One of the better athlete clichés is some variation of “I don’t care if I [blank] as long as we win.”
Those most directly responsible for the Vikings passing game have been given ample opportunity to fill in that blank in the last few days, after Minnesota threw just 10 times in a 28-12 victory over the Falcons in Sunday’s opener.
Comments from Kirk Cousins and co. on the subject seem sincere – a credit to the unselfish culture of Mike Zimmer’s team and perhaps just as much to an understanding that Sunday’s game was both the smallest of sample sizes and the largest of outliers.
An NFL.com story noted that, per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Vikings’ win Sunday was just the third time in the last decade that an NFL team attempted 10 or fewer passes. And it was the first time since 1977 that the Vikings did so in a victory.
Still, not every team would have handled such a lopsided offensive output with grace.
“Probably not the Cowboys,” Zimmer said Wednesday with a laugh of the teams he worked for from 1994-2006 as defensive backs coach and then defensive coordinator. “But guys just want to win, really. I think we have a lot of unselfish guys. And again, the game dictated that we play that way. Each game is not going to play out like that.”
When asked again by reporters Wednesday about his light workload, Cousins reiterated the do-what-it-takes mantra and added that he has no desire to drop back 50-plus times against Green Bay on Sunday, as he did last year in rallying the Vikings to a Week 2 tie at Lambeau Field.
It’s almost certain, though, that he will have to throw far more than he did Sunday. Cousins’ previous career-low in an NFL start was 15 attempts and he has attempted at least 20 passes in 71 of his 74 career starts.
Only two of those 10 passes Sunday were directed at Stefon Diggs, who caught both for 37 yards. The two targets tied a career-low, the most recent previous instance of which, perhaps coincidentally, came in the 2015 finale at Lambeau Field (a 20-13 Vikings victory over Green Bay to seal the NFC North title).
Diggs, too, has been on teams where offensive imbalance led to some displeasure.
“Yeah, a couple times in college,” said Diggs, who starred at Maryland. “But I mean it’s part of the NFL. When you want to win and win at a high level, you are going to do whatever it takes. Being a part of a team where you can run the ball, that’s a plus – especially as a receiver.”
That’s the idea with this year’s Vikings offense, anyway. We just didn’t really see it last week.
“Throwing the ball 10 times, that’s just how the game shook out,” Diggs said. “A lot of turnovers. We were in the red zone a lot. So hopefully we can do that every game. Whatever the game calls for, we’re going to get it done.”
Really? Ten passes every game? Two touches?
I had to test the theoretical (and admittedly absurd) limits of this generosity.
But Stefon, what if you never catch a pass all year?
Diggs laughed. “Ah, naw, that ain’t going to happen,” he said.