 20 minutes, but it’s the Vikings leaving the field with a loss and a 1-4 start.

“It’s frustrating and they’re disappointed. They fought their rear ends off tonight and we didn’t get what we needed to get to. Just keep fighting and keep getting better,” Zimmer said.

“One more play, one more yard, one more stop. We’re so close, and that’s probably why it’s so disappointing and so frustrating,” Thielen said. “We have the guys in this locker room, we have the coaches and we’re fighting until the end, I promise you that.”

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Vikings return home face an 0-5 Atlanta Falcons team that fired its head coach and general manger on Sunday.