Being an NFL head coach means encountering lots of ulcer-inducing moments. Mike Zimmer was reminded of that fact on several occasions Sunday, as his Vikings sweated out a 21-18 overtime triumph against the Rams.
First, Minnesota's head coach watched helplessly as his starting QB, Teddy Bridgewater, endured a knockout shot from St. Louis cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, at the end of a scramble with 13:20 remaining.
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Then, the 59-year-old Vikings coach had to stomach nearly six minutes of overtime, after he gambled and took the wind rather than the ball upon winning the game's second coin toss.
It all worked out in the end for Zimmer â whose squad won its seventh straight home game -- but it would be understandable if the coach required a few aspirin on Sunday night.
Here's a recap of Minnesota's white-knuckle win over visiting St. Louis:
â The Vikings' defense has multiple underrated veterans, not the least of which is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. The 6-foot-4, 329-pounder terrorized St. Louis on Sunday, with one of the better games you'll ever see from an interior defensive lineman: 10 total tackles (including seven solos), half a sack, three tackles for loss and two QB hits. Joseph, 27, is starting to look like a bargain considering his reasonable $3.9 million base salary this season.
-- Adrian Peterson played within himself, and was a key to Minnesota's victory. The Vikings' top offensive player was as valuable as ever in an airtight win, rushing 29 times for 125 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Peterson fumbled twice, but neither was recovered by St. Louis. Overall, the 30-year-old running back was simply consistent (with a long run of 15 yards), which ended up being enough to outperform Rams phenom Todd Gurley (24 carries, 89 yards, one TD).
-- The Vikings have a dicey backup-QB situation. When Bridgewater was sidelined by fellow Miami native Joyner in the fourth quarter, Minnesota was forced to turn to 35-year-old Shaun Hill. Clearly, the 14th-year veteran's days as a great athlete are largely behind him, judging by his current lack of mobility. Hill also appeared to lack timing with his receivers on Sunday. Hill ended his day 2 for 6 for 15 yards passing and a 42.4 passer rating.
-- Zimmer clearly has his players' back. When Bridgewater was sent to the locker room with concussion symptoms, Minnesota's second-year head coach was clearly enraged. Then, after the final gun, he made his feelings on Joyner's questionable tackle known, quickly brushing past St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher near midfield, for instance. Zimmer has a reputation for being widely respected by his players, and Sunday showed why.
--Minnesota saw its rash of injuries continue. Beyond the obvious concern brought about by Bridgewater's head injury, Zimmer and company were also forced to deal with serious ailments to the likes of cornerback Terence Newman (evaluated for a concussion) and linebacker Audie Cole (fractured ankle, out for season). One positive for Minnesota: Newman's injury created playing time for first-round draft pick Trae Waynes, and the rookie fared okay, registering four total tackles. Waynes' best play was a pass breakup on a third-and-3 play with 7 minutes remaining.
-- Penalties continue to be a major factor for the Vikings â in a good way. On Sunday, in a game where every inch seemed to matter, Minnesota continued its trend of playing largely disciplined football. While the Vikings were penalized six times for 67 yards, that paled in comparison to St. Louis' 12 flags for 87 yards.
-- Chad Greenway had an impressive re-emergence. The 32-year-old Vikings linebacker, who has seen his role reduced for most of this season, earned a start against the Rams thanks to an injury to rookie Eric Kendricks. Greenway grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, producing a game-high eight solo tackles and 10 total tackles.
-- When Peterson scored on a 6-yard run in Sunday's first quarter, it marked his 90th career rushing TD. He also ended the day with the fourth 100-yard performance of the 2015 campaign. Peterson now has 46 100-plus-yard rushing games in his career.
WHAT IT MEANT
Blair Walsh's 40-yard, game-winning field goal capped a 6-2 first half of the 2015 season for Minnesota.
With the Packers (6-2) suffering a 37-29 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, the Vikings are now tied for the lead atop the NFC North. But things only get tougher from here for Minnesota. Two of the next three games are on the road, with a home game against rival Green Bay sandwiched in between.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Linval Joseph, Vikings DT. Yes, Peterson had a game-high 125 rushing yards, but Joseph anchored a Vikings defense that kept talented rookie rusher Gurley at bay. Led by Joseph's 10 tackles, Minnesota limited Gurley to 3.7 yards per carry -- which helped turn a lot of potential St. Louis touchdown drives into mere field-goal attempts. That proved to be key.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
Blair Walsh, Vikings kicker. Walsh continued to deliver in the biggest moments possible. His 40-yard, game-winning kick at the 9:20 mark of overtime gave the fourth-year kicker game-winning field goals in back-to-back weeks. Walsh, 25, has five total game-winning field goals in his young career and is 19 for 21 on field goals in 2015.
Sunday's biggest moment arguably occurred at the start of overtime. At that juncture, Zimmer made the bold decision, upon winning the coin toss, to take the wind rather than the football.
The winds at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday ranged from 14-26 mph, and St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein had made a 61-yard field goal â the seventh-longest in NFL history â earlier in the afternoon. Zimmer's gutsy move paid dividends, as the Vikings' defenders quickly shut down the Rams and set up their team's offense for the game-winning field goal.
1. Catches for Vikings offseason acquisition Mike Wallace on Sunday, on six targets. The 29-year-old wideout now has 26 receptions for 292 yards and one TD this season.
THEY SAID IT
"Today, we wanted to come out and establish the run game. You know, we took it personally, offensively and defensively. One thing we wanted to do was come out here and run the ball, and I think we did a pretty good job of that." -- Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, via FOX TV
"I hope Teddy (Bridgewater) is okay. ... We're not out to hurt anybody." â St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher
"If we were out on the street, we probably would've had a fight." â Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer with regard to St. Louis' perceived dirty play, via the Associated Press
The Vikings visit the Oakland Raiders next Sunday, at 3:05. Oakland lost, 38-35, at Pittsburgh on Sunday, falling to 4-4.
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