Mike Zimmer had a conundrum on Sunday night.
Either go for it on fourth down and try to win the game, perhaps letting Russell Wilson have the ball back down just five points if his Minnesota Vikings didn’t get it, or take a field goal to go up eight points ... and let Wilson have the ball back.
These are the decisions that get criticized if they don’t work. Zimmer went for it. The Vikings couldn’t pick up a yard. Wilson drove down the field, and the Seattle Seahawks won it in the final seconds.
Zimmer stood by his decision when asked about it again on Monday.
Mike Zimmer explains his decision
We often end up judging results and not process. Had the Vikings picked up the fourth-down conversion, the same people who criticized Zimmer would have praised him for his gumption.
NFL coaches have to make decisions in a hurry, with millions of people watching from home, ready to criticize if it doesn’t work.
“You don’t have time to ask analytics guys what to do,” Zimmer said, via Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network. “In that situation, I’m always going for the win.”
The analytics didn’t really favor one choice or the other. ESPN’s win probability model gave the Vikings a 98% chance to win by going for it and a 97.8% chance to win if they attempted a field goal, according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com.
In that situation, you have to stick with your philosophy, and Zimmer’s was to go for the win. He said if he faces that decision again, he’d make the same decision.
Should Vikings have taken the field goal?
When Bill Belichick famously went for it on fourth-and-1 in his own territory against the Indianapolis Colts years ago, the thought behind it was reasonable. He didn’t want to give Peyton Manning the ball back.
Wilson, the easy favorite for MVP so far this season, has earned that same respect. Instead of kicking a field goal and hoping to get a stop on the ensuing drive or the two-point conversion, Zimmer didn’t want to let Wilson have the ball at all. He wanted to win it right away with his offense.
“We’ve done that many times, and we’ll continue to do it,” Zimmer said, via Cronin. “We had a half a yard to go, and we’d been running the ball really well. I felt like their defense was tired, and we had hit two other fourth downs earlier in the ballgame.
“So I’ll do it again the next time it comes up. If we’ve got a chance to win the game, you’ve got to go for it.”
It’s an interesting debate because there’s a logical argument for both choices. Zimmer chose to be aggressive. The Vikings couldn’t pick up a yard. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. It just didn’t work.
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