1. Zimmer not buying 'forward progress' on key play
For the most part, the officials stayed out of the way in the Vikings' 30-23 loss to the Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. Miraculously, the zebras called only three penalties, including one for 5 yards — a false start on Brian O'Neill — on the Vikings. But … that doesn't mean coach Mike Zimmer didn't come away a tad mad at the officiating. He thought the Vikings should have had a fumble recovery on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler stripped the ball from Cooper Kupp near the Vikings' sideline. Linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered. But …
"They said it was a non-reviewable play," Zimmer said. Forward progress was called. Zimmer and most of Purple Nation disagreed. "Well, I told [the officials], they let these [offensive] guys get in these piles and run forever," Zimmer said. "They never blow the whistle, and all of a sudden we got a one-on-one thing [with Dantzler and Kupp] and they're going to say it's blown dead. They did tell me the replay said the ball came out and touched a player that was out of bounds. So I don't know if he was or not."
The Rams took advantage of the favorable call, scoring a touchdown for a 27-13 lead seven plays later.
2. Jefferson speaks the truth on red zone woes
BREAKING: Player speaks his mind to reporters following NFL game! No cliches. No following talking points given to him on his way to the podium. Chances are Justin Jefferson got a good talking to after a seven-minute postgame news conference in which he just said how he felt about the team being flat, Kirk Cousins missing a throw and play-calling in the red zone.
On the Vikings going 2-for-5 in the red zone, he said, "I think we should be more aggressive when we get down there, as soon as we get down there, but I'm not the one calling plays."
The Vikings ran 10 plays in the three red-zone trips that fell short of the end zone. They ran the ball three times for minus-2 yards, including the easiest of Aaron Donald's three tackles for loss on second-and-goal from the 4. Cousins went 4-for-5, but the only time he threw to the end zone, the ball was intercepted. Jefferson had one catch for 5 yards in the red zone.
3. Early drops by Dantzler, Osborn haunt Vikings
Anthony Barr was asked about his two interceptions of Matthew Stafford.
"The first one, he threw it right to me," Barr said. "The second one was tipped."
Barr shrugged as if to say he didn't do anything special. Well, Stafford threw another ball right to a guy who dropped it. It cost the Vikings seven points in a game they lost by seven. On the Rams' third snap of the game, Stafford hit Dantzler between the 2 and 7 on his jersey, but he dropped it. Eight plays later, the Rams took a lead they never let go of. The Vikings had another key drop in the first quarter. On third-and-goal from the 8, receiver K.J. Osborn had a ball go off his hands for an interception.
4. How was Wonnum dominated by an undrafted rookie third-stringer?
The Rams' starting left tackle two days before kickoff was Andrew Whitworth, a 40-year-old with 233 career starts and possessor of Pro Football Focus' No. 1 ranking for pass protection among tackles. He ended up on the reserve/COVID-19 list. So the Rams moved left guard David Edwards to left tackle and backup center Coleman Shelton to left guard.
When center Brian Allen was injured early in the second quarter, Shelton went to center, Edwards went back to left guard and Alaric Jackson came in to play left tackle. Jackson is an undrafted rookie from Iowa. He came in with nine career snaps on offense. And … he totally shut down Vikings right end D.J. Wonnum, who finished with one QB pressure. And on third-and-1 at the Vikings' 25 with 4 ½ minutes left, Jackson drove Wonnum backward on a 3-yard rush.
5. Vikings fail to capitalize on botched squib kick
Matt Gay tried to squib kick with the Rams leading by 10 with 11 seconds left in the first half, but Josh Metellus knocked the ball down and recovered at the Vikings' 44. That presumably gave the Vikings time to complete a pass and kick a field goal, but Cousins and Jefferson couldn't get on the same page.
"Kirk said he threw it a little too early or was a little too late," Jefferson said. "It was just a little behind."
Cousins said he threw behind on purpose, trying to get Jefferson "to stop in the zone" so the defender wouldn't undercut the throw. "Just thinking maybe he gets his eyes back and feels it," Cousins said.