The fact the Vikings are boarding a plane Tuesday night for Los Angeles, in advance of Thursday night’s game with the Rams, meant they only had time for a survey course, rather than a full study, of everything that went wrong Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“With a normal week, we would spend all of Monday doing complete corrections,” defensive end Stephen Weatherly said. “With it being a short week, we’re probably going to spend all of an hour, hour-and-a-half, tops, between special teams and defensive meetings correcting, because we have a very tough opponent coming up.”
The Rams team the Vikings will face Thursday night is the NFC’s first to 3-0, with the league’s top-ranked defense and its fourth-ranked offense. Cornberback Aqib Talib likely will need ankle surgery to repair the injury he sustained in the second half of the Rams’ 35-23 win over the Chargers on Sunday and cornerback Marcus Peters is day-to-day after hurting his calf.
Nonetheless, the Vikings will have to prepare quickly for a team they defeated handily last November, in a game that sent them on their way to a first-round bye. That game was at U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Rams made a series of high-profile moves since, adding wide receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, among others.
They’re certainly formidable enough to get the Vikings’ attention quickly.
“It’s a tough loss, but I think we’re ready to dive right into L.A.,” center Pat Elflein said. “It’s a short week; we have to get on them right away, get our focus on them. Short-term memory is something you have to have in this league, whether it’s having a bad play and you have to move on to the next, or a week that didn’t go the way you wanted it to. You have to go right into the next one. So that’s the mood around here right now. We’re ready to start game-planning for L.A.”
In the time the Vikings did devote to reviewing the Bills game, they were bound to see plenty of mistakes: They committed six penalties for 59 yards, including two for 25 yards on the Bills’ opening touchdown drive. Kirk Cousins fumbled twice, threw an interception and missed Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen with first-half throws that might have helped the Vikings turn things around.
The Vikings gave up three plays of 20 yards or more, as miscommunications in their coverage schemes again got them in trouble. And they allowed rookie quarterback Josh Allen to make plenty of plays with his feet, running for 39 yards and two touchdowns while delivering a handful of throws outside the pocket.
“We knew he was a scrambler. We knew he liked to [move] when his throwing options were not there,” Weatherly said. “It was up to us to corral him and get him down, and he got out too many times for that. We knew it was going to happen, but I felt like it happened a lot.”
The Vikings were in a similar situation in 2015, when they absorbed a 38-7 beating from the Seahawks at home before flying west for a Thursday night game with the eventual NFC West champion Cardinals. Despite missing a handful of key defensive starters in that game, the Vikings put themselves in position to win before the final drive of the game, and they won their final three games of the season, finished 11-5 and edged the Packers for the division title.
Their tall task comes earlier in the schedule this time, with Thursday night’s game coming before an NFC Championship Game rematch with the Eagles on Oct. 7. With their only full practice of the week coming up on Tuesday, the Vikings’ job is to evaluate the Bills game, fix it and forget it.
“We have to get that taste out of our mouth and get ready for the Rams,” said tackle Rashod Hill. “We hurt our own selves. But I believe in our football team. We were really antsy to go out there. It just shocked us a little bit, the adversity in the game. But we’re going to shake that.”