McFeely: Vikings finally get a kick out of beating Green Bay
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Zimmer is getting all soft with his kickers, it appears.
He's all into forgiveness and second chances.
Earlier this season Zimmer was into punishment and revenge.
Dan Bailey is thankful for the change, and so are his Minnesota Vikings teammates.
But mostly Bailey, the Vikings kicker.
Bailey booted a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter to give the Vikings a lead they'd not relinquish against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, Nov. 25, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings remain alive in the NFC playoff picture after the 24-17 victory, which seems odd, given how poorly they've played at various points this season.
It seems odd, too, that Bailey would gain any sort of credit for the victory.
It seems odd he was even given a chance.
Heck, it seems odd he was still wearing a purple uniform in the second half.
That's because Bailey missed two field goals in the second quarter, from 48 and 56 yards, and that had Zimmer flashing back to Sept. 16 at Lambeau Field, when then-kicker Daniel Carlson missed three kicks in a game that ended tied 29-29. Two of Carlson's missed field goals came in overtime, including a chip-shot 35-yarder as time expired.
Carlson was cut by Zimmer the next day.
Bailey almost followed him out of town. In Zimmer's halftime remarks to NBC reporter Michele Tafoya, he said he was going to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking field goals because, he said, "I'm not going to put the game in the hands of the kicker."
So naturally, the Vikings put the coach in the difficult spot of having to live up to his words. Midway through the third quarter with the game tied 14-14, the Packers sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins to give Minnesota a fourth and 16 at the Green Bay 19.
Would Zimmer stand by his pledge? Would he stiff-arm Bailey as the kicker tried to run on the field? Would he put the game (and likely his job) on the line by going for a first down?
Not a chance. Bailey trotted on the field and drilled the kick to give Minnesota a 17-14 lead. It was the Vikings' first field goal against the Packers this season after an 0 for 5 start.
Now comes the "sort of" part we referenced earlier.
With the Vikings leading 24-14 in the fourth quarter, when a field goal would've forced Green Bay to score two touchdowns to take the lead, Zimmer eschewed a short field goal try and instead went for a first down. The Vikings didn't make it.
It was par for the course on a day when Minnesota wasn't exactly sharp in the category of game management. The Vikings called a timeout on their first possession, only to be flagged for too many men on the field on the next play. And Zimmer's time management at the end of the first half, when he let about 40 seconds drain from the clock after a first down, left much to be desired.
Maybe the scar tissue from all those missed kicks, from Blair Walsh to Daniel Carlson to Dan Bailey, is starting to take its toll on the coach's decision-making ability.