A lot went wrong for the Vikings’ offense in their 20-16 Week 8 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, but one of their stranger possessions took place at the end of the first half.
The Vikings got the ball back from the Cowboys on their own 15-yard line with 37 seconds left in the half and one timeout. The team was able to move the ball to the 34-yard line with their first two plays and looked like they would have a shot to get into field goal range — or at least line up a chance at a Hail Mary.
There was just one problem. The Vikings elected not to call a timeout after Kirk Cousins scrambled 13 yards. They let the clock tick down to five seconds before they got their next snap off. After Cousins’ short pass to Adam Thielen fell incomplete with one second left in the half, the Vikings then elected to take a knee.
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Minnesota entered the halftime locker room with a timeout in their pocket and no points. Who is to blame for the team’s poor clock management? Well, Cousins seemed to think it fell on the coaching staff.
“I just let [coach Mike Zimmer] handle the timeouts because I never know quite what the coaches want to do with what they’re thinking,” Cousins said to reporters after the game. “So, I was just gonna let them handle that and call the next play if we’re not getting it.”
Cousins well could be right, but he is also a veteran of 10 years. Even if Zimmer is supposed to call the timeouts, Cousins should have had the wherewithal to call a timeout as the Vikings struggled to get lined up on the penultimate play of the half. It was an inexcusable mistake by the team.
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This wasn’t the only clock management issue the Vikings had on Sunday night. They also called back-to-back timeouts on the Cowboys’ final drive, during which they scored the game-winning touchdown. Minnesota was assessed a five-yard penalty on the play that set up Ezekiel Elliott’s first down reception.
Zimmer took the blame for that one.
“Yeah, I screwed up,” Zimmer said of calling back-to-back timeouts, per NFL.com. “I forgot that I called one. Somebody yelled at me. I knew the play they were running. Really the same play they hit down the middle against us for the long touchdown. So somebody said, ‘Call timeout.’ I did. The official wasn’t supposed to grant it. They’re supposed to not grant it. Anyway, it’s not his fault. So [we] ended up getting a five-yard penalty.”
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The Vikings’ clock management proved costly and now, they’re sitting at 3-4 on the season. They’ll need to improve in that area moving forward and bounce back quickly if they want to make it to the playoffs for the fourth time in Zimmer’s eight seasons as coach.
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