1. Three tight ends tame Rams
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner leaned early on a power formation with all three tight ends to the right side. “It was a good formation for this week, this team, because when you use two and three tight ends, the Rams stay off the blitz,” said tight end Rhett Ellison, who lined up in the middle with Kyle Rudolph to his left and MyCole Pruitt to his right. Turner made the formation more effective by calling for a throw left to Pruitt, which gained 6 yards to the Rams 6. On the next play, Adrian Peterson got the ball moving to his right. With three tight ends blocking at the point of attack and right guard Mike Harris pulling to kick out and crush safety Maurice Alexander, Peterson scored easily for a 10-0 lead.
2. Sherels foils Rams’ booming overtime punt
The Rams were stuffed on their overtime possession, but they appeared to be OK when they survived Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer’s punt block call with a 63-yard punt by Johnny Hekker. Dropping a punt on the Vikings 23-yard line would no doubt help maintain momentum, right? The Vikings were down to backup quarterback Shaun Hill, who had gone 1-for-5 for 9 yards and four punts in four possessions. Unfortunately for the Rams, punt returner Marcus Sherels found a crease in a return call that didn’t call for any downfield blocking schemes. “I had to run way back and catch it,” Sherels said. “I wasn’t sure what would be there, but there was a block that got me up the sideline.” Sherels’ 26-yard return to the Vikings 49-yard line was a huge field-position boost for an offense struggling with Bridgewater sidelined.
3. Extra AP attention helps Teddy
There was no way Peterson was going to beat the Rams on third-and-2 from the Vikings 6-yard line midway through the third quarter. Lined up next to Bridgewater in the shotgun, Peterson slipped through the line of scrimmage on a pass play. He was met first by Alexander, who banged into him and started to follow him to the offense’s left side. Linebacker James Laurinaitis left the middle of the field to chase Peterson in coverage. That left the middle wide open for Bridgewater to cruise off left guard untouched for a touchdown. “It was a normal four-man rush and I was helping [left tackle] Matt [Kalil],” left guard Brandon Fusco said. “Teddy saw the middle open up and just made a play. I don’t think they meant to have two guys on Adrian there, but that’s the kind of attention he gets from defenses all the time. We used it to our advantage.”
4. Appreciate Greenway’s versatility
The Vikings won with their No. 3 base middle linebacker having to play the last 7½ minutes of regulation and overtime. And this particular player had played only one snap — last week — at middle linebacker in the base 4-3 defense in his career. But this guy also has 130 career starts at outside linebacker. Now would be a good time to recognize Chad Greenway’s versatility and team-first mentality. He didn’t complain when he lost his job in the nickel to rookie Eric Kendricks. Sunday, with Kendricks out because of injury, Greenway played in the nickel. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Kendricks’ backup in the base defense, Audie Cole, suffered a serious ankle injury. Greenway stepped in and finished with a team-high eight solo tackles and 10 overall. “When you buy into something, like we’re buying in, it’s not about who’s on the field or what the situation or the role is,” Greenway said. “It’s about how do we win this game. If you can get over yourself, which a lot of us have done, you just go out there and keep grinding and find a way to win.”
5. Griffen’s spin move forces penalty, punt
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein went 1-for-2 on field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. The reason he didn’t get a third crack at a long field goal in the fourth quarter can be credited to defensive end Everson Griffen’s great inside spin move to pressure quarterback Nick Foles into an intentional grounding penalty on third-and-7 at the Vikings 37-yard line. “[Left tackle Greg Robinson] thought I was going to go outside, but I set him up and then hit him with my spin move inside,” Griffen said. “I kept working my moves and hit it when I needed to.” Although Griffen didn’t get the sack, the penalty is the same: loss of down at the spot of the infraction (11 yards). The Rams punted rather than try a 65-yard field goal.