Sunday, November 8, 2015

Notebook: Vikings hang on for a 21-18 overtime win against the Rams

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The Vikings picked up a hard fought 21-18 overtime win over the St. Louis Rams. The juices were flowing in this matchup and Daniel House breaks it down in his postgame notebook.

Updated: November 8th, 2015 6:58pm

By: Daniel House

It's an understatement to say the Vikings needed a victory over the Rams on Sunday. A win would improve their record to 6-2 overall, while helping them keep pace in the NFC Wild Card race. They gave everything they had and managed to hang on for a dramatic 21-18 overtime win. The Vikings jumped out quickly to a 10-0 lead as they were fueled by a 6-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson. However, a 1-yard touchdown rush by Todd Gurley and a series of three field goals gave St. Louis a 15-12 lead at the half. The Vikings offense lacked much fire power through the air and failed to sustain many drives. However, the defense continued to have a backbone until Teddy Bridgewater found the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown scamper. He followed that up with a successful rush on the two-point conversion and the Vikings reclaimed a 18-15 lead. In the third quarter,  Bridgewater was hit late by LaMarcus Joyner as he slid down to the ground. Bridgewater left the game to be evaluated for a concussion and the offense quickly hit the brakes as Shaun Hill entered.

The Rams had a chance to tie the game, but kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 48-yard field goal. The Vikings got the ball back, but quickly went three-and-out on the next possession. St. Louis had a second opportunity and Zuerlein drilled a 53-yard to it put it in overtime. The Vikings won the toss and deferred to take the wind in the extra period. That decision turned out to be smart as the Vikings defense forced a three-and-out and Blair Walsh booted a 40-yard field goal to win the game. This game not only helped improve the Vikings' record, but will be huge for the Wild Card race in a few weeks. None of the wins have been easy for this squad. However, they have shown they have the determination and resiliency to find a way to win. If the offense can hit a rhythm late in the season, the sky is the limit for this team.

Today, the Vikings managed to keep Todd Gurley in check and won the battle up front. Both of these aspects were critical to picking up a hard fought victory in overtime.

Linval Joseph is an animal
Linval Joseph is playing out of his mind and he's the best player on the Vikings defense right now. Joseph had ten tackles (three for loss), a half sack, and two quarterback hurries in today's game. At certain points, he was unstoppable. The Vikings defensive line held rookie running back Todd Gurley to a 3.7 yards per carry average and his long was just 16 yards. Joseph played a big role in this as he caused so many runs to be bumped outside. Not to mention, the Vikings did a relatively good job rushing the passer in critical spots. They did allow a deep pocket on a 55-yard pass to Kenny Britt, but they managed to step up when it was necessary. For example, in the fourth quarter, Everson Griffen pressured Nick Foles, forcing an intentional grounding penalty that knocked the Rams out of field goal range. This group has consistently found ways to bring pressure and it has really helped them win many football games that are close. Stopping Gurley was one of the keys to winning this game and holding him to 89 yards was definitely a huge accomplishment.

Chad Greenway steps up and contributes
With Eric Kendricks out, Chad Greenway was playing more in nickel situations and had a very solid game. He had a team-high ten tackles and was consistently diagnosing the plays early. Greenway had a few difficult tackles in the open field, while staying in his lanes. This was much-needed with Kendricks missing time and helped the Vikings make the plays necessary to win. Audie Cole filled in for Kendricks in the base defense, but left due to injury and was later diagnosed with a fractured ankle. The Vikings linebacker depth took a big hit, but Kendricks is expected to be back next week. Minnesota is getting good production out of the defense and that has started with solid play at every positional group. The linebackers have been making the downhill plays, the defensive line has applied good pressure, and they've held opponents under 20 points every week. In this league, you'll win plenty of football games if you can keep the opposing offense from scoring a plethora of points.

Newman leaves, Waynes takes over
In the second half, Terence Newman exited the game to be evaluated with a concussion. That meant rookie Trae Waynes was thrust into the starting role. He held up relatively well and his only mistake was a pass interference call late in the game. It didn't prove costly, but he unnecessarily shoved the receiver out of bounds. Nonetheless, he was targeted frequently and didn't allow the big play. Before Newman left the game, he was beaten badly on a 55-yard pass to Kenny Britt and couldn't handle several routes that he ran. As a whole, the Rams had just 168 yards passing and that's a testament to how well the secondary performed today. The Vikings entire defensive unit got the job done and that's what allowed them to hang tough today.

Bridgewater goes down, things get chippy
Teddy Bridgewater was just 13-for-21 for 144 yards and an interception before leaving with an injury.  He did manage to extend a play, scoring a 6-yard rushing touchdown, while adding a successful scamper on the two-point conversion. However, he was having trouble completing routes to move the chains again. Nonetheless, Bridgewater also completed a few throws that were important in critical stages. Again, he was just a bit inconsistent throughout this game. Regarding the injury, Bridgewater was hit late as he was sliding by cornerback LaMarcus Joyner. His head slammed hard against the turf and he left to be evaluated for a concussion. His status for next week is unknown, but if he isn't ready, Shaun Hill will be taking over the duties for the game against Oakland. Bridgewater was far from sharp, but it was enough to grind out a big win over the Rams. Stefon Diggs led the team with just 42 yards receiving and the game was definitely won on the ground and by the defense.

Three tight end sets help protection and the running game
This is the first week we've seen the Vikings run so many three tight end sets. It helped T.J. Clemmings handle pressure and opened wider holes for Adrian Peterson to run. Peterson had one touchdown, while rushing for 125 yards on 29 carries. The offensive line allowed just one sack and helped blaze really good lanes for Peterson to run. What's more, the lone sack came near the end of the game when Shaun Hill took too long to make a decision on a roll out. It's encouraging to see the Vikings offensive line improving and the three tight end set definitely was a great way to help relieve some of the struggles that were occurring earlier in the season. Protecting the quarterback and running the ball will both be very important for this squad as they move forward.

Note: The Packers lost their second straight game of the season and the Vikings are now tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North.

1 comment:

  1. Good overview. The Broncos laid 23 points on us, though.