1. Goff’s confidence becomes confusion
For the second straight week, a Vikings opponent opened with a 75-yard touchdown drive. “That’s a recurring theme we need to stop,” cornerback Terence Newman said after Sunday’s 24-7 win over the Rams. Mission accomplished on the next Rams possession. Before going three-and-out, quarterback Jared Goff called timeout on third-and-10 from his 10. The Vikings showed all-out blitz with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks in the A gaps, and Harrison Smith overloading the right side. “We were moving, trying to give [Goff] different looks,” Barr said. “He’s a bright guy, but he’s a young guy we made uncomfortable.” After the timeout, the Vikings changed to a four-man rush. Danielle Hunter drove right tackle Rob Havenstein backward before essentially throwing him into Goff. “Never had a sack quite like that one,” Hunter said. “I just said, ‘the heck with this’ and pushed him into the quarterback.”
2. Keenum had all day ... and then some
The Rams came in ranked third in sacks. But they couldn’t add to Case Keenum’s sack total. Keenum now has 300 passes while being sacked only five times. The epitome of this year’s protection came late in the third quarter when the Vikings used a seven-man protection scheme. “They’re rushing four, so they weren’t getting by us,” said tight end David Morgan, one of the extra blockers. “I checked my guy and then came down to help other guys. And Case still had the ball and he’s looking and looking.” Keenum rolled right and waited some more before Morgan ad-libbed and peeled off into a makeshift route. “I gave him my eyes and let him know I was there,” said Morgan, who turned a sack into a 5-yard reception. “That’s one of the longest times I’ve ever seen an NFL quarterback have to throw.”
3. Newman turns back clock with TFLs
The oldest guy on the field – 39-year-old Vikings cornerback Terence Newman – had a game-high two tackles for loss. And one of them came on third-and-1 against 6-1, 227-pound running back Todd Gurley. The Vikings led 21-7 with 8:58 left when Newman made his second tackle for loss. “Honestly, I just saw a bunch of big dudes,” Newman said of his read. “I saw the receiver go this way. Then I saw some linemen coming this way, and the back coming too. So my thing was, ‘U-oh, I’m going to have to go hit this lineman.’ I think [Danielle] Hunter fell down, so the lineman slowed down a bit. So I just tried to shoot it and get to the running back before I had a lineman on me. It was fortunate to make the play.” The Rams finished with 45 yards rushing, 83.8 below their average.
4. Murray finally shows us some power
Running back Latavius Murray still seems to lack the speed and burst many were expecting. But one thing he showed undeniably Sunday was the short-yardage power that was advertised when the 6-3, 230-pounder was signed in free agency. He finished with 95 yards, a 6.3-yard average and a long 34. But his best play of the game — and as a Viking — was his 2-yard touchdown run that made it 14-7 Vikings in the fourth quarter. Lined up in the Rams’ goal-line front, 310-pound nose tackle Tyrunn Walker managed to shed center Pat Elflein’s block and collide with Murray at the 2. Murray kept driving. Then 235-pound linebacker Alec Ogletree smashed into Murray at the 1. Murray kept driving, showing how he scored 12 times as a Raider last year. “I think he’s gotten better,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think he’s running the ball physically.”
5. Kai owes the defense, big-time
Kicker Kai Forbath picked the biggest stage of the season so far to start missing field goals. But it went overlooked because his misses were followed by a turnover and a three-and-out. The three-and-out came midway through the third quarter of a 7-7 game. It also showcased middle linebacker Eric Kendricks on back-to-back plays that helped snuff out any momentum the Rams could have gotten from Forbath’s second miss of the game. On second-and-10, Kendricks helped drop Gurley for a 2-yard gain. Then, on third-and-8, it was Kendricks who was able to anticipate Goff’s movements. With receivers covered downfield, Kendricks shot in and forced Goff to get rid of the ball. It didn’t come close to being completed. “Just reading the keys and reacting,” Kendricks said. Kendricks tied for second on the team with four tackles, but had a team-high two QB hurries.