Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore came to U.S. Bank Stadium ready for Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores' blitz-happy play calls.
Receiver Joshua Palmer opened L.A.'s first passing play by running a pre-snap motion behind the quarterback and running back — called an orbit motion — that would become important window dressing for later.
The Chargers ran this orbit motion four times before setting up receiver Keenan Allen's 49-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. In the third quarter, Allen ran the motion and caught what appeared to be another quick screen pass. Vikings defenders were duped, rushing forward as Allen threw deep to receiver Mike Williams. The Vikings fell into a 21-10 hole.
The Vikings should've been expecting that trick after "10 to 15 screens," as head coach Kevin O'Connell surmised after the game. But defensive backs, aligned in off coverage as they have under Flores, were too eager to sprint forward and thwart another quick throw.
"We were trying to coach those guys up to be aggressive," O'Connell said, "fly up there and confirm, once that ball has been thrown, to go up there and make those tackles. We just got a little giddy there and jumped it before we had seen the ball actually thrown."
Below is a YouTube video of the four times the Chargers ran the orbit motion before Allen's touchdown throw. Click here for a link if you can't see the video.
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said they'd previously tried and failed the trick play.
"It was atonement," Staley said. "A few years ago we ran it against Kansas City. A little atonement there for an incompletion. Keenan really throws a good football, but we've been working on that play. I'm excited for Keenan, because it capped one of those maestro performances for him. A career game. A record-setting game."
Below is an all-22 breakdown of Allen's 49-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Click here for a YouTube link if you can't see the video.
Flores sent at least five rushers on a season-high 82% of Herbert's dropbacks, according to ESPN, and Herbert picked them apart. The Vikings still didn't get enough pressure even when he held the ball longer in the second half. Herbert evaded the rush with his legs, including a 12-yard scramble, and by side-arming passes and throwing on the run.
In 48 passing plays, the Vikings delivered just five hits and one strip sack by Danielle Hunter. Minnesota has lacked other difference makers, especially with edge rusher Marcus Davenport, who signed a one-year deal with $10 million guaranteed, playing just four snaps so far due to an ankle injury.
O'Connell didn't say no when asked whether the Vikings have enough defensive talent to execute what coaches are trying to get done.
"We'll have to definitely take a look at it. ... Justin had quite a bit of time on some of those to sit in there and push the ball down the field when he wanted to," O'Connell said. "So that's where we just got to try to find a way to get home. Hopefully we can get Marcus (Davenport) going at some point. I think that's been an element that we've been missing."