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A playoff win may have doomed the Vikings’ future

Mike Zimmer, on Monday, said the Vikings’ woes are “100%” his fault.

Kirk Cousins, on Sunday, threw three interceptions in a half against a team that had managed two interceptions in its first five games, giving him the league lead in interceptions, then admitted that if he continues to play this way, he won’t finish the season as the starting quarterback.

General manager Rick Spielman is responsible for the personnel that has failed to produce on the offensive line, and has a defense ranked 28th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.

The star running back, Dalvin Cook, is recovering from a groin injury, the latest malady to curb his production.

So it’s clear who deserves the blame for the Vikings’ 1-5 record and seemingly dismal future:

Drew Brees.

A reminder: The Vikings finished the 2019 regular season by losing the biggest game of the season, 23-10, at home to the Green Bay Packers. The offense looked inept. The following week, they lost to the Chicago Bears while resting key starters.

Had that 2019 team gone to New Orleans for a playoff game and looked noncompetitive, the Wilfs would have been forced to assess the future of their general manager, head coach, quarterback and star running back.

That team would have ended the season with a three-game losing streak.

That team would have looked fraudulent.

And Cousins would have received much of the blame.

Instead, the Vikings faced a sheep in wolf’s clothing — a Saints team renowned for its passing game and home-field advantage, but lacking a quarterback who could make big plays against vulnerable cornerbacks.

Zimmer is a good defensive coach, and he did his best work in the Vikings’ 26-20 overtime victory over the Saints at the Superdome. He recognized that this older version of Brees couldn’t hurt him downfield, and built a game plan that would take advantage of Brees’ late-career arm weakness.

The result: Brees didn’t complete a pass for more than 20 yards. The Saints’ only big play in the passing game came when Taysom Hill completed a pass for 50 yards to Deonte Harris.

With running back Alvin Kamara at less than 100%, Hill was also the only Saint who accounted for rushes or pass plays of more than 20 yards. The Vikings sacked Brees three times and intercepted him once.

After the Vikings won, Cousins received much of the praise because he had proved he could win a playoff game, and he did so against a seemingly good team in a reputedly tough place to play.

His numbers: 19-of-31 for 242 yards and one touchdown.

He wasn’t spectacular, but the Vikings’ defense and Brees’ lack of production set Cousins up to succeed.

Imagine what would have happened if vintage Drew Brees had shown up and produced 30 or more points against a defense that was about to get rid of its top three cornerbacks.

Cousins’ reputation for failing in important games would have been bolstered.

Zimmer would have finished his sixth season with just one playoff victory, that one coming on a play described as a miracle.

Spielman would have faced scrutiny for signing Cousins.

Instead, the Wilfs either happily or begrudgingly extended the contracts of Spielman, Zimmer, Cousins and Cook. With the 2020 Vikings at 1-5 and coming off an embarrassing loss to the Falcons, all of those decisions should be questioned.

The Vikings have lost six of their last seven games and eight of their last 10.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that anything can happen in one game, so owners shouldn’t base major decisions on the results of one game, unless that one game is a Super Bowl victory, and maybe not even then.

Brees has inflicted major damage on the NFL team at the other end of the Mississippi.

In 2009, he beat them in an epic title game.

In 2019, he set them up to fail.

 

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