Week 14 Game Recap: St. Louis Rams 13, Minnesota Vikings 27
What you need to know
With his miraculous comeback several weeks behind, Ryan Fitzpatrick made his second NFL start against a much improved Minnesota defense. With the running game ineffective, Fitzpatrick took to the air with hopes his magic touch would return. This was not the case as Fitzpatrick struggled to find an open receiver, often throwing into double coverage and behind his intended target. Two costly interceptions in the red zone and five interceptions in the game by Fitzpatrick sealed the victory for Minnesota. Fitzpatrick completed 26 of 45 passes for 245 yards with no touchdowns. He did score for the second straight week running for a 14 yard touchdown.
RB Steven Jackson never seemed to find a rhythm in the game and found it difficult to run against the stingy Minnesota front line. He was stopped for one yard on less on six occasions including two for negative yardage. His longest run in the game was for eight yards and his ineffectiveness allowed the Vikings to focus pressure on the rookie quarterback and force his miscues.
Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce combined for 31 targets from Fitzpatrick. Holt finished with ten receptions for 95 yards. Bruce ended the game with five receptions for 66 yards. Both seemed frustrated at times with rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick’s errant throws but both provided support in the huddle and on the sideline. Holt and Bruce each reached a reception milestone in the game. Bruce surpassed the 800 career reception mark while Holt passed the 600 mark for his career.
Marshall Faulk also reached a milestone surpassing the 750 career receptions for a running back.
The Vikings increased their shot at a playoff spot with a solid defensive performance and another mistake free game by the offense. The victory combined with the Bears’ loss brings the Vikings to within one game of Chicago for the NFC North lead.
Brad Johnson continued to effectively manage a conservative Minnesota offense to their six straight win. With the exception of his 49 yards pass to Marcus Robinson, Johnson utilized a short passing game and several screen plays to march the Vikings’ downfield. Johnson completed 16 of 25 passes for 146 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The vastly improved Vikings’ defense shutdown Steven Jackson and the St. Louis ground game and forced rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them. The Minnesota secondary forced five interceptions, two in the red zone to hold off a late Rams’ rally. Cornerback Antoine Winfield led the Vikings with nine tackles and an interception.
Michael Bennett was the primary back for Minnesota as Mewelde Moore saw limited action. Bennett scored his third touchdown in two games on a seven yard run in the third quarter that proved to be the game winner for Minnesota. He had 18 carries for 70 yards and caught four passes for short yardage. If Bennett can stop putting the ball on the turf and continue to put up decent numbers, he should remain the starter for Minnesota
What you ought to know
In just his second NFL start, Fitzpatrick made some poor decisions and poor pass attempts which led to his second straight loss. Fitzpatrick did make several nice throws down field but often put too much air under his passes allowing the defenders to adjust for the easy defend or interception. His passes were nice, tight spirals but his timing with the receivers needs to improve in a passing offense that lives on the timing pattern. Fitzpatrick made too many mistakes in the red zone throwing two of his five interceptions in the end zone. He completed 26 of 45 pass attempts 245 yards but no touchdown and a haunting five interceptions. Although one of his interceptions was clearly not his fault, as Bruce slipped to the turf, he must reduce the turnovers if the Rams have hopes of winning close games. Fitzpatrick does have some scrambling ability, something the Rams have lacked for years. He scored for the second straight week rushing for a 14 yard touchdown on a beautiful play action, breaking a tackle and diving into the end zone.
For the second consecutive week Jackson was held to less than 100 yards on the ground. Jackson was bottled up through most of the game as Minnesota was determined to force the rookie quarterback to beat them. Jackson had some success running to the outside early in the game but those lanes were shutdown in the second half. He ended the game with 19 carries for 67 yards and no touchdowns. Jackson has just one rushing touchdown in his last six games. He was also held to six carries of one yard or less including two for negative yardage by an aggressive Minnesota defense.
Faulk was used primarily as a receiver on third down plays. He had five carries for 25 yards and caught all four targets thrown his way for 32 yards. With his four receptions in the game, Faulk went over 750 receptions for his career.
Holt was the most targeted Rams’ receiver with 16 targets. He hauled in ten of those targets for 95 yards. Holt had four catches of more than 15 yards each with most of the yardage coming after the catch. He did not have an end zone target in the game but did have a couple of deep targets that were overthrown. In the fourth quarter, Holt made the 600th reception of his career.
Bruce and Fitzpatrick were a little more in sync this week than last week’s game but still struggled to connect on several timing pass plays. Bruce was the victim of several pass attempts thrown behind him and a couple thrown at his feet. He also made a few mistakes of his own including a couple of dropped passes and falling down during one route while attempting to make his cut which was intercepted by Minnesota. Bruce ended the game with five catches for 66 yards and a couple of end zone targets. He became the 14th player in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions with a five yard catch late in the first half. Bruce also moved into 10th place in all-time receiving yards with 12,181 yards.
Curtis’ stats continue to suffer with the return of Isaac Bruce. He had two catches for 13 yards as most of the targets went to Holt and Bruce. Curtis was the target on two of Fitzpatrick’s interceptions in the second quarter. He also had an end zone target late in the game but could not hold on to the ball.
McDonald caught just two passes for 18 yards. He did have an end zone target late in the game but the pass was deflected and intercepted by Minnesota’s Darren Sharper for a touchback.
Hedgecock did not have a carry in the game but did have two catches for five yards.
Manumaleuna caught the first completion of the game from Fitzpatrick for a six yard gain.
Wilkins made his only extra point attempt of the game. He also connected on both field goal attempts from 51 yards and 23 yards away.
The Rams’ rush defense improved over last week’s performance by holding the Vikings to just 113 yards. Well under their season average of nearly 140 yards a game. They did however allow three rushing touchdowns bringing their season total to a dreadful 18, near the bottom of the NFL. The Rams were led by Pisa Tinoisamoa with seven tackles.
The Rams’ pass defense put plenty of pressure on Brad Johnson with numerous blitz plays but could not record a single sack in the game. They did not allow a touchdown pass nor did they register an interception. The Rams did keep Johnson in check with just 146 yards through the air.
|QB Brad Johnson, Pass: 16 - 25 - 146 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0|
Johnson ran the Vikings win streak to six games as he once again managed the Vikings’ offense without costly turnovers. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 146 yards, no touchdowns but more importantly no interceptions. During the six game win streak, Johnson has allowed just one interception while throwing five touchdowns. Johnson led the Vikings on two touchdown drives of 80 yards including the first score of the game when he completed five of five attempts for 38 yards.
Bennett scored a rushing touchdown for the second straight week. He displayed a quick burst of speed right up the middle for his seven yard touchdown run putting Minnesota in front 20-13. Bennett finished the game with 18 carries for 70 yards. He did not show any signs of an ankle injury that occurred earlier in the week making several sharp cuts and quickly hitting the line of scrimmage with speed. He also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter but the Rams were unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Fason had six carries for 19 yards, both season highs for the rookie. He also scored his third touchdown of the season on a one yard plunge off right tackle as he powered his way into the end zone.
Moore did not see a lot of action in the game as most of the carries went to Michael Bennett. He had just one carry for no gain and a reception for seven yards.
As a receiver, Robinson caught just one ball for 15 yards. In the running game, Robinson had two carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. He took the pitch from Johnson on an end around, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and weaved his way into the end zone for a 13 yard touchdown run. Robinson was also an end zone target on two occasions; one was easily defended by St. Louis while the second target saw Rams’ cornerback Corey Ivy flagged for pass interference. He also added 104 return yards on three kickoff returns including one return of 61 yards that led to a Minnesota field goal.
Williamson returned to the line-up this week after his being benched by Coach Tice in last week’s game against Detroit. He had just one catch for 12 yards and added 11 yards on the ground on an end around.
Burleson had two receptions for 20 yards. He did have an end zone target but was clearly double covered by the Rams’ defensive backs.
Taylor gained eight yards on his only catch of the game.
Robinson had just reception in the game but he made it a big one for a 49 yard gain. He found an opening across the middle on a beautifully executed play action pass and streaked down the right sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the Rams’ 13 yard line.
Wiggins saw most of the targets at tight end for Minnesota. He had three receptions for 18 yards. His longest catch went for 12 yard gain and into St. Louis territory on the Vikings’ first touchdown drive.
Kleinsasser caught just two passes in the game, both in the first half for a total of 11 yards.
Edinger was three for three on his extra point attempts. He also was good on both field goal attempts in the game from 37 yards and 44 yards away.
The Vikings’ rush defense was led by their massive anchor in the middle, Pat Williams who plugged up the inside most of the game forcing Steven Jackson to the outside. Minnesota held Steven Jackson to just 67 yards on 19 carries and the Rams’ to a total of 108 yards on the ground. They did yield a 14 yard touchdown run to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Antoine Winfield led Minnesota with nine tackles and an interception.
The Vikings’ pass defense held the Rams in check with 235 yards through the air and no touchdowns. They also had five interceptions in the game led by Brian Williams with two in the game. Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot and Darren Sharper each had an interception. Sharper now has eight interceptions on the season which leads the NFC. Darrion Scott registered the lone sack in the game for either team.