The Patriots came away with a win against the Vikings on Sunday, but a failed first half play call left radio broadcaster Scott Zolak questioning the decision making of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Facing a third and one in their own territory with 2:14 left in the second quarter, the Patriots opted to run a direct-snap sweep with running back James White. White was promptly stopped short of the first down marker, and the Patriots punted.
“Patriots have been just completely out-clock-managed here at the end of this first half,” said Zolak afterward (the clip was replayed on Monday morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich”). He recapped the preceding plays, including Rob Gronkowski’s catch on second down, and the Vikings’ successful challenge of the spot of the ball (setting up third and short).
“Perfectly set up for them,” Zolak explained. “Throw the ball to [Gronkowski] on a crosser on second down, you get called short. That’s a good challenge by [Mike] Zimmer, a smart challenge actually because it makes you line up on third down, and makes you waste one of your two-point plays where you direct-snap it to a running back.”
Zolak offered an explanation for his unhappiness with the call. With both offensive linemen and a running back returning to the lineup from injury, he didn’t agree with running what he deemed a “finesse” play.
“Now we talk about line continuity upfront. You’ve got all of your linemen, you’ve got a fullback, you’ve got [Rex] Burkhead back this week, you’ve got Sony Michel, who’s been running, and you go back to that chicken-bleep finesse stuff on third down? God, that just drives you crazy.”
The Vikings took possession with just under two minutes remaining in the half, marching 74 yards on seven plays. The drive ended with a five yard touchdown pass from Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, cutting the Patriots’ lead to 10-7.