Just days after being embarrassed by a rookie quarterback, the Minnesota Vikings defence runs into one of the most explosive attacks in the league.
Slowing down the Los Angeles Rams has been a tall order this season, and with Minnesota having limited time to clean up their mistakes from the surprising loss to Buffalo this past weekend, that task appears even more intimidating.
The defence, which was considered one of the top units in the league entering the season, looked flummoxed against Josh Allen in the defeat to the Bills, allowing a passer rating of 111.2 to a quarterback making just the second start of his career.
Now, the Vikings will have to deal with a Rams offence that seemingly has no weakness and ranks third in the NFL in yards (439.3) and points (34.0).
Jared Goff looks like he’s taken another step as he’s posted a passer rating of 111.0, while newcomer Brandin Cooks has been deadly stretching the field to form a three-headed monster alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
Todd Gurley has picked up where he left off last season, benefiting from an offensive line that’s graded by Pro Football Focus as the best run and pass-blocking group through the first three weeks.
Making matters worse for Minnesota is that they’ll be without Everson Griffen again as the defensive end deals with an ongoing personal situation. According to ESPN, Griffen was evaluated at a hospital after multiple incidents that made the team question his well-being.
Stephen Weatherly will start in place of Griffen on Thursday, as he did against Buffalo last week when he recorded his first career sack. If the Vikings hope to limit the Rams’ offence, it will start with controlling the line of scrimmage, where Weatherly and fellow defensive end Danielle Hunter will need to get penetration.
That will be easier said than done, with Los Angeles’ offensive line coming off a week in which they allowed just three pressures on 38 pass-block snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
KEEPING COUSINS CLEAN
Winning in the trenches will be just as critical for Minnesota on the other side of the ball, where their offensive line allowed 29 total pressures to the Bills.
Twenty of those were credited to Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff, with the latter in danger of missing Thursday’s game with a foot injury.
Per PFF, Vikings O-Line surrendered 29 pressures vs. Buffalo (2 sacks, 3hits, 24 hurries), the most of any team in Week 3. Reiff was responsible for 12 pressures, Remmers with 8 and a 39.4 pass blocking grade. Kirk Cousins was pressured on 53.3% of his dropbacks.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 24, 2018
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was constantly harassed and afforded little time in the pocket, which contributed to three fumbles (two lost) and 5.4 yards per pass attempt.
If Reiff can’t play this week – or even if he does in a limited capacity – Minnesota’s offence could be in danger of another disastrous outing against one of the most lethal defensive lines in the league.
If the Vikings can keep Cousins relatively clean, however, the passing game could thrive versus a banged-up Rams secondary that will be without cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib as they nurse injuries.
That affords wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen favourable match-ups against back-ups Sam Shields, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Troy Hill.
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