Mike Zimmer frustrated with Vikings turnovers, questions if offense is paying attention or cares

It's way too early into Kirk Cousins' contract for the Vikings to have buyer's remorse, but it isn't too early for the frustration to mount. 

After the Vikings dropped a pivotal game against the Bears on Sunday night, which allowed the upstart Bears to seize a 1.5-game lead in the NFC North, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expressed frustration with the state of his offense. More specifically, Zimmer criticized the Vikings offense's unfortunate habit of turning the ball over, even going so far to question if the offense is "paying attention" or if they even "care."

"Yeah, it's definitely a concern," Zimmer told reporters, per NFL.com. "Either they're not listening or they're not paying attention or they don't really care. So, we'll have to find out which one of the three it is."

Through 11 weeks, the Vikings have turned the ball over 16 times -- tied for the seventh most. Their turnover differential rests at plus-one, which ranks tied for 17th. Against the Bears' dominant defense, which leads the league with 27 takeaways, the Vikings gave the ball away on three separate occasions. All three were costly.

The first turnover came when Bears superstar and fringe MVP candidate Khalil Mack stripped Dalvin Cook inside the red zone and recovered the fumble he created. That giveaway cost the Vikings at least three points and quite possibly a touchdown.

The second turnover occurred late in the first half when the Vikings, trailing 14-0, were on the fringes of field-goal range. That's when Cousins, under pressure, heaved a pass downfield to nobody except Bears safety Adrian Amos, who fielded the floater with ease, allowing the Bears to take a 14-0 lead into halftime.

The third and final turnover happened in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings had a chance to mount a game-tying, eight-point drive. But on the first play of the series, Cousins got pick-sixed by Bears safety Eddie Jackson, which all but ended the game. The Vikings never could catch the Bears.

As a result, the Vikings are now 5-4-1. They face a do-or-die game against the Packers on Sunday (8:20 p.m., NBC stream on fuboTV). At the very least, they still get to play the Bears one more time this season, but they can't afford to fall further behind in the race. Entering the season, the Vikings were supposed to challenge for the NFC North title and emerge as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. After their 2017 season ended in the NFC title game and after they went out and won the Cousins sweepstakes by signing him to a three-year deal worth $84 million (all guaranteed), the expectations were Super Bowl or bust. Now, they're at a point where they're simply fighting for their playoff lives.

So, it's understandable why Zimmer is frustrated. Cousins hasn't played poorly, but he's turning the ball over a ton. He's thrown four interceptions over the past three games. He's fumbled eight times over the course of the season. The offensive line got steamrolled by the Bears' defensive front, which certainly didn't help Cousins, but anytime a quarterback gets a contract of that magnitude, they're expected to perform in big games. Cousins didn't do that on Sunday night. The only reason the Vikings were even in the game late was because their defense generated three turnovers of its own to keep the offense within striking distance. Cousins and the offense lost them that game. 

But let's wait until the end of the season to judge Cousins and Vikings entirely. They're still good enough to make the playoffs. That Week 17 game against the Bears might still matter in the NFC North. It's too early to panic. That said, if the Vikings thought Cousins would get them over the hump after they came up just short a year ago, that doesn't appear to be the case so far. 

After 11 weeks, they're not in the process of scaling the mountain. Instead, they've been pushed to the edge of the cliff and all it'll take is one nudge from the Packers to send them spiraling down toward the bottom.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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