The Minnesota Vikings headed out to the West Coast looking to stay ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in the wildcard race, and within shouting distance of the Green Bay Packers and an outside shot at winning the NFC North. To do that, the Vikings had to do something they haven’t done since week five of last year—beat a team on the road, outside, on grass.
And this game felt like one of those games that the Vikings would stub their toe on. Yeah, the Chargers were 5-8 heading into the game, but they had one of the top overall offenses and defenses in the NFL. And with a lot to play for, it’s historically one of those games that the Vikings don’t bother showing up for.
But they showed up, in a big way. They boatraced the Chargers 39-10, and Dallas dismantled the Rams 44-21. With that combination, all that needs to happen for the Vikings to make the playoffs is to win one of their last two, or have the Rams lose one of their last two. And with both the Rams and Chargers cooperating today...,man, we love LA! Don’t we, Mr. Newman?
From the South Bay
To the Valley
From the West Side
To the East Side
Everybody’s very happy
Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day
I looooooove L.A.
I looooooove L.A.
(We love it)
The SMR that just forced another Chargers turnover follows.
Britton Colquitt, P: More than one person has told me over the last couple weeks I have been remiss for not including Colquitt more in the SMR this year. So let me rectify that right now. Colquitt only punted twice today, but he flipped the field position in a big way both times. His first punt pinned the Chargers at their own four, and when coupled with the first turnover the Vikings forced two plays later, Minnesota had a first and 10 on the LA 11. His second punt came late in the fourth quarter, but it also pinned the Chargers deep, this time on their own five. Seven plays later the Chargers coughed up their seventh turnover of the day, an Anthony Harris interception.
Clearly, science says irrefutably that when Colquitt pins the Vikings opponent at the five or better it forces a turnover.
Danielle Hunter, DE: Hunter seemed to be everywhere at once during the consequential part of today’s game. On LA’s second series, he tackled Melvin Gordon at the LA 11, forcing a fumble that the Vikings recovered, setting up a field goal. Right before halftime, with Minnesota up 12-10, the Chargers had forced a turnover of their own and were driving, reaching the Vikings 26 and poised to at least kick a field goal and take a one point lead into the locker room. Hunter broke through, sacked Philip Rivers, forced another fumble, and Ifeadi Odenigbo scooped it up and rumbled 56 yards for a touchdown.
And after he forced the fumble, he motored downfield and became Odenigbo’s lead blocker, taking out Russell Okung and giving Odenigbo a clear path to the end zone. It’s one of the most remarkably athletic plays I’ve seen from a Vikings player, on either side of the ball. Instead of a one point deficit, the Vikings held a nine point lead and never looked back. It was a huge momentum swing in the game, and the Vikings never looked back.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE: Odenigbo had a career day, scoring his first NFL touchdown on the Rivers fumble, and adding a sack. His sack came at a big moment of the game, too. The Chargers had driven down to the Vikings 7, and faced a third and 6. Odenigbo got to Rivers and sacked him for a three yard loss. The Chargers decided to go for it on 4th and 9, were called for a false start, and on 4th and 14 Rivers threw a harmless incompletion to end the drive.
I gotta say, though, his version of the post TD celebration LA Leap into the stands was a pretty weak effort. Look, I get it. You just ran 60 yards, you’re gassed, and as a Big Man, you probably don’t have mad hops to begin with. But Danielle Hunter couldn’t get that six inch vertical into the stands, and it was one of the funniest things I saw all day:
Eric Kendricks, LB: Kendricks had another superb day. He limited completions to running backs, which was a big part of LA’s offense, had a forced fumble, and seemed to be near the football all day.
Mike Boone, RB: I was very concerned with the Vikings RB depth heading into this game. On Friday, Alexander Mattison was ruled out, and early in the third quarter, the big dog, Dalvin Cook, got banged up and missed most of the second half. Boone came in and went into full beast mode, running for 56 yards on 13 carries, with his first two career touchdowns, in just over a quarter and a half of work.
Kirk Cousins, QB: Cousins just continues to put up good numbers every week while protecting the football. Today was a bit of a weird day for Cousins, though. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad. He had not one, but two fumbled snaps that he managed to recover, and threw an interception inside of the two minute warning at the end of the first half. But he also completed 19/25 passes for 207 yards, and got the Vikings scoring started on their first drive, finding Irv Smith, Jr., for a one yard touchdown. Oh, he also did a heck of a Lamar Jackson impression, taking a naked bootleg for 14 yards and a first down.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggsy was Minnesota’s leading receiver today, catching four passes for 76 yards. He had an amazing one handed sideline catch late in the first half, and on the TD drive that put the game out of reach, he hauled in a 46 yard bomb from Cousins on 3rd and 14.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Rudy had three catches for 48 yards, and drew a big pass interference call on Minnesota’s first drive of the game, setting up a first and goal on the Chargers one yard line.
Harrison Smith, S: Smith nabbed the Vikings first of three interceptions on the day, right before the end of the first half. He also had a tackle for loss, a pass break up, and recovered a fumble.
None. For the second week in a row, I don’t think there was anyone that played poorly enough to warrant a junk bond. Just another solid team effort today.
Buy: Dan Bailey’s four field goals. Having a kicker that can at least salvage points when the offense is struggling in the red zone early is a nice comfort. Bailey nailed all four field goals today, hitting from 26, 44, 38, and 27 yards.
Sell: Dan Bailey’s missed extra point. But...you know...when the offense DOES, in fact, find the end zone, kick the damn extra point, my man. After his miss, and then the inability to find the end zone in the first half, I got an uneasy feeling that this was going to be one of those games that was going to be a lot closer than it should be.
Buy: Vikings first offensive series. When you’re on the road playing in a situation you struggle to play well in, the offense driving down the field and getting a touchdown on the opening drive was huge, and helped set the tempo for the rest of the game.
Sell: Vikings first defensive series. But the defense struggled on their first series, and the Chargers drove down the field, too. Fortunately, the Vikes were able to get off the field when LA got down to the Vikes 23, and forced a field goal. I liked that they kept the Chargers out of the end zone, but letting LA drive the field so effortlessly was a bit disconcerting.
Buy: The seven turnovers and blocked punt. That was a hoot, wasn’t it? Four fumbles, three interceptions, Odenigbo’s scoop and score, and even the Vikes special teams got into it with a partially blocked punt by Eric Wilson. The turnovers repeatedly gave the Vikings great field position, and after some early struggles converting those turnovers into touchdowns, the Vikings capitalized in the second half and turned a close game into a 39-10 laugher.
Sell: Settling for field goals and not scoring touchdowns. This seems nitpicky coming off a blowout win, but for all intents and purposes this game should have been over before halftime. After the Vikings were set up on the Chargers 11 after that Gordon fumble, Minnesota had a weird sequence of play calls, couldn’t get in the end zone, and settled for three. It was 9-3, but LA went right down the field, scored a TD, and went up 10-9. Were you getting that ‘heeeeeere we go’ feeling when that happened? Because I was starting to, just a little bit. After the Smith pick set the Vikes up at midfield, Cousins gave it right back. No points there.
On the first play of the third quarter, Gordon fumbled again and the Vikes were set up in great field position once again, this time at the Chargers 26. After a three yard loss by Dalvin Cook and a false start penalty on Brian O’Neill, Minnesota had to settle for another field goal. They left a lot of points on the field, and in the playoffs that’s not gonna cut it.
Buy: The second half defense. The Vikings defense played a pretty good second half. Yes, the statistics show that Philip RIvers threw for over 300 yards, but the Vikings didn’t give up a big play, made several huge plays to give the offense a chance to put points on the board, and didn’t let the Chargers get back into the game. Most importantly, they were able to get off the field on third down.
Sell: The defense not getting off the field on third and long early in the game. The start of the game was troubling, though. We talked about their first series, which was highlighted by the Chargers converting two third and long situations. On LA’s lone touchdown drive, they converted two more third and longs, and that inability to get off the field when the down and distance really favors the defense has dogged the defense all season.
Grandson Quote of the Week
My youngest grandson Josh is just learning to talk, and it’s pretty much the most adorable thing ever. After the Odenigbo touchdown, I was cheering, and since he was in the room with me and I was clapping, he joined right in, yelling YAAAAAAAY PAPA YAAAAAAY! So, I thought I’d try to see if we could pull off a VIkings cheer:
Me: Josh, can you say ‘SKOL VIKINGS?’
Josh: BOWL BIBINGS!
Me: Close! SKOL VIKINGS!
Josh: BOWWWWL BIBINGS YAAAAAAAY!
Yay indeed, wee little one. Yay indeed.
So the Vikes move to 10-4 and are on the cusp of their 3rd playoff appearance in six years under Mike Zimmer.
And it’s now Green Bay week, Go Vikes, beat That Team From Wisconsin.