CARSON, Calif. – Xavier Rhodes’ left calf injury in the second quarter of the Vikings’ 39-10 victory against the Chargers on Sunday made the Vikings’ cornerback rotation spin a little faster.
Even when Rhodes returned in the second half, which he said after the game was “good,” he continued to cede snaps to cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Holton Hill.
The Vikings defense surrendered 307 passing yards to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw interceptions to Hughes and safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.
“I’m feeling good,” said Rhodes, a 29-year-old former All-Pro pick. “I’m just happy for my guys. I talk to them a lot and I’m just happy they’re going out there and doing what we need to do.”
Rhodes continues to start at right cornerback but said he’s unsure of his weekly role. His playing time has been further limited because of ankle and calf injuries the past two weeks while coach Mike Zimmer deploys a rotation in the secondary.
The rotation started in the second series, when Hughes replaced Rhodes. Hughes and Hill rotated with Rhodes and left cornerback Trae Waynes throughout the game.
“It’s fluid,” Rhodes said. “There’s nothing I can possibly do about it. I have to go with what the coaches say and it goes from there.”
Hughes — who nabbed his first interception Sunday since his first NFL game on Sept. 9, 2018, against the 49ers — said he’s settling into his role. After rotating as the slot corner in September and October, he’s played mainly outside corner since.
“Each week, I’m getting more comfortable and getting into a groove,” Hughes said. “Finding myself as an elite corner, I’m still trying to work toward that goal. Most importantly, we just want to win. Getting this 10th win was really important.”
Receiver Adam Thielen did not appear limited in his return from a two-month recovery required to heal his strained hamstring. Nobody caught more than Stefon Diggs’ four passes for the Vikings, but Thielen hauled in all three targets for 27 yards. Thielen played only five snaps on the opening 10-play touchdown drive. He said at one point he told coaches he was healthy.
“But they’re not going to listen to me,” Thielen said. “They’re going to do what’s best for the team.”
Thielen added he does not expect the injury to affect him in the team’s next game, Dec. 23 against Green Bay.
An ironic promotion from the Chargers dubbed Sunday’s game “Fan Appreciation Day,” but the overwhelming majority of fans wore purple in the announced crowd of 25,446 — a sellout as many Chargers season-ticket holders pawned off their seats to traveling Vikings fans.
Linebacker Anthony Barr, a Loyola High School graduate from Los Angeles, had his own cheering section within the sea of purple.
“It was a home game for us, really,” Barr said. “Fans were crazy [Sunday]. I had 30 tickets to get. It was nice having that out there, that support. It’s been like that anywhere, really — any road game.”
‘A lot of confidence’
Zimmer said he maintains “a lot of confidence” in kicker Dan Bailey after the veteran missed his fourth extra-point attempt of the season after the opening touchdown. Bailey made seven of eight kicks against the Chargers, converting four field goals and three of four extra-point tries.
“[The first PAT attempt] hit the goalpost, but Dan has been kicking great all year. Then he came back and made a bunch of them.”