Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s postgame remarks were terse, even by his own media-averse standards.
“He looked fine, fumbled the ball.”
“Basically, what I just told you.”
He had every reason to be.
The Vikings’ playoff hopes were all but dashed in a 34-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, as Zimmer’s once-dominant defense suffered its most crushing defeat of the season.
The return of star running back Adrian Peterson after an 11-week absence was a footnote, as quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts went to work early.
By halftime Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s $1 billion palace was half-empty, Peterson had just 22 rushing yards and the Vikings were trailing 27-0 with their season on the line.
— Zimmer’s defense had its worst game of the season, allowing a season-high 37 points. They were particularly off in the first half, allowing 21 first downs and five of eight third-down conversions, as the Colts punted just once on six possessions.
— Andrew Luck threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, completing a highly-efficient 21 passes on 28 attempts.
— The Vikings ran 13 offensive plays in the first half, managing just 69 yards of total offense and surrendering two turnovers.
— The Colts started three rookie offensive lineman, a seemingly perfect storm for Zimmer’s pass rush. They made do, holding the Vikings without a sack.
— Linval Joseph was flagged for attempting to jump over Colts long-snapper Matt Overton and coming comically short on a field goal attempt in the first quarter. Plays like that are perfectly legal, so long as you don’t hit the player you’re jumping over. The move resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the Vikings and a rushing touchdown for the Colts.
— Sam Bradford had a passable day on paper, throwing for 291 yards and an interception, but he struggled with turnovers all day. He fumbled on a strip-sack in the third quarter, before throwing a would-be interception on the Vikings’ next possession that was called back thanks to a penalty.
— Vikings fans got a few glimpses of what a Peterson/Bradford-led team can do despite the lopsided score. Bradford rolled out to his right on play action midway through the second quarter, fitting the ball between three defenders for a 28-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
— Minnesota’s once-vaunted defense… Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Andrew Sendejo and Captain Munnerlyn all whiffed on the Colts’ second rushing touchdown of the day, failing to stop running back Robert Turbin. He had just 99 rushing yards and four touchdowns heading into Sunday’s game.
WHAT IT MEANT
Minnesota’s playoff hopes are all but dashed. At 7-7 they’ve now fallen to third place in the NFC North behind the Green Bay Packers and the division-leading Detroit Lions with just two games remaining. The Vikings now trail the Packers and the Washington Redskins in the wild card race, but even a pair of wins over the Packers and the Chicago Bears in their final two games won’t be enough to make up for their second-half collapse.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
There weren’t many positives to go around, but kicker Kai Forbath converted on both of his field-goal attempts, including a 51-yarder in the third quarter. It’s something.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Rudolph has been one of Bradford’s favorite targets all season, and he kept at it against the Colts. He hauled in the aforementioned strike from Bradford on a play action pass in the second quarter, before pushing his receiving totals to 97 yards on the day with a 23-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
Peterson’s best run of the day came in the second quarter, when he galloped for 13 yards after Jeremiah Sirles opened up a big hole at the line. He promptly fumbled as he went down, as the Vikings missed a crucial chance to get back in the game down 17-0.
22 yards — Peterson’s much-hyped return wasn’t exactly the boost the Vikings were expecting. He rushed just six times for 22 yards, losing a costly fumble on his longest rush of the game before sitting for most of the second half.
THEY SAID IT
“I want to find out who is going to fight, because that was not a fighting performance there. They were more physical than us today, played with more tenacity than we did. That’s usually how it goes so, we’ll find out.” — Head coach Mike Zimmer
“We had to drop back and start passing the ball a lot more. For me being out for a sufficient amount of time, it was obviously best for Jerick [McKinnon] and Matt [Asiata] to continue with the hurry up offense.” — Running back Adrian Peterson
“You can’t blame anyone else. It is not one of those situations where you win out and things don’t go your way. We have to look at ourselves and say we just didn’t do it. From here it is very uphill and it is going to be hard. We need to be critical and focus on what we need to do and do our own job.” — Guard Alex Boone
“We went down to Jacksonville and did what we needed to do. We thought we were moving in the right direction. Then obviously today, we didn’t even give ourselves a chance. I think that’s what’s really tough, knowing that we didn’t even give ourselves a chance to win today.” — Quarterback Sam Bradford
The Vikings are playing for pride at this point, and a win over Green Bay on Christmas Eve would certainly be cause for some. A loss would doom the Packers’ playoff chances as well. The Vikings head to Lambeau Field having lost seven of their last 10 games, a remarkable collapse after their 5-0 start. They’ll look to stretch their winning streak against the Packers to three games for just the second time since the mid-’90s, but Green Bay is coming on strong with their season on the line and have won four straight.