Minnesota gave the Rams plenty of chances to make this a game.
The Vikings gave up 400 yards of offense in St. Louis on Sunday. They gave up 27 first downs. They gave up four trips to the red zone.
But as the defense giveth, Jared Allen and the Williams Wall taketh away.
When the Rams drove to the Vikings’ 35 in the first quarter, Allen snatched up a Kevin Williams-induced fumble and hustled 52 yards for a 14-0 lead.
When the Rams forged their way to the Vikings’ one-yard line in the second quarter, Allen dove on a ball jarred loose by Pat Williams to stop the drive in its tracks.
Allen, the NFC’s leader in sacks after last week’s romp against the Packers, didn’t get to Kyle Boller or Marc Bulger. In fact, Minnesota recorded just one sack on the afternoon—and only managed that many because Boller’s fumble came behind the line of scrimmage.
From the get-go, St. Louis figured out the formula that eluded Green Bay: If you can keep your quarterback upright against the Vikings (admittedly easier said than done), you can gain ground through the air against the Minnesota secondary.
Against this defense, however, moving the ball and keeping the ball are two different things.
Boller engineered two first-and-goal situations that were snuffed out by fumbles. He put together a 15-play drive that ended with a pick in the end zone on 4th-and-6 from the Minnesota nine.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s three trips inside the opponent’s 10, with zero points to show for it.
By the time Bulger stepped in to go 7-of-7 for 88 yards and a touchdown, the Rams were simply saving face.
It’s difficult to say how Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will feel about his unit’s showing in this one. On one hand, he can’t be thrilled about letting one of the two or three worst offenses in the league march up and down the field all day.
The Vikings allowed 400 yards for just the fifth time in Frazier’s 37-game stint as coordinator. They gave up 424 to the Packers the week before. That’s a bad trend.
On the other, Frazier has to admire his team’s relentless nose for the football. One turnover might be a lucky break for a defense; four are a product of coaching and determination. If the Vikings combine their ball-hawking ways with the stingy habits that held their first three opponents to an average of 259 yards, they’ll measure up as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.
Until then, Frazier should be grateful to have the kind of playmakers who can rip a big drive right out of an opponent’s hands.
In other news…
A Whole Flock of Ugly Ducklings
If misery loves company, the Rams must have made all kinds of friends on an afternoon that featured the widest selection of crap-tastic football in recent memory.
Six of Sunday’s 12 games were bona fide blowouts. The Jags managed just 10 first downs in a 41-doughnut massacre in Seattle. The Raiders collected just nine in a 44-7 beat-down in Jersey in which the Giants pulled Eli Manning before the end of the first half. The Niners took a 35-10 deficit into intermission against the Falcons at home.
The Browns were held to nine first downs, 193 yards of offense, and two complete passes in 17 attempts—and won.
Even photo finishes in Kansas City, Denver, and Arizona couldn’t salvage the day. If the league had a quality control department, Roger Goodell would be busting some heads tomorrow morning.
As it is, all he can do is call a few of the offending clubs and kindly ask them not to stink so darn much.
After two frustrating weeks in a row, Adrian Peterson got the chance to remind us why Brett Favre called him the best running back he’s ever played with.
The monster yardage still wasn’t there—and it won’t be until Peterson, who has broken just one run of longer than 15 yards in the past three weeks, starts hitting home runs again.
But AP found the end zone twice to tie for the NFL lead with seven scores on the year. In other words, Peterson has scored more touchdowns on the season than the Panthers, Browns, Raiders, or Rams. He’s scored as many or more points on the year as the last two teams on that list.
Peterson also sat out a couple of late-game series once the win was well in hand. That probably cost him a third TD on the day.
The 2,000-yard campaign AP covets may not be in the cards, but a scoring title is a possibility, and a second straight rushing crown isn’t far-fetched, either.
But Where Will We Get Our Super Bowl XLIII 1/2?
Everybody geared up for next week’s clash of the 5-0 Giants and 4-0 Saints in New Orleans?
Good, because we won’t get another showdown of that caliber for a while this season—if we get another one at all.
If the Saints come out on top, they won’t face another unbeaten opponent all year (although they may face a pair of winless ones when they travel to St. Louis in Week 10 and Tampa Bay in Week 11).
If the Giants win, they won’t have the chance to take down another perfect team until they come to Minnesota in Week 17. And I have a funny feeling neither the G-Men nor the Vikes will be sitting on 15-0 at that point in the year.
On the other side of the bracket, the Colts and Broncos, both 5-0 after today, will get a crack at each other in Week 14.
If that game turns out to be a battle of the 12-0 juggernauts, mine won’t be the only eyebrow raised.