The Vikings flexed their muscles and showed they should be respected in the NFC after a 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Daniel House provides his analysis as the Vikings extended their winning streak to six games.
The Vikings flexed their muscles and showed they should be respected in the NFC after a 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Following a quick 75-yard scoring drive to open the game, the Vikings defense allowed just 179 yards over the final three quarters. Minnesota outgained the Rams 451-254 and used balanced offense to pick up a win over the league’s best scoring offense.
Vikings shut down Todd Gurley, secondary performs well
A major key in this game was the Vikings’ ability to stop the run. Rams running back Todd Gurley was averaging 4.4 yards per carry entering the game. He finished the day with just 15 carries for 37 yards. The Vikings’ defensive line was very disciplined against the run and didn’t allow long splash plays on the ground. One of the main differences for the Minnesota defense has been their success against the run. It has forced opposing teams into long down situations, which the Vikings flourish in.
Quarterback Jared Goff faced pressure all day, despite being sacked just once. The Vikings sent blitzes often on third-and-long and he was forced to dump down quickly to his targets. Goff finished the day 23-for-37 with 225 yards and their passing offense was tamed throughout the afternoon. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander had two notable plays, including a pass breakup in the seam. The Vikings also sent him off a nickel blitz and he forced an incompletion. Minnesota ran nickel blitzes throughout the day and they were very effective to create pressure. The Vikings’ secondary performed well on Sunday and stifled a high-powered passing attack. Trae Waynes had multiple excellent plays and Terence Newman was flying all over the field to make plays. Minnesota’s secondary has been getting better every week, especially as Waynes and Alexander have gained more experience.
In the backend, safety Anthony Harris filled in very well for Andrew Sendejo, who missed the game due to injury. Harris stripped and recovered a Cooper Kupp fumble at the 1-yard-line as the Rams were driving. It was a turning point in the game and allowed Minnesota to enter halftime with game tied at 7. Harris performed very well and added an impressive pass breakup late in the game. He has stepped up in Sendejo’s two absences this year as a great depth option.
Quarterback Case Keenum made all of the necessary throws and took care of the football on Sunday. He completed 27 of his 38 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown. He showed impressive elusiveness to escape the pocket and find Adam Thielen in the first half. Keenum has been impressive on the run and Pat Shurmur has placed him in favorable situations to be successful. The Vikings ran plenty of multi-tight end sets, including 13-personnel and used play-action to find targets up the field. Wide receiver Adam Thielen was dominant again and is cementing himself as a top wide receiver in the league. He took over in the second half and annihilated defensive backs with a head fake off a double move. In the fourth quarter, Thielen snatched a 65-yard touchdown grab to put the game on ice. He became just the second wide receiver to accumulate over 900 yards through their first ten games. The last player to reach this mark was Randy Moss in 2000 and 2003. The chemistry has been apparent between Thielen and Keenum over the past few weeks. Case has command of the team and is earning playing time by executing at a very high level in the offensive system. There is no doubt he should be handling the starting duties as the season progresses.
Murray is running well
The Vikings ran the ball well and exploited a mismatch by using a heavy dose of running back Latavius Murray. He rushed for 95 yards on 15 carries, adding two touchdowns. In the late stages of the game, Murray’s 34-yard run continued to run clock. He is starting to catch stride and is showing more burst and quickness in his movements. Los Angeles had struggled with running backs similar to Murray in past weeks and they didn’t have an answer for the Vikings’ stable of playmakers. In addition, the offensive line continued to be the x-factor for the offense. Every player had positive reps in the running game and Rashod Hill had another strong performance in relief of Mike Remmers. The unit also didn’t allow a sack and Case Keenum had ample time to throw, especially during a near 15-second scramble. The offensive line has been the single biggest reason for the Vikings’ improvement on offense and they deserve to be praised for their work. Minnesota wore the Rams down in the third quarter, controlling the clock for 11 minutes. They won the time of possession 37:22 to 22:38 and found a nice mix of run/pass to keep the Rams on their toes.
The Vikings showed how dominant their defense can be as they slowed one of the top offenses in football. Their offense was balanced and didn’t make mistakes as they sustained drives late in the game. If kicker Kai Forbath hadn’t missed two field goals, the Vikings would have been in complete control.
It appears Minnesota is reaching their peak as they extended their winning streak to six games against a contender in the NFC.