The Vikings won the coin toss entering overtime last Sunday and chose to give the ball to St. Louis and its rookie standout running back Todd Gurley.
The heavy winds were a big factor in coach Mike Zimmer’s decision, but it also showed his trust in the Vikings defense.
The defense pushed the Rams and Gurley back six yards on their first play in overtime. St. Louis was forced to punt after two more failed plays and the Vikings offense quickly responded with a field goal for the 21-18 victory.
Here’s a look at the first-down play that was highlighted by NFC Defensive Player of the Week Linval Joseph:
Frame 1: St. Louis lined up in the pistol with two tight ends and a single back, Gurley. The Vikings had four down lineman, with strongside linebacker Anthony Barr standing up on the line right of defensive end Everson Griffen. Free safety Harrison Smith moved down to put eight guys in the box.
Frame 2: The Rams gave the ball to Gurley in a stretch zone run with the line moving laterally. Gurley’s burst to the right was met by Joseph, who quickly got by right tackle Andrew Donnal. Griffen isn’t far behind Joseph, forcing Gurley to hit the brakes and cut back to the left where he’ll soon be met by even more Vikings defenders.
“It was obviously extremely big to get them a minus-six on the first play,” Zimmer said. “Then they tried to throw the wide receiver screen and Captain [Munnerlyn] made a nice play … so we actually backed them up inside the 20 a little bit and they missed the third-down throw. … When the defense has them backed up, we can create stops and make them punt backed up, and we have a chance to flip the field position and give our offense and opportunity to score.”
Frame 3: Gurley got away from the first road block, but then was met by Smith, strong safety Andrew Sendejo, Griffen and Barr. The rookie managed to get away again and decided to try the middle of the field, but by then eight Vikings defenders (cornerback Trae Waynes is just out of this frame) are pursuing him. Joseph gets to him first at the 14-yard line for a six-yard loss. Greenway also puts a good hit on Gurley to stymie any run game the Rams hoped to get going in overtime. Joseph finished with 10 tackles, three for a loss, half a sack and two quarterback hits.
“That was a big play for our team,” Joseph said. “I am just glad I was there in position to make that play. … I loved that [Zimmer put the defense on the field to start overtime]. We’re just aggressive right now. We’re hungry.”