NFL Winners and Losers: Mike Zimmer-Kirk Cousins era Vikings need a reboot after brutal loss

Bill Parcells' famous line, which stated you are what your record says you are, isn't completely accurate. But sometimes there's truth within it. Maybe we should have known the Minnesota Vikings weren't very good. 

The Vikings were 5-6 coming into Sunday. They were under .500 but could hide behind a lot of close losses. It seemed like they were a team better than their record. Not any more. 

After Sunday, everyone with the Vikings should be in survival mode. Being 5-6 with a ton of close losses wasn't ideal but understandable. Being 5-7 with a last-play loss to the previously 0-10-1 Detroit Lions is a fiasco. The brutal defeat to the Lions on Sunday is the kind of loss that puts everyone on notice. 

The Vikings gave up a game-losing touchdown on the final play to lose 29-27. They somehow let Amon-Ra St. Brown sneak into the end zone uncovered. Why the Vikings were playing five yards deep in the end zone is hard to explain. St. Brown stopped at the goal line, caught a pass from Jared Goff and the Lions' celebration was on. It's not like the Vikings deserved to win. They fell behind 20-6. They took a late lead after the Lions didn't convert a fourth-and-1 in their own territory, but then allowed a long drive to a bad offense to lose it. It seemed like the type of loss that will linger into what will be a big offseason for the franchise.  

Coach Mike Zimmer, quarterback Kirk Cousins and general manager Rick Spielman will get the most heat. None of them are bad at their jobs. But the results haven't been what the Vikings ultimately want. Start with Zimmer, because it's hard to survive as an NFL head coach with two playoff wins and three playoff appearances in eight seasons. Perhaps the Vikings get a playoff win at the end of Zimmer's eighth season but that seems unlikely after Sunday. Zimmer is a good coach, but NFL teams aren't known for patience. 

Cousins also gets more criticism than he probably deserves, but his highly publicized fully-guaranteed contract (and subsequent extension) hasn't led to a ton of team success. Cousins' deal runs through 2022. The dead-cap hit for trading Cousins would be $10 million. That's a lot but not excessive for a team that could be looking to rebuild. 

It's possible all of the key Vikings return. It would be hard to find a better coach/GM combo than Zimmer and Spielman, and it's hard to find a quarterback period. Still, all options will have to be discussed. That's how damaging Sunday was. If the Vikings were 6-6 after a win over the Lions, it wouldn't be great but it also wouldn't feel like everyone in the building might get fired. The replay of that last touchdown, with St. Brown just waltzing over the goal line to catch a pass with little resistance, will be impossible to shake. Minnesota probably needs to rally to make the playoffs to wash away this loss, and that's not easy at 5-7. 

Sunday was bad before the last play. The Vikings defense was picked apart at times by Goff, who had been having an awful season. Detroit didn't even have its best offensive player, running back D'Andre Swift. Minnesota's offense didn't have Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen injured his ankle early, but Cousins didn't get a ton going against a thin Lions defense. Near the end of the first half, when the Vikings finally seemed to be getting something going, Cousins threw three straight incompletions and took a fourth-down sack. It was ugly all around. 

The Vikings will need to take a hard look at themselves. They've mostly trailed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for the Zimmer era. The Packers, Lions and Chicago Bears will all enter the offseason with various question marks, so the division will have a different feel. Minnesota's ownership will have to figure out how much different its franchise will look. Any look would be better than losing to a previously winless Lions team on the final play. 

Here are the winners and losers from Week 13 of the NFL season: 

WINNERS

Matthew Stafford, against a bad team: When Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams play terrible teams, they usually look really good.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the definition of a terrible team, and predictably the Rams beat the heck out of them. The Rams won 37-7 and Stafford threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. 

If the Rams and Stafford face the Jaguars, Lions or Giants in the playoffs, they’re golden. Otherwise, they might want to figure out why they don’t look like they did Sunday against better teams. But at least they can figure that out on their way to the playoffs.

Taylor Heinicke, the ups and downs: Heinicke is interesting, at least.

Shortly after Heinicke threw an interception into heavy coverage, which turned into a Las Vegas Raiders interception and a 15-14 deficit for the Washington Football Team, Heinicke led a last-minute drive for a game-winning field goal. Washington won 17-15 after a deep pass to Zay Jones in the final seconds came oh-so-close to being completed, but was knocked away without a penalty flag being thrown. Washington’s playoff hopes are still very much alive. They're 6-6 after four straight wins. 

Heinicke was a roller coaster on Sunday. He made several dangerous throws. He also made a few key plays. Who knows what his future holds, but for the present he keeps WFT fans entertained.

Jonathan Taylor for some awards: Taylor isn't going to win MVP. A running back needs to be Superman to beat a quarterback for the award, no matter how good his case is. 

However, Taylor's offensive player of the year resume keeps getting fuller. Taylor had another big day in the Indianapolis Colts' 31-0 win over the Houston Texans. He scored a rushing touchdown in his 10th straight game, the longest streak since LaDainian Tomlinson did it in 18 straight over the 2004-05 seasons. Taylor finished with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,348 yards. Nobody else in the NFL is over 1,000.  

The Colts might need to get to the playoffs for Taylor to win that award. But he's doing his best to get them there. 

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals: The rest of the NFC West might have missed its chance to knock out the Cardinals. 

Arizona went 2-1 when Murray was out with an ankle injury. He's back now and the Cardinals will be tough to beat. Murray had two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in his return, as Arizona improved to 10-2 with a 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears. One of those touchdowns went to DeAndre Hopkins, who was returning from a hamstring injury. 

The NFC West is the Cardinals' division to lose. With Murray back, they won't be losing very often. The No. 1 seed in the NFC might be their real goal now that they're healthy. 

Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin: Tom Brady doesn't lack for weapons in the passing game. 

Gronkowski scored two more touchdowns and nobody could guard Godwin on Sunday in a relatively easy 30-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The key to the Bucs' offense was Godwin and his career-high 15 catches (that's the most a receiver has posted in an NFL game this season) for 143 yards, but Gronkowski is still who Tom Brady looks to in the red zone. Gronkowski has six touchdowns in seven games played this season. 

The Buccaneers are still a Super Bowl contender. A lot of that has to do with the multitude of options Brady has to throw to on offense. 

LOSERS

Lamar Jackson: Had Jackson played better through the first 58 minutes on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens wouldn't have had to go for a two-point conversion and the win with 12 seconds left. Had Jackson thrown a better ball to Mark Andrews on that conversion, it wouldn't have gone off his fingertips and fallen incomplete. 

The Ravens lost 20-19 in a thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers. John Harbaugh's decision to go for the two-point conversion and the win will be the story of the game, but Jackson's continued slump is a bigger deal to the Ravens' season. Jackson's first-half interception, which he threw into the end zone off his back foot, was costly. He did put together a great drive in the final two minutes to get a touchdown, but he didn't do enough before that. 

The Ravens are still in first place of the AFC North, thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals also losing. But to have true Super Bowl hopes, they'll need Jackson to start playing better again. 

San Francisco 49ers: Just when it looked like the 49ers might be a second-half team going to the playoffs, they took a bad loss at the Seattle Seahawks. 

Jimmy Garoppolo's fourth-down pass in the final seconds was tipped and fell incomplete, completing a 30-23 win for the Seahawks. The 49ers' three turnovers helped a Seattle offense that had done very little in the past few weeks since Russell Wilson came back from injury. Giving up a 73-yard touchdown on a fake punt in the first quarter didn't help either. 

It's not like the 49ers are out of the playoff hunt because of a loss in a game they probably should have won. But they're 6-6 and made it harder on themselves with the loss. 

Jalen Hurts: The one thing Hurts didn't need was Gardner Minshew II having a ridiculous game replacing him. 

It was just against the New York Jets, but Minshew looked great for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Minshew filled in for injured Hurts and guided the Eagles offense to the 33-18 win. 

The Hurts debate will be ongoing in Philadelphia, and probably will get a bit annoying. Hurts probably has played well enough to be the starter in 2022, but he is coming off a horrible game against the New York Giants. Minshew, who had his moments with the Jacksonville Jaguars before they moved on to Trevor Lawrence, was sharp on Sunday. Again, it was against the Jets so it doesn't mean too much. But for anyone who wants to keep that Hurts debate alive, Minshew's outing won't quiet it down. 

Joe Mixon: Mixon has had a great year, but he had a fumble that was quite costly to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. 

The Bengals got back in the game against the Los Angeles Chargers and trailed 24-22 early in the fourth quarter when Mixon had a bad fumble. He was hardly hit after a handoff but the ball popped out, and the Chargers scooped it and scored. It's not Mixon's fault the Bengals fell behind 24-0, but his fumble was the play that pretty much ended the comeback. The Chargers went on to win 41-22. 

The Bengals have had consistency issues this season, mixing great wins with bad losses. Mixon has been one of the constants. He just had a bad play at the wrong time on Sunday. 

Tua Tagovailoa haters: Tagovailoa is just one of those quarterbacks who will always get heat. Yet, he hasn't been terrible for the Miami Dolphins. 

The Dolphins won their fifth in a row as they continue to dig out of a 1-7 hole, beating the New York Giants 20-9, and Tagovailoa was a big part of that win. He had a pretty typical Tagovailoa game: 30 of 41 for 244 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 104.1 passer rating. He wasn't great or dynamic, but he was efficient. 

Miami will likely continue to keep looking for other options at quarterback. Tagovailoa will continue to get written off. But he hasn't been as bad as some people believe. 

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