Depending on your tastes, this may have been one of the most fun Thursday Night Games of all time. It was a shootout to end all shootouts; lots of passing offense, next to no defense and a couple of fine quarterback performances. The Vikings put up lots of yards and lots of points in the home of one of the NFL’s best, but fell just short and the Rams came out on top 38-31.
Jared Goff played one of the great games any quarterback has ever played. And Kirk Cousins was not far behind. So needless to say, this was a Wild West gunfight of the highest order. No one played much defense in this one and whoever took the over hit it before halftime. The Rams held as much as an 11 point lead, but the game never seemed out of hand. At any time, either offense could explode for a big play.
As an overall performance, this was Cousins’ finest game as a Viking. True the fumble that sealed the Rams’ victory will go on him. But the fact that this was only a seven-point loss and not a blowout goes on him as well. Nine times out of ten, if the offense puts up 31 points, they should win. Alas, the Minnesota defense let them down.
Goff ultimately went for 465 yards and five touchdowns on 78.8 percent completion and a perfect rating, but the Vikings still had a chance to pull off the comeback when they got the ball back with two minutes remaining. Cousins failed to step up from a pressure around midfield, John Franklin-Myers forced the fumble and the Rams recovered. They ran out the clock to win 38-31.
What Went Right
Take week two’s performance from Cousins and stretch that for the majority of a game. That was the Cousins we saw for the majority of tonight’s game. He was sharp, accurate, moved the pocket well, made the tough throws and went toe-to-toe with maybe the best offense in football. At the end of the day, he finished with 422 yards, 8.4 per attempt and three touchdowns. While the Vikings again struggled to run and the defense played matador, Cousins and the passing offense thrived.
Diggs and Thielen also stepped up big. Each went for over 100 yards; Diggs with 11 catches and 123 yards and Thielen with eight catches, 135 yards and a touchdown. They were steady all game, making big plays and giving Cousins plenty of open targets. Look, even in a loss, 31 points nothing to sneeze at. The Vikings’ offense was outstanding tonight.
What Went Wrong
Where to start? The Vikings no longer look like a defensive juggernaut. There were no excuses, no special teams touchdowns, no short fields. Goff picked them apart. A lot was poor execution, namely Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes at various points in coverage. But a lot also goes on scheming. Barr was in coverage on three touchdowns, twice while matched up with a receiver. The first you could question whether he was the man at fault, but the second, he was squared up, man-to-man with Robert Woods. And he got toasted. That is on the coach for thinking that is a good plan, especially given Barr’s season-long struggles in coverage.
When it comes down to it, the Vikings ran into a quarterback and an offense putting on an historically great passing performance. The defense is to largely blame, but they are also the victims. Goff was perfect. Kupp was perfect. Cooks was perfect. McVay was perfect. Everything clicked for the Rams and everything cratered for the Vikings.
It does not get any easier. Below .500 for the first time in what seems like forever, the Vikings have to travel to Philadelphia to take on the Super Bowl champs. Fortunately, the Eagles have been a little shaky, and Carson Wentz is still working on his injury comeback. Plus, Minnesota will have a long lay off to gameplan and diagnose the defensive issues.
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