Vikings again underuse running game, in coach Mike Zimmer’s eyes
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. – Mike Zimmer has the same idea for how the Vikings offense can improve after putting up 10 points Sunday.
“Same thing I have been saying all year,” Zimmer said minutes after the 24-10 loss.
Throughout the past month, Zimmer has said the Vikings offense isn’t running the ball enough under coordinator John DeFilippo. That appeared to be a thorn in Zimmer’s side against the Patriots. Running back Dalvin Cook was effective with 84 rushing yards, but he had just nine carries — five before halftime and four in the second half.
So, did the Vikings run the ball enough against the Patriots?
“No,” Zimmer said.
Before the Vikings traveled to New England, Cook said the offense’s “main focus” was to establish the run game despite averaging fewer than 22 attempts per game — among the NFL’s lightest backfield workloads.
But the Vikings left Gillette Stadium having attempted just 13 handoffs in a game that was tied 10-10 in the middle of the third quarter. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw 44 passes, completing 32 for 201 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“I think we ran the ball really well,” running back Latavius Murray said. “Obviously, we have to have a better outcome in some other areas, so we can get them dialed up some more, and get them called some more.”
Some snags kept the Vikings out of better running situations. Two plays after Cook’s 18-yard run in the second quarter, guard Tom Compton was called for holding. The 10-yard penalty led to two throws and a punt.
“It’s hard to call a run on second-and-20, because you’re looking at third-and-15 most of the time,” Cousins said. “That’s when it became more of a dropback game.”
Compton was called for holding again in the third quarter. But even when Cousins dug out of that hole for a new set of downs, the Vikings called six passes on the next seven plays, leading to a 39-yard Dan Bailey field goal. The one run in that sequence went for another 18 yards by Cook.
Another three-and-out series followed. Cousins didn’t take the field again until the Vikings trailed by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which forced more reliance on the passing game.
The silver lining is that Cook looks recovered from the hamstring injury that plagued him this season. He ripped off a 32-yard run between right guard Mike Remmers and right tackle Brian O’Neill in the first quarter, before adding the pair of 18-yard runs.