ROCHESTER, Minn. — We're all prisoners of the moment. We draw up our takeaways based on the outcome. Not the thought process. Only the outcome.
So put yourself in Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's shoes. You're 1-3 and desperate for a win. You're the heavy underdogs to the vaunted Seattle Seahawks. They have Russell Wilson who entered Week 5 as quite possibly the hottest quarterback in the league.
But you didn't let him have the ball for most of the game. Dalvin Cook feasted. When Cook went down with a groin injury, second-year man Alexander Mattison chewed up yards left and right. Even Mike Boone got in on the fun with two carries for 19 yards.
With 120 ticks left, you're up 26-21 and mere inches away from stealing a statement win.
Do you go for it? Or do you kick the chip-shot field goal and go up 29-21? Both are good, viable options.
"I knew if we got that half a yard, we win the game," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "I was trying to win it."
Well, it didn't work. Mattison had a hole but got stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Wilson did his magic, marching 94 yards and connecting with second-year superstar DK Metcalf on fourth-and-10 and then again on fourth-and-goal for the go-ahead touchdown.
Seahawks 27, Vikings 26.
If Zimmer looked on Twitter, he was getting eviscerated for his decision. Because that's how the world works. If Mattison is able to fall forward six more inches, Zimmer is getting praised for shaking off his old-school laurels and getting hip with the new age.
But that's not what we do. We're results-based thinkers. If Mattison gets the first down, Zimmer is the smartest coach alive.
If Zimmer chooses to kick the field goal, but Wilson still marches the Seahawks down the field for the game-tying touchdown — followed by a 2-point conversion — and then wins the game in overtime, Zimmer is killed for being too conservative. He's destroyed for playing not to lose instead of playing for the win.
Zimmer made the right call to go for it on fourth-and-inches. The execution just wasn't good enough. The defense couldn't stop Wilson on two fourth downs even though the entire universe knew the ball was going in Metcalf's direction.
And the Vikings now sit at 1-4 and in dead last in the NFC North.
The Vikings were the better team for most of the night. They got a career night from linebacker Eric Wilson. Adam Thielen crushed the Seahawks in the second half to the tune of nine catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota had 13 more first downs than Seattle. It ran 31 more plays. Totaled 135 more yards. It held the ball for nearly 40 minutes. The Seahawks were 0-for-7 on third down.
Then Wilson did what Wilson does. He's the legitimate leader for the MVP. He's been the best player in the league (sorry, Aaron Rodgers).
Make it 30 game-winning drives for Wilson. It's the most in the NFL since he arrived in the league in 2012.
Good teams find a way to win when they don't play all that well. Seattle did just that on Sunday night. But the opposite is also true. Bad teams find a way to lose games that they probably should win.
The game wasn't won or lost when Zimmer chose to go for it on fourth-and-inches. His young defense just couldn't hold off an MVP candidate and the next Megatron — DK Metcalf.
After the game, Zimmer was asked if he regretted not kicking the field goal: "I really don't," he said. "We came here to win. I'm not going to second-guess any of that stuff. We just didn’t get it done."