SEATTLE — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and the team’s sideline were irate after officials picked up a penalty flag after Seattle blocked a field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter of its 21-7 win Monday night.
Dan Bailey’s 47-yard attempt was batted down by Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who hurdled the line by putting his hands on teammates. Referee Brad Allen said there was no foul on the play because Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner hurdled the line without touching Vikings blockers.
But Vikings players argued Seahawks defensive linemen were pulling down long snapper Kevin McDermott. Instead of a new set of downs in Seahawks territory, trailing 6-0, it was a turnover that eventually led to a Seattle touchdown. Challenge flag in hand, Zimmer exchanged words with officials after the play.
“I just asked if I could challenge and they said no,” Zimmer said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t see what happened. I was told what happened. You’re not supposed to be able to pull guys down if that’s what they did.”
Mike Periera, the former NFL VP for officiating, tweeted: “Lots of talk about the Wagner block. The wording in the rule book is NEW this year and is clear. The new wording states, “May not place a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.” Case closed. Foul.”
One or two yards has felt like a mile long for the Vikings offense. Problems persisted during Monday night’s loss in Seattle, where the Vikings moved the chains on just 2 of 10 third-down attempts and failed on two fourth-down tries from one yard away.
The only two short-yardage conversions were quarterback sneaks by Kirk Cousins. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray ran into walls of Seahawks defenders on their attempts.
“It’s frustrating,” Cook said. “To not execute is frustrating. The fourth-and-1’s, all that, we didn’t execute. We didn’t put it together. We have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we have to do.”
From the Seahawks’ 2-yard line in the fourth quarter, Cook was tackled after one yard on third down. The ensuing 4th-and-goal attempt from the 1-yard line saw Cousins throw to a covered tight end Kyle Rudolph for a turnover on downs.
Murray was stonewalled in the third quarter on another 4th-and-1 attempt. Center Pat Elflein, who said he was playing through an illness on Monday night, didn’t have many answers for the continued short-yardage failures.
The Vikings entered the game having converted just 3 of 8 runs on third-and-short spots, according to Pro Football Reference.
“I’m not really sure what happened,” Elflein said. “It’s a tight situation, the play clock is ticking down — a lot of stuff going on. We just have to execute the proper call. Obviously, we didn’t do it.”
More runs don’t add up
The Vikings’ run game — or lack thereof — has drawn criticism from Zimmer. The emphasis was clear in Seattle. Ten runs were called to nine pass plays for a combined 61 yards while the Vikings were shut out in the first half. Without blocking tight end David Morgan (inactive, knee), the Vikings used backup tackle Rashod Hill to no avail for more size in run-blocking situations.
“It’s about execution, it doesn’t matter what play is called,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “You hear offensive coordinators get a lot of ridicule, but it’s about the players. The players have to make the plays, it doesn’t matter what play is called.”