EAGAN - Mike Zimmer didn’t hold back Monday when asked about the second quarter Stefon Diggs touchdown that was negated by a Dalvin Cook penalty in the Vikings’ 21-16 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field.
“I think it was a bad call. Got a replay and I still think it was a bad call. The guy was not trying to block anybody, he was trying to get out of the way,” Zimmer said.
It was late in the first half with the Vikings trailing 21-7, and a Kirk Cousins 61-yard pass to Chad Beebe had Minnesota at the Green Bay 3-yard line. On the next play, Cousins hit Diggs for a touchdown. After a rough start defensively, the dust had settled and the Vikings were back in the game.
That is, until the play went to review. The NFL reviews all scoring plays, and during the course of looking at the touchdown, officials determined that Cook was guilty of offensive pass interference after blocking a defender on the play. Neither Cook or the defender had any impact on Diggs catching the touchdown, making it all the more frustrating for Zimmer.
The call happened partially as a result of officials putting an extra emphasis this year on pass interference. It comes after last season’s NFC title game, where L.A. Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman interfered with Tommylee Lewis. A flag was never thrown, and pass interference wasn’t a reviewable play at the time. The Rams went onto win the game.
Fast forward to Sunday, and the Vikings have a touchdown wiped way.
“I think maybe they decided that they were going to fix the play in the (NFC) championship game and there’s been some unintended consequences from it,” Zimmer said. “That’s just how it is, we’ve just got to play by the rules and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Zimmer says he’s still not exactly sure what Cook did to draw the penalty flag. Cook came into contact with two defenders on the play while attempting to run his own route.
It was one of four offensive pass interference flags on the day. Adam Thielen got one trying to catch a potential touchdown pass, and Packers’ tight end Jimmy Graham got one for pushing off.
“If you extend your arm, you’re going to get called. That hasn’t changed one bit. It’s never changed so if you go out there and you extend your arm, you’re going to get called. That’s the rule, there is no gray area with that whole thing. It’s been the same way for a long time,” Zimmer said.
The bigger issue for Zimmer and the Vikings is they were penalized eight times for 100 yards. In two games, they’ve been flagged 19 times for 200 yards.
That’s tied for the second-highest in the NFL with Jacksonville and Atlanta. Only San Francisco and Tampa Bay have more penalties through two weeks, with 20.
Other than Cook’s penalty, the other killer was a Diggs penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after a 45-yard touchdown from Cousins. Diggs took off his helmet while still within the field of play and jawed with Green Bay fans in the stands. It moved Dan Bailey's extra point back to a 48-yard kick, which the Packers blocked. The penalty also eliminated the chance for the Vikings to go for a two-point conversion to potentially make the score 21-18.
Zimmer said Monday he’s talked with Diggs about the play and the conversation will remain private.
“Undisciplined. They’ve got to start playing within the rules. They know the rules, that’s their responsibility to do what they’re supposed to do,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer’s other issue is with the decision-making of his $84 million quarterback.
With the Vikings’ driving late in the fourth quarter and a chance to take the lead at Lambeau Field, they faced a 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line. They had run seven times for 48 yards to get to that point.
Cousins then inexplicably lofted a pass off his back foot to the back corner of the end zone, headed for Diggs. It was picked off by Kevin King, and essentially sealed the Packers’ win.
Earlier in the game, Cousins tried to hit Diggs, who was surrounded by multiple defenders, and was intercepted on a third down play. Kyle Rudolph was open on what would’ve been Cousins’ next option for a first down.
Zimmer said after the game they’re continuing to coach Cousins the way they want him to play. Cousins finished the day 14-of-32 passing for 230 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 52.9 rating. He also fumbled twice.
“I just think play within himself as far as if the play is not there, throw the ball away. He knows that, it’s not anything different,” Zimmer said. “I think like every position, we’re coaching the heck out of him.”