By Cedric Williams
The Los Angeles Rams hadn’t lost a game in more than a month before Sunday. And in the time since that last loss—a 16-10 defeat at the hands of the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 8—the Rams played mostly sensational football while winning four straight games.
But on Sunday, the Rams got pummeled by the Minnesota Vikings. They looked like a team that still needed some adjustments and improvements before it could truly be considered one of the best teams in the NFC.
Los Angeles was outgained 451 yards to 254. Minnesota nearly doubled LA in first downs 27-15, and the Vikings controlled the ball for almost a full 40 minutes.
It was a tough day all around for the Rams. And that’s why we’re giving out low marks all around to a team that will go into Monday battered and bruised, and waiting for the outcome of Seattle’s Monday Night Football game against Atlanta to see if it can maintain its solo hold on first place in the NFC West.
LA went right down the field on its first drive of the game—nine plays, 75 yards, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. But after that, the Rams struggled to move the ball against Minnesota’s high-octane defense.
Los Angeles also made a couple of key mistakes in the game, the biggest being a fumble on Minnesota’s 2-yard line by receiver Cooper Kupp. The play came late in the second quarter with the score tied at 7.
Kupp appeared to be headed into the end zone to give the Rams a lead they might be able to take into the halftime locker room. Instead, two Minnesota players ripped the ball out of his arms and then recovered it, and that was the last time the Rams got anywhere near the Vikings’ end zone.
The Rams “D” didn’t have a much better day. They only forced one three-and-out all day, which meant even when the Vikings weren’t scoring, they were making plays work enough to move the ball and find some rhythm.
Former Ram backup QB and now Minnesota starter Case Keenum had a fantastic day, which was bad news for the visitors. Keenum threw for 280 yards, a touchdown, didn’t get sacked, didn’t throw any interceptions, and most importantly, calmly led his new team to a victory.
And that was probably the Ram defense’s biggest problem. They never did get Keenum rattled. In LA, we have seen first-hand how erratic Keenum can be when he’s rattled, but the Rams never put him in that position. And that was as big a key as any as to why the Vikings dominated Sunday’s game.
Special Teams: C-
Pharoh Cooper had another good day returning kicks, and he was sure-handed throughout the game with no muffs and no fumbles. But he was about the only one who did particularly well on Sunday.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein didn’t get many chances, mostly because of the offense’s struggles. And punter Johnny Hekker averaged just 42.3 yards on his six punts. That’s not a terrible number, but not as good as what we’re used to seeing from the three-time Rams Pro Bowler.
Other than both clubs’ first drives of the game, when the Rams essentially won by scoring a touchdown on offense and forcing Minnesota to punt on defense, LA seemed to be a step behind in the coaching booth the rest of the day.
The Rams clearly had the right plan for how to open the game. That’s why they went right down the field and scored on the very fired-up Vikes. And then, the Ram defense followed that by holding tight and forcing Minnesota to punt.
But the Vikings coaches made all the right adjustments after that, and the Rams just couldn’t keep up. There were several times— especially near the goal line—when the Rams seemed ready for some type of pass play, but instead were surprised by a Viking offense that ran the ball right at them and right through them for touchdowns that gave the home club the lead.
Sunday was definitely a learning experience for the young Rams coaching staff. It’ll be interesting to see how they adjust as we head through the second half of the season. And it’ll be especially fun and interesting should these two teams meet again in the playoffs.