Less than a week after being chastised by his boss on national television, Vikings special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf did very little to help his cause in the 31-28 loss to Dallas Cowboys.
While the Vikings didn’t allow any blocked punts or long kickoff returns like they did in the past couple of weeks, they still left something to be desired on special teams Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Things started off on the wrong foot as return man K.J. Osborn fumbled the opening punt of the game. While the Vikings were able to recover the loose ball, things only got worse from there, as cornerback Kris Boyd later nullified a perfectly executed fake punt by lining up incorrectly. He then compounded that mistake by getting called for a block in the back — yes, a block in the back on punt coverage — on the very next play to gift the Cowboys good field position.
Asked about special teams after the game, coach Mike Zimmer chose to highlight some of the overall improvements, which included new long snapper Andrew DePaola. He replaced Austin Cutting, who was inactive after some mishaps last week and could be in danger of getting cut this week.
“I thought the snaps were good,” Zimmer said. “I thought we had some good coverage on some of it.”
In that same breath Zimmer also mentioned how Boyd had a chance to tackle Cowboys return man CeeDee Lamb late in the game. Instead of getting pinned deep, Lamb got outside for a a 20-yard return, which set Cowboys up in good field position once again. They scored the go-ahead touchdown a few minutes later.
There were some good things on special teams throughout the game, like punter Britton Colquitt averaging 51.3 yards per punt, and linebacker Eric Wilson blocking an extra point.
Still, it’s clear the reoccurring problems on special teams are starting to irk Zimmer in the worst way possible. It’s hard to imagine the Vikings competing at a high level the rest of the way if they continue to struggle in such a key part of the game.
“We worked real hard on it this last week,” Zimmer said. “We are going to work real hard on it again this week.”
As disappointed as he was with some of the blunders on special teams, Zimmer knew he couldn’t blame them for the loss. He wasn’t pleased with the play of the offense in the first half, and he wasn’t pleased with the play of the defense in the second half.
Not a good combination to say the least.
“I don’t think we played well enough to win today. We had our opportunities and made too many mistakes,,” Zimmer said. “We have to go back to work. We had a good week of practice. Just didn’t play well enough, I don’t think.”