Even after going 15-plus minutes without a score, the Minnesota Vikings had a chance to win in front of a hostile Seattle crowd.
On fourth-and-3 from their own 42-yard line with 2:31 remaining, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was hoping to earn his first "Monday Night Football" win, dropped back and fired an errant throw to tight end Irv Smith with Seahawks cornerback Akeem King draped all over him. Seattle would take advantage of the favorable field position with a 36-yard field goal to increase Minnesota's four-point deficit to seven. Game over.
The fact that Minnesota stormed back from being down 34-17 thanks to two incredible fourth-quarter touchdown drives that combined for 3:01 of clock time is remarkable. But, in the end, the valiant effort still resulted in Minnesota dropping the ball at the game's most pivotal moment.
"Well defended. There's a lot of decisions you make throughout the course of a game and I'll go back and look at the film and talk about what could've worked different," Cousins said of the fateful final play. "Different route, could've progressed, you also say a lot of throws where you need to drive it in there. And I tried to drive it in there and we didn't get it. That was one of about two dozen plays that you could point to."
Like Cousins said, for as many plays as there were that allowed them to climb back in it late, there were several that contributed to their narrow defeat.
The Vikings entered halftime up 17-10, committing zero first-half turnovers and scoring on two of their four drives. Their first four second-half stanzas would read punt, fumble, punt, interception. Seattle's play over that stretch? TD, FG, TD, TD. That's killer against any team, let alone one with a Russell Wilson-led offense.
"We had an OK first half, playing good situational football. We didn't have a good second half so just got to go and look at the tape. It was a good game, we got to take this one on the chin at the end of the day," said Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs, who lost the one-on-one matchup that resulted in the INT. "Look in the mirror, see the things we could've done right, could've done better and move forward. We fought our way back into this game. Things did not look good at one point but we fought our back into this game. ... It's just tough to come up short at the end."
After a hot start -- seven carries, 28 yards, TD -- running back Dalvin Cook's impact was limited by a shoulder injury in the third quarter that knocked him out for the remainder. Rookie RB Alexander Mattison (four carries, 22 yards; four catches, 51 yards) filled in admirably but one can't help but wonder how things might've gone if Minnesota still had its motor in the backfield. To add insult to injury, Cook lost only his second fumble of 2019 on the play that took him out.
"No matter if I get injured or not, can't turn the ball over. I hold myself 1,000 percent responsible for not turning the ball over," Cook said. "I pride myself on not turning the ball over so I can't put my team in position where I turn the ball over. That's what they (Seahawks) pride themselves on so we can't give them 'gimmes.' I gave them a 'gimme' almost gave 'em another before the half so I got to take care of the football and I think we'll be a'ight."
"Everybody acts like this is the end of the world, it's not the end of the world," Zimmer said. "We lost one game tonight, we're 8-4. We got four games left, three division games so this isn't the end of the world. We still got a lot of good football left to play."
Clinging to a one-game lead in the wild card, the Vikings will have no choice but to play good football over the last four weeks. After facing Detroit, they will face the 4-8 Chargers on the road before hosting the NFC North-leading Packers and Bears to finish out. It won't be easy but the Vikings have a chance to finish strong.
"Well, I think we have a football team that can go on the road to a tough environment and get a win," Cousins said. "I think this was an opportunity we missed, it's disappointing but I think tonight, we were able to show a resilience and you're going to need that to be able to win in December. And then, if you do take care of business in December, you get a chance in January and that's really what we want to do."