1. Clock management lacking in first half
What was Kirk Cousins and/or coach Mike Zimmer thinking in the closing seconds of the first half? The Vikings had a chance to fire at least one more shot into the end zone but couldn’t because they wasted 13 valuable seconds. Cousins completed a 13-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph to the Rams 21. There were 19 seconds left. Cousins or Zimmer needed to call a timeout right there. Cousins and the offense ran to the line of scrimmage. As the clock ticked away, Cousins got everyone lined up and called for the snap. Finally, with six seconds left, Zimmer called timeout as Cousins took the snap and spiked the ball. Dan Bailey kicked a 39-yard field goal, taking only four seconds off the clock, as the Vikings trailed 28-20.
2. Why did the officials pick up that flag?
Who knows why the officials picked up a flag that had been thrown on Rams left guard Rodger Saffold III? With 7:41 left in the third quarter, Saffold blocked safety Andrew Sendejo in the back to spring Todd Gurley on a 56-yard completion to the Vikings 19. Replays showed Saffold clearly shoving Sendejo in the back with both hands. After huddling to discuss the penalty, the flag was picked up as Zimmer screamed his displeasure from the sideline. The Vikings defense stiffened in the red zone, but the Rams still came away with a 34-yard field goal and a 31-20 lead. So picking up the flag helped make it a two-score game. The Vikings closed to within 31-28 on their next possession.
3. Thielen not a fan of concussion protocol
It’s a part of the new NFL designed to protect players from themselves. But Vikings WR Adam Thielen wasn’t on board with the independent concussion evaluator stopping the game with 8:34 left in the third quarter. Thielen had taken a knee to the helmet on an incompletion. The Vikings lined up when referee Brad Allen announced a “medical timeout.” An official tapped Thielen on the shoulder and told him he’d have to leave the field. Thielen argued the decision vehemently and swung his arms in anger as the Vikings’ medical staff led him to the bench. “I felt fine. I didn’t get dinged up at all. It was frustrating, but that’s the new rule and you have to keep cool and just go with it,” Thielen said after the game.
4. First drive provides TD, confidence
Four days after trailing the visiting Bills 17-0 before running their seventh offensive play, the Vikings opened with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive at Los Angeles. Four days after going into halftime with two first downs, a 1-for-6 effort on third down and 9:05 of possession time against the winless Bills, the Vikings opened up against the unbeaten Rams with three consecutive third-down conversions, five first downs and 7:05 of possession time on their first drive. Cousins, who lost fumbles on the first two drives against the Bills, completed six of eight passes to four players for 68 yards and a 16-yard TD to Aldrick Robinson. The key play was an 8-yard completion to Thielen on third-and-7.
5. Rare three-and-outs for the Rams
The Rams went into Thursday’s game with 29 offensive possessions. They had gone 28 straight possessions without a three-and-out. They extended that to 30 in a row against the Vikings but had one in the second quarter. After the Vikings took a 17-14 lead on a 17-yard TD pass to Robinson, the Rams started their third possession with a 7-yard run by Todd Gurley. But Jared Goff threw back-to-back incompletions. Last week, Goff became the third player in NFL history to pass for at least 350 yards while completing at least 75 percent of his passes in consecutive games. He joined Trent Green (2004) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018). The Vikings also forced a three-and-out late in the game to get one last chance.