1. Vikings keyed on stopping Ekeler
A key to getting the Chargers' offense out of whack was making sure someone stayed close enough to Austin Ekeler to give him a good whack before he got going. "Honestly, we had to know every play where he was trying to hit us," linebacker Eric Kendricks said after the Vikings' 39-10 win in Los Angeles on Sunday. "He's trying to go outside. Always. As soon as we see him heading outside, get to running with him." In a 45-10 win over the Jaguars last week, Ekeler touched the ball 12 times for 213 yards and broke by three touches Herschel Walker's 1986 record for fewest needed to reach 100 yards rushing and receiving. Sunday, Ekeler had 12 touches for 81 yards. Philip Rivers tried to hit him on a deep wheel route one time, but Kendricks was there because "I knew pre-snap what they were going to do."
2. Cousins, play-calling a step ahead
Overlooked in the defensive dominance was some well-orchestrated offensive play-calling by coordinator Kevin Stefanski. It wasn't a big yardage day (344), but the Vikings converted 50% of their 14 third downs and didn't give up a sack. Stefanski opened up with some side-to-side misdirection plays and a nice screen pass to fullback C.J. Ham that turned 10½-sack guy Joey Bosa's aggressive upfield rush in the Vikings' favor. Later in the game, with third-string running back Mike Boone in the game because of injuries, the Vikings faced third-and-1. When Kirk Cousins faked to Boone and turned left, the Chargers were completely fooled and had an open field in front of him. Up to that point, Cousins had a long run of 11 yards and a total of 49 in just 28 carries this season. He split two defenders for a 14-yard gain.
3. Third-down magic disappeared
On the Chargers' first five third downs, Rivers completed four of five passes for 87 yards, three first downs and a touchdown. The Chargers led 10-9 with 8:42 left in the first half. "He has a big arm, and he's got some good weapons," Vikings safety Anthony Harris said. "He's a guy who is confident he can fit the ball in there and give his guys a chance to make a play for them. He gave them some chances today that they were able to come down with." Rivers completed passes of 19 yards on third-and-10, 39 yards on third-and-11, 13 yards on third-and-7, 14 yards on third-and-8 and 2 yards on third-and-goal at the 2. But after that, he converted just one third down on five passing attempts while throwing a pick and getting sacked. "He gave us some opportunities, too," Harris said. "We thought we'd get some, too."
4. Punter got 'be aggressive' message
After a particularly cautious outing against the Lions a week earlier, punter Britton Colquitt was asked by special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf to be more aggressive in trying to pin teams inside the 10 rather than settle for between the 10 and 20, as he did on four of six punts against Detroit. On a rare windy L.A. day, Colquitt did just that. With the help of rookie gunner Kris Boyd, Colquitt pinned the Chargers at their 4- and 5-yard lines with punts of 47 and 56 yards. "Not a bad day," Colquitt said. Thanks to Boyd, who downed both punts, Colquitt heads into Week 16 with no touchbacks. "I've never gone an entire season without a touchback," he said. "Not even in college." Said Boyd: "All I did was do my job; get a good release off the line, get to the ball as fast as I can, locate the ball and get it."
5. Wilson gets hand on another punt
For the second time in 14 games, linebacker and special teams standout Eric Wilson broke free and got his hand on a punt. "It was similar to the first one," he said, referring to Week 1 when he got through the line so cleanly that he actually plucked the ball of the punter's foot. Sunday, the ball squirted downfield for 26 yards, setting up a 32-yard drive for a field goal and a 25-10 lead. "We were coming after the ball," Wilson said of the call. "It was a matter of who the personal protector was going to pick [to block]. If he'd blocked me, I think Kentrell [Brothers] or [Andrew] Sendejo would've blocked it. It was a great play, created momentum for our team." And, unlike the last block, this one didn't leave him with a gash on his forehead. "Fortunately," he said, "that didn't happen this time."