LONDON – After beginning the regular season in good health, the Vikings’ offensive line arrives at the bye week in need of some recovery time.
Left guard Nick Easton missed his third consecutive game Sunday because of a calf injury, even after some first-team practice work Friday suggested he might be able to make his return against the Cleveland Browns. Backup guard Jeremiah Sirles, who sprained a knee Oct. 22 against the Ravens, was inactive for the game, and by the second series, the Vikings’ line depth was given another test when right tackle Mike Remmers left the game because of a concussion.
Rashod Hill, who replaced Remmers at right tackle, was flagged for a holding penalty one series after entering the game. Rookie Danny Isidora started his first game at left guard with Easton and Sirles out.
“There were a couple instances they had, but overall, I think Rashod played good,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s got to continue to work on some of the things in the run game and getting his body on people. I thought Isidora, for the first time coming in, played well. So it’s great to see, to have some depth on the offensive line, guys going in there and just keep fighting.”
The Vikings have two weeks for Remmers to recover, and could also have Easton back by the time they face Washington on Nov. 12. The Redskins are dealing with their own offensive line issues; four of their five starters were injured heading into their game with the Cowboys on Sunday, and former Viking T.J. Clemmings got some playing time at left tackle.
‘Slippery pitch’ causes issues
Many Vikings players wore longer cleats than usual for Sunday’s game, given the history of players slipping on the grass surface in London games, but footing was still difficult at times during the game.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs slipped on a deep pass in the first quarter, and defensive end Everson Griffen also slipped while rushing Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer on an incomplete pass in the second quarter. At the end of the opening statement in his news conference, after asking for questions, Zimmer interjected, “The pitch was a little slippery today.”
“I talked to people from Arizona [which played at Twickenham Stadium a week earlier], and you had to wear a certain kind of cleat. I basically think it’s the dew early in the morning [that makes it more slippery in England]. We were here [Saturday] for practice and it was pretty slick. It was drier today than it was yesterday. But it was a great venue; the fans were outstanding. It really was an amazing few days that we had here.”
Short passing game awakens
After struggling to get their screen game going in the first half, when the Browns were able to tip several passes and disrupt Keenum’s throwing lanes, the Vikings found a number of big plays on shorter throws as the game went on.
Running back Jerick McKinnon finished with six catches for 72 yards, gaining 20 in the final minute of the second quarter when Keenum flipped a pitch over a linebacker’s head while rolling to his left. It was the second-most receiving yards McKinnon has posted in a game, behind the 76 he had in a Week 15 victory over the Bears in 2015.
“They played some things where it allows the check-downs to get some yards, and I thought we caught the ball well,” Zimmer said. “And [offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] talked to Case during the game, talked about some of these check-downs that were open instead of trying to force the ball down the field.”