Souhan: Browns beat the Vikings with a game plan Zimmer would love

Souhan: Browns beat the Vikings with a game plan Zimmer would love
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So you think you want a front-row seat?

You'll pay top price to see the sweat drip and the bodies fly?

Mike Zimmer might disagree.

Sunday, he would have loved watching the game played at U.S. Bank Stadium, if only he had been in the stands, as a neutral observer. This was his kind of football.

Being on the sideline, as the Minnesota Vikings' coach, was not the best way to enjoy the assault or the battery inflicted upon his team by the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland beat the Vikings 14-7. The point differential does not reflect the way the Browns dominated the game after the Vikings' opening touchdown drive.

The point total? That is a direct reflection of the Browns' ability to win the way Zimmer thinks NFL games should be won: by running the ball, stopping the run, making the clock your servant, and being able to flex unironically after nearly every play.

"I firmly believe that this is a good football team,'' Zimmer said, referring to his own 1-3 team.

If he had been speaking in a court of law, someone would have asked him for proof.

Last year, the Vikings started 1-3 and finished 7-9. That's about where this 17-game season is headed if the Vikings can't execute a cutback against the grain that would make Dalvin Cook proud.

Sunday, the Vikings scored a touchdown on their first drive, then did not score again.

The Browns won in time of possession, 35:32 to 24:28.

The Browns outrushed the Vikings, 184-65.

The Browns won on the road even with their quarterback playing as if he was blindfolded.

The Vikings' quarterback, Kirk Cousins, threw for 59 yards and a touchdown on the first drive, then produced 144 yards and no points the rest of the game.

Cousins is a far superior passer than Baker Mayfield. The other difference between them: Mayfield is making about $32 million on a four-year deal; Cousins is making more than that this season.

The Vikings had the more experienced head coach and quarterback. The Browns didn't seem to mind.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, the former Vikings assistant, proved that you can be a young offensive wunderkind without doing anything too cute. Why be cute when you can gain 5 yards on every handoff?

Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who coached defensive backs for the Vikings about a decade ago, shuttered the Vikings' running game and pressured Cousins constantly, forcing his first interception of the season.

The Vikings lost heartbreakers in the first two games of the season, then dominated a strangely soft Seattle Seahawks team in the Vikings' home opener.

This was the first time the Vikings had to face a contender that would rather run through you than throw over you, and the Vikings turned into saloon doors.

After they play the Hapless Detroit Lions next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, they will play six straight games against teams that currently can be considered contenders.

It's not a hopeless situation. But it is hope-challenged.

"We have to have short-term memory loss," Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said.

He later repeated that line, either for emphasis, or …

For the Vikings to make the playoffs this season, they'll have to win, at least occasionally, without relying on a pretty passing offense, and they may have already played the only team in the NFL that will let their receivers run open by 10 yards while refusing to touch Cousins.

Sadly for the Vikings, they won't see the Seahawks again.

"Like I told the team, I've been doing this for 27 years," Zimmer said. "I know good teams and I know bad teams. And I know that this team has a chance to be pretty darn good."

Zimmer said that Stefanski had praised the Vikings before the game.

If the Vikings were winning, Zimmer wouldn't need to collect testimonials, or envy the aesthetics of his opponent.

Sunday, Zimmer found his kind of team, and it was on the other sideline.

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