The game’s final score between the Rams and Vikings will be remembered more than the battles within, but a close game got out of hand.
Not only was I wrong about Sunday’s outcome between the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings, but I was dead wrong. I didn’t give enough credit to the affect of the crowd on Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Conversely, I gave too much credit the dynamic new upstart, Sean McVay and his staff. The Rams appeared to fall short of being totally prepared for the noise that was aided by dome acoustics. Goff called more audibles in the confusion and appeared to be visibly off his game despite his calm appearance.
The impressive rookie receiver Cooper Kupp had a game he’d sooner forget, failing to coral two critical passes. I expected more from the front line of the Rams, but that credit goes to the impressive play of a Vikings offensive line that wasn’t at full strength.
Minnesota’s secondary was noticeably better than the Rams overall. Defensive back Kayvon Webster put in concussion protocol was probably the biggest blow as his replacement, Dominique Hatfield, was picked on mercilessly and the inevitable big play ensued.
Ex-Rams signal-caller Case Keenum deserves a ton of credit as he’s having a career year. I might add, a career that’s just been extended as well as boosted financially in the future. It’s not likely now he’s replaced for the balance of the season without injury and the Vikings simply can’t keep all three next season.
The Rams defensive front missed or came up short on several threatening plays on the quarterback that would’ve undoubtedly made it a different ball game. Of course, it eventually took its toll. The defense looked exhausted by late-third quarter and some players were soon failing to play to the whistle.
Back to the drawing board.
You will hear that old doubt creeping back into the conversations of those who were starting to come around. NFL is also known for meaning ‘not for long’ and this applies not only to its players, but to fan loyalty and media love as well. They’ll likely open as underdogs against the New Orleans Saints Week 12. But whether or not they can get back some of the respect they lost losing convincingly to the Vikings depends mostly on two things, which is injuries and the coaching staff growing in their position.
Being surrounded by Los Angeles fans weekly, I get a sense of most just wanting results. What I saw, however, was a veteran head coach, Mike Zimmer, schooling a rookie head coach. And I do mean McVay. Wade Phillips did the best he could with what he had to work with. But, as you’re likely to hear mentioned in the course of the next six days, the ghost of Rams past appeared. It wore out the defense and the Rams winning streak suffered late because of it.
The Rams’ play-calling was suspect at times, though not horrible. But I got the feeling that the game plan altered tremendously — at least I hope it wasn’t the original plan. The offensive brain trust played it a bit too safe in both offensive formations and scheme. Minnesota did much better mixing coverages on defense, and misdirection on offense. McVay certainly failed to utilize the speed of the field to his advantage all too often. I expected to see a lot more on-field Tavon Austin, for example, if only for decoying purposes. More behind-the-line screen passes set up to offset Minnesota’s commitment to the pass rush. After all, Minnesota did make their Goff-pressuring intentions public.
On the whole, this was one of the few times this season that the Rams’ second half in-game adjustments were disappointing. In other words, this was class in session and more can be taken from this than those blowouts they’ve enjoyed.
I expect McVay and staff to fill up note pads this week in film study, but the bottom line Sunday was not complicated. Two heavyweights stood toe to toe in an expected give-and-take, which I honestly didn’t expect to last most of three quarters. One fighter got a punch in, nothing overwhelming, but one that dazed. The other couldn’t recover. For at least Week 11, one veteran head coach made the statement no doubt other veteran coaches will quietly cheer. It came in the form of the question, “who do you think are, kid?”