Minnesota holds off the Rams 21-18 in OT to take a share of first place in the NFC North.
It was billed as the battle between two of the best running backs in the game, Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, but it was the defense of both squads that deserve most of the credit. For most of the game neither team could do much at all and the last-possession-wins possibility appeared inevitable by mid-third quarter. Finally, the one-sided swirl of wind that hindered each team per quarter had a decided effect on the Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer’s choice in overtime to defer from first possession to choose the side with the breeze advantage.
Both teams are said to be mirror images of each other, and they certainly looked it mostly, but as in other games this season, St. Louis’ lack of offensive production contributed mightily, while their defense played rather admirably with both starting defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn inactive, as well as starting safety T.J. McDonald ruled out before the game also.
Early on, the Vikings focused heavily on stopping Todd Gurley and the running game, and did just that with little threat of being passed on. The Rams adjusted with bubble screens and reverses that became mildly effective. After halftime, however, the changes made by Zimmer put an end to the trickery as players were sent on the attack before the Rams could set plays up. This apparently stifled the pro-level rookie Rams’ offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti as he seemed to have no answer and made no or little in-game adjustments thereafter, perhaps due to personnel.
Although both runners began to turn it up a notch late in the second half, it was Adrian Peterson that stole the ground show with sharp and determined runs totaling 125 yards on 29 carries and a TD on the day. T. Gurley managed 89 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown, but saw his 125+ yards streak halted at four games. An unnamed Viking told a NFL Network commentator before the game that despite what’s being said (or not), A.P. was indeed highly motivated for this game.
The drama play that’s boiling over into week 10 was the alleged hit on Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater by Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner in the third quarter that not only knocked the Minnesota starter out of the game, but out cold for the better part of a minute until help arrived. To coach Zimmer — who barely shook Jeff Fisher’s after the game, then took an emotion-charged shot at Rams defensive coordinator Greg Williams (of the infamous Bountygate scandal — and to Vikings fans, it looked like an obvious flagrant foul to Bridgewater’s head, but upon examination of the high-def slow motion footage, it is not so obvious. Joyner does not appear to throw an elbow into Bridgewater as his elbow was at no point far enough away from his body to warrant accusations of intent. His intention looked more like an attempt to brace himself for possible impact while turning away mid-air after a late reaction to Bridgewater’s swift and sudden slide. Perhaps with the consideration of his sincere apology revealing that the two know each other and their families know one another, and that he wouldn’t purposely hurt Bridgewater or the Bridgewater family, the league agreed that a suspension would be unjust. Joyner is still, even in this homer’s eyes, guilty of avoiding contact late, and is expected to be fined…Note to self: Contact Mr. Goodell to inquire whether or not there are future fine considerations towards quarterbacks who slide too suddenly, intentionally or not, to induce the perception of late hits. Not applicable here, but I hear some QBs are coached this way…which would be stupid on their part.
Scoring summary per quarter:
FIRST QUARTER: The Rams opened the game but their 3-and-out possession led to good field position for the Vikings, who could only get a field goal out of it. On their next series, Adrian Peterson scores a 6-yard touchdown untouched. Gurley and the Rams answer on a 1-yard run that Gurley had to fight for after being initially stopped short of the goal line. Their two-point conversion failed . Score: Vikings 10, Rams 6
SECOND QUARTER: The Rams could not advance deep enough into Viking territory (22 yards on 6 plays) and Greg Zuerlein successfully kicked a career-best 61-yard field goal with the help of the wind now at their backs. The Rams’ defense tightened and gave nothing up to the Vikings this quarter, holding them to punts in all three series. Controlling time of possession, the Rams successfully kicked two more field goals of 35 and 45 yards. Halftime Score: Vikings 10, Rams 15
THIRD QUARTER: The Vikings opened the second half, but a Bridgewater bomb was intercepted by cornerback Trumaine Johnson in the end zone. The Rams failed to take advantage, and on their next series, the Vikings drove 60 yards on 6 plays (highlighted by the running of Peterson) before Bridgewater ran it in from 6 yards out, then ran in the two-point conversion. A series of punt exchanges followed, aided by costly Ram penalties. Score: Vikings 18, Rams 15
FOURTH QUARTER: On the next Minnesota possession, Bridgewater would be concussed on a late hit and left the game, not to return. The late hit penalty was wasted, however, as A.P. fumbled twice within the series, forcing them to punt. It was all defense after that until the Rams took advantage of good field position and kicked another field goal 53 yards to tie the game. End of Regulation Score: Vikings 18, Rams 18
OVERTIME: The Vikings elected to bet on themselves and deferred the winning coin flip, giving the Rams first crack at scoring while putting them against the dreaded wind that affected each team per quarter. The Rams did nothing, and their weak punt coverage allowed Minnesota a _ yard return with the wind at their backs. A _ yard run by Peterson helped position kicker Blair Walsh for the winning 40-yard kick. Final Score: Vikings 21, Rams 18
The (6-2) Vikings’ 4th win in a row puts them in the thick of the playoff hunt, and at 6-and-1 since dropping the opener to the 49ers. They make up a two-game second place gap to now tie the Green Bay Packers for first place, and face the improved Oakland Raiders in week 10.
The Rams drop to .500 again, sandwiched between two team on two-game winning streaks, the Seahawks and Cardinals, who play each other week 10.