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Week 4 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 31, Los Angeles Rams 38
What you need to know
The Vikings traveled to Los Angeles in what was said to be a preview of a potential NFC Championship game. The first 2 drives of the game had the feel of a heavy weight fight with each team trading long touchdown drives. Then something changed, and the game started to feel different. While the final score was within a touchdown, the Rams looked like the superior team all game long with big play after big play. The rush attack could not get anything going on the ground behind a patchwork offensive line and the defense could not make a stop when it mattered. They were shredded by big plays from Cooper Kupp
and Todd Gurley
and generated almost no pass rush with Everson Griffin not playing for mental health reasons. The Vikings are relying on the arm of Kirk Cousins
right now and it is just not enough to get the job done. They are going to have to take a hard look at the offensive game plan if they want to turn around their season. Minnesota travels to Philadelphia to take on the defending world champions next week in a rematch of the NFC Championship game.
The Rams' offense is simply better than any defense they're going to play. Goff continues to show week-to-week progression. In week one, he managed the game. In week two, he showed the ability to hold the ball and improvise. In week three, he made some of most pinpoint throws of his career. In week four against Minnesota, he looked like a seasoned veteran by manipulating the defense with his eyes. He looks like a guy who was picked first overall. The Rams also really outschemed Mike Zimmer's defense. They got the Vikings linebackers matched up in no-win situations and kept them playing poorly and on their toes all night. Because the Rams only had six 3rd down attempts, the Vikings could not ever get aggressive with their blitz packages. They got roasted in vanilla defenses on early downs all night long.
|QB Kirk Cousins, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 36 - 50 - 422 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 28 - 0|
After disappearing in big moments for the Redskins, Cousins is doing everything he can to change the narrative and show that he can lead a team when it matters. Cousins went blow to blow with Goff in terms of yards but could not match the touchdown throws. He was also sacked 3 more times and lost 21 more yards on those sacks. Cousins had a chance with the ball at the end of the game but was sacked from behind and lost the ball. This was his chance to lead the Vikings down for another game tying drive at the end of the game, but it was taken away by horrendous offensive line play. He did throw 3 touchdowns and got Aldrick Robinson
involved in his first game as a Viking. Robinson served on the practice team with Cousins when they played for the Redskins and showed an instant connection this week. The first pass was a 16-yard throw to a wide-open Robinson. He was standing all alone in the end zone after a blown assignment by the corner. The Rams were in zone coverage and the corner jumped up on an underneath receiver and left Robinson alone. The second pass was another beautifully thrown ball to Robinson in the back corner of the end zone. Both Rudolph and Robinson were in the area and it looked more like bad route running that worked out. You should never see 2 receivers in the same area, let alone hip to hip in the end zone. The final touchdown pass came to Adam Thielen
directly up the seam. Cousins looked the safety off to the right and came back to Thielen up the seam. He then found Murray on a two-point conversion to bring the score within 3. There was only so much Cousins could do to keep his team in the game and unfortunately came up short in the end. He will face the defending world champs next week in Philadelphia.
The talk all week was whether or not Cook was going to play after suffering a hamstring injury against Green Bay two weeks ago. He was finally cleared to play but it was known that he would be on a pitch count and not used fully this week. This ended up not being much of a problem with the way the rushing attack went. Kirk Cousins
had a single rush (19 yards) that almost equaled Cooks total for the game (20 yards). There was no room to run up the middle and Cook looked slow trying to get to the corner. Cooks longest rush was 9 yards and that accounted for almost half of his yards. He was also not targeted in the passing game at all and did not play much at all in the second half. It has been a very tough season for Cook thus far and it does not look to get any easier next week against a tough Philadelphia rush defense.
|RB Latavius Murray, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (2 targets)|
The Vikings all but abandoned the run game again this week and Murray got almost no chance to run the ball. He had 1 rush attempt of 8 yards wiped out due to a holding call but it would not have done much to make his stat line look any better. The biggest thing to note is how much he played in the second half instead of Cook, and then when they went to Boone and Ham in clear passing downs instead or Murray. There is nothing positive to say about the Vikings rushing attack so far this season, but they have also been playing from behind the past 3 weeks. Murray seems to be the trusted back right now in high pressure situations, but the Vikings want to go with Cook long term. Murray is going to be touchdown dependent from here on out as long as Cook is fully healthy. The biggest play he made was a two-point conversion to bring the score within 3 after a long touchdown to Adam Thielen
|WR Stefon Diggs, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 123 - 0 (15 targets)|
If there is one constant in the Viking offense, it is that Diggs is going to catch just about everything thrown his way. He hauled in 11 of his 15 targets and surpassed 100 yards receiving for the third time this season. Cousins took a couple deep shots down the field for Diggs but was unable to connect on any of them. His longest play of the game was a 34-yard catch and run down the sideline. He spun off the initial tackle and then broke another on his way to a big first down. There was another play where a diving Sam Shields prevented Diggs from catching a ball down the sideline for what should have been a touchdown. Shields went full extension to knock down the pass and even Diggs had to smile and congratulate him on the play. Diggs is normally targeted in the red zone more, but he lost out on opportunity with Aldrick Robinson
hauling in 2 red zone touchdown passes. Diggs is going to need every bit of his magic next week against the defending world champs in Philadelphia.
|WR Adam Thielen, 73 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 135 - 1 (12 targets)|
It was a game of big plays and Thielen was the main Viking making them. He led the team in receiving and hauled in a long touchdown to get the score within 3. Thielen came down with 8 of his 12 targets and was the top option on third down. He helped to complete 3 long 3rd down plays and missed an opportunity for a 4th when he was pulled from the field under concussion protocol. He briefly went to the tent and then was seen on the sideline the next play. Thielen's biggest play came on a 45-yard touchdown pass right up the seam. Cousins looked off the safety by starring down Rudolph on the right side of the field. Meanwhile, Thielen snuck up the seam and Cousins hit him in stride for the long touchdown. This was another night full of quick outs and deep comeback routes down the sideline for Thielen. With no run game in sight, Thielen is going to continue to see 10+ targets a game.
After serving on the practice squad with Cousins for the Redskins, he now got his chance to start for the Vikings. The bulk of the targets are always going to go to Thielen and Diggs, but it was Robinson who made the difference in the red zone. He had touchdown catches of 16 and 17 yards to help keep the Vikings in the game. The first catch came on a blown coverage by the Rams. They were playing zone coverage and the corner vacated his zone to jump on an underneath route and left Robinson wide open in the end zone all by himself. It was an easy pitch and catch with Cousins from there. The second touchdown was a poor route run by Robinson that just happened to work out. He ran to the exact same spot as Kyle Rudolph
in the end zone but was able to run under the ball before anyone else. The 2 players even touched on their route and that is something that should never happen. Robinson did not see any other targets during the game but showed that he still had chemistry with Cousins. It will be interesting to see how much work he takes away from Laquon Treadwell
over the course of the season.
|TE Kyle Rudolph, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 57 - 0 (6 targets)|
With all the crazy passing stats in this game, it was almost surprising to see Rudolph not do a little more damage. The red zone looks went to Aldrick Robinson
and the third down catches really did not come until the second half. Rudolph has had a respectable season thus far, but he has not been utilized as many thought he would be. His biggest gain was a 3rd down out route for a first down that he was able to carry up the sideline for 24 yards. There will come a game where Rudolph is targeted in the red zone and comes down with 2 touchdowns, but it has not happened yet. His average usage has come in at 5 catches per game for 50 yards and .5 touchdowns. He has the potential to do a lot more damage, but Cousins has not used him that way to this point.
Los Angeles Rams
|QB Jared Goff, 55 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 33 - 465 - 5 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 7 - 0|
Goff's most notable form of progression and maturity in this game showed up in how he was able to move the safeties to clear out matchups that he wanted to go to. It was apparent on the first drive on a 3rd and 9 conversion to Brandin Cooks
. Goff wanted to go to Cooks on a backside Drag opposite of Trips. He opened up looking to Trips to clear the area out, then snapped his head, and threw the Drag to Cooks for for the conversion. Goff also showed pinpoint accuracy all night, but this has been a pretty consistent feature of his game so far this season. Gurley's redzone touchdown catch was right over his shoulder where only Gurley could get it. On Kupp's huge catch and run, Kupp did not have to break his stride or wait for the ball at all ñ oftentimes the difference between a big play and a guaranteed touchdown. He showed fantastic eye manipulation on Cooks' long touchdown. It was similar to their first third down hookup where Goff used his eyes to move coverage towards the Trips side, allowing Cooks to run free as the backside X. Stared down Kupp to get the safety to take him, completely opening up the backside Post for Cooks. Pinpoint throw 30 yards downfield into the endzone. His third TD might be the best of his career so far. The Rams lined up in an Empty backfield. Gurley ran Jet Motion and the Rams ran a Touch Pass fake (the Empty formation Touch Pass has been a staple package for them close to the redzone this year). Cooper Kupp
ran a Deep Over on the play. The left CB actually did a good job of finding Kupp and sinking down the left sideline to form double coverage with the safety, however Goff threw the pass perfectly where Kupp could split the double coverage and accelerate to the catch point where only he could get it.
|RB Todd Gurley, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 83 - 0, Rec: 4 - 73 - 1 (6 targets)|
Gurley had a fantastic day on the stat sheet. He consistently ground out 8 yard gains running inside zone. The Vikings poorly schemed the Rams' Inside Zone/Jet Sweep action, and the Rams were able to run the ball whenever they wanted. While most of Gurley's receiving production comes off of their Play Action Screen concept, he showed just how dangerous he can be as a pass catching option getting vertical on his touchdown catch. He lined up to Goff's left in shotgun and ran a vertical seam route right off the left tackle's butt cheek. He gave Anthony Barr a little hesitation move right when he broke to the second level, then accelerated past him up the seam where Goff placed a perfect throw over Gurley's shoulder. While they didn't really go to their patented PA Screen in this game, when they finally did run it, it popped off for a 50+ yard gain in the second half.
|WR Cooper Kupp, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 162 - 2 (11 targets)|
Kupp actually got some vertical usage in this game instead of just being the Rams' de-facto tight end. He had a huge 70 yard catch and run touchdown reception on the second play of the second drive. He lined up slot left to the Field and ran a drag that converted to a wheel once he got to the numbers on the Boundary side. As he came across the field on the drag, he got matched up on Anthony Barr and just ran right past him as he turned the drag into a wheel. He was wide open by the time he made the catch. His second TD reception came on a 20 yard throw where he split double coverage on a Deep Cross, and Goff led him perfectly into the endzone where only Kupp could make the catch.
|WR Brandin Cooks, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 10 - 0, Rec: 7 - 116 - 1 (8 targets)|
Cooks has just missed on some huge plays so far this season, but it all came together against the Vikings. His first reception was a big time 3rd down conversion on the first drive. He lined up as the backside X opposite of Trips and ran a crosser into the area cleared out by the Trips. He was matched up vs Xavier Rhodes in man ñ Rhodes just could not keep up with him. The next 3rd down was the same formation and similar concept ñ this time Cooks kept the drive going by drawing a hold on Rhodes away from the play. Goff stayed to the trips side this time, but Rhodes so concerned with the 1-on-1 backside matchup, he grabbed and held Cooks on the inside breaking route. After having so many just-missed big plays in the first three weeks, he finally got behind the defense for a 47 yard touchdown just before the first half ended. He lined up as backside X receiver opposite of trips and just ran a post route downfield. The Rams got the look they wanted vs Quarters coverage ñ the safety to his side took the Dig route that came to him from the opposite Trips side and Cooks just blasted past Waynes for an easy touchdown on a Post that had no help over the top.
|WR Robert Woods, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 101 - 1 (5 targets)|
Woods only had 5 catches on the day, but all of them were for seemingly huge chunk plays. He had two big receptions running rounded Dig over the middle off of play-action. The run fake sucked everyone up over the middle of the field. Woods turned Trae Waynes completely around on the in cut on the first one. His touchdown catch was beautifully schemed. The Rams did something rare and got outside of their 11 personnel and lined up in 13 personnel. Before the snap, they shifted to an Empty formation ñ the three tight ends formed Trips to the Field with Gurley at X and Woods at Slot to the boundary. This personnel grouping and shift got Woods matched up down the seam against linebacker Anthony Barr. Goff looked right to the trips to get the safety to flow that way and came back to hit Woods streaking down the seam for a touchdown.