Ahead by five at the two-minute warning and facing fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 6-yard line, Zimmer opted to trot out running back Alexander Mattison, who was playing in relief of an injured Dalvin Cook, to attempt the short yardage needed for the first down to seal the game instead of kick a field goal.
The second-year running back was stopped at the line of scrimmage and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.
While a field goal would have given Minnesota an eight-point lead and forced Seattle to score a touchdown and go for two to win the game in regulation, analytics gave Zimmer’s aggressive decision the slight edge.
According to ESPN’s win probability model, the Vikings had a 98% chance to win by going for it, and they would have had a 97.8% chance to win had they elected to attempt a field goal.
Zimmer said he didn’t rely on analytics in the moment when deciding to go for it after converting twice previously on fourth down and backed his decision to go for the win.
“You’ve got to make decisions quick,” Zimmer said. “You don’t have time to ask analytics guys what to do. In that situation, I’m always going for the win. I don’t care. We’ve done that many times and we’ll continue to do it. We had a half a yard to go and we’d been running the ball really well. I felt like their defense was tired and we had hit two other fourth downs earlier in the ballgame. So I’ll do it again the next time it comes up. If we’ve got a chance to win the game, you’ve got to go for it.”
After the Vikings failed to convert, Russell Wilson and Seattle went 94 yards in 102 seconds and capped off a game-winning drive with a 6-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, it was the third-longest go-ahead touchdown drive that began in the final two minutes of a game in the past 40 seasons.
Regarding Cook, who sustained a groin injury on the first play of Minnesota’s opening drive in the second half, Zimmer said the running back had an MRI on Monday that “went pretty well, so we’ll see how he does this week.” Should Cook need to miss the Vikings’ Week 6 game against Atlanta, Mattison will start at running back, a role he’s filled previously in Cook’s absence.