In an exciting game on Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Rams completed a decisive victory over the St. Louis Rams. The Vikings? They did indeed show up. Hopped on a plane from Minneapolis, took a bus to the Edward Jones Dome, put their uniforms on, and did what they needed to do to win. Scored some points, completed some drives. But without numerous key turnovers by the Rams, this game could have been a much different story.
We're left with a generic win. Not a bailout but not domination, either. Turnovers were the difference. A 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Jared Allen halted a St. Louis drive that was moving into Vikings territory. Later on in the first half, Stephen Jackson fumbled the ball near the goal line -- and Jared once again scooped it up. Yet another promising Rams drive was shut down by a turnover, with the ball popping out of Daniel Fells' hands inside the 10 yardline and ending up in the hands of E.J. Henderson. Those three plays were why the Vikings entered the half with a 17-3 lead. Three miscues by the St. Louis offense -- miscues that, in short, made the difference.
When the Vikings defense wasn't getting bailed out by St. Louis turnovers, it was busy allowing Kyle Boller to perform well. Boller was effective when utilizing his mobility to roll out of the pocket, and his effectiveness was aided by Stephen Jackson's success on the ground. The St. Louis offense was well-balanced -- unlike that of the Vikes.
It was a shocker to see Adrian Peterson only get seven carries in the first half. True, we saw last week that Brett Favre's arm can win a game for the Vikings (when he gets some help from Jared Allen on D) -- but that doesn't mean the offensive balance should be completely flipped around from what it's normally been. The Vikings have quite a bit more offensive flexibility than they once did, but this should still be a run-first offense.
To be fair, Favre did have a solid performance in St. Louis. He continues to get more comfortable with his receiving corps, and the effectiveness of the Farvin combo is displaying that Percy is the steal of the draft.
But still, there's reason for concern. This felt like a game the Vikings should have controlled from the opening kickoff, and yet they relied on several St. Louis turnovers to maintain a solid lead throughout the afternoon. The Rams deserve credit for how they battled it out in the trenches -- on both sides of the ball. Screens and roll-outs present problems for the Vikes D, and the defensive line failed to impress against Jackson. The Vikings defense remains suspect on third downs, which plagued them in the first half of last week's game against the Packers.
After a second half touchdown from Favre to Visanthe Shiancoe (which provided us with a rare Shiancoe sighting), the Vikings extended their lead to 24-3. That's the point in a game when elite teams never look back. They don't give opposing teams an inch of room to get back into the game -- especially sub-par opponents. The Vikings? They allowed the Rams to go on a huge drive. 15 plays, 72 yards, lasting 6:10. True, it ended with yet another turnover in the red zone. But elite teams don't allow that type of drive to happen after taking a commanding lead.
I've heard the argument before: It doesn't matter how you win games. I say: Bull. Sure, I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. That goes without saying, and no one's going to disagree with that statement. But as a gauge for how the Vikings will perform in the next three weeks (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay), how they win games against the easier teams on the schedule is relevant. If Kyle Boller can carve up this secondary, we have a problem. If St. Louis' inability to take care of the football was the only thing preventing this game from being considerably more competitive, we have a problem. Can't always rely on turnovers.
A quick glance at the scoreboard would suggest that this was a dominant victory for the Vikings. How can there possibly be so many complaints coming out of this one? Well, had the Rams not self-destructed on several effective drives, this would have been a ballgame. The Vikings did their part by sealing the deal after the Rams took tons of their own points off the board, but most importantly, the Rams beat themselves.
The Vikings got lucky this week. Hard to complain when a team doesn't perform to its full potential and still manages to win by several touchdowns, getting the opportunity to rest its key players in the process. But the score is deceiving. The Rams did a good job of beating themselves; the Vikings could have done more to deserve the win.