Defense carries Vikings to sixth straight win, QB conundrum continues

MINNEAPOLIS — This game was supposed to be about offense, remember?

The Minnesota Vikings secured their sixth straight win of the season, a 24-7 victory, by holding the Los Angeles Rams to a season-low in points scored.

Both offenses stole the headlines entering Week 11, which featured the most improbable matchup of the season between Case Keenum and his former teammate Jared Goff.

These defenses don’t get talked about enough. Now they will. Minnesota held Todd Gurley to 37 yards rushing and dominated on third down, holding the Rams to 3-of-10 in those situations.

Keenum was 27-of-38 passing for 280 yards and a touchdown. A week after throwing two interceptions, the quarterback didn’t commit any turnovers and finished with a 100.8 passer rating.

The big question ahead of this game was who should start at quarterback for the Vikings going forward. While Keenum didn’t do anything to lose the game, it was the defense that carried this team to another win.

What it means: The Vikings still have a quarterback conundrum to figure out. Keenum didn’t do enough to lose his job, but does that automatically grant him the keys to the offense for another week with Teddy Bridgewater waiting in the wings? Is this week the appropriate time to make the switch with the Vikings heading on the road for a critical division game against Detroit? There will never be a perfect situation to make the swap, especially if Keenum is playing well enough for the Vikings to get away with a win. He had strong moments on Sunday, but that ‘excitability’ is still there and led to a few errant throws.

What I liked: Adam Thielen continues to prove he’s one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He showed off sick double moves, had incredible back-to-back catches in the third quarter and capped off a huge day with a 65-yard touchdown reception, which tied the longest touchdown pass Keenum has thrown in his career. Thielen is the first Vikings receiver since Randy Moss to have 900 yards receiving in the first 10 games of the season. Moss achieved that feat in the 2000 and 2003 seasons. Thielen now has a receiving touchdown in three straight games after having none in his first seven games of the season.

What I didn’t like: Minnesota still has a problem with consistency in its kicking game. Kai Forbath was 1-for-2 on field goals against the Rams, missing from distances of 48 and 39 yards. Ahead of Sunday, extra points were a problem for Forbath, not field goals. The kicker was 22-of-23 on field goals entering Week 11, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Fantasy fallout: All aboard the ‘Tay Train.’ Latavius Murray showed off his effectiveness inside the red zone for a second straight week, scoring twice against the Rams from 8 and 1 yards out, respectively. Murray entered Week 11 with two rushing touchdowns on the season and is the first Vikings player with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Adrian Peterson did it against the Giants in the 2015 season. The Vikings put up 171 rushing yards on the Rams’ stout defensive line, with 95 coming from Murray.

Secondary performs big despite health issues: Reserve safety Anthony Harris had one of the biggest plays of the game before halftime. Starting in place of Andrew Sendejo (groin/hamstring), Harris stripped the ball from Cooper Kupp as the Rams receiver attempted to cross the goal line and recovered the fumble. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes injured his left calf in the first half and while he was able to return to the game shortly thereafter, Minnesota got big contributions from its cornerback rotation with Mackensie Alexander and Terence Newman. The Vikings utilized a number of nickel blitzes after entering the game with a total of 10 pass rush snaps from their cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

The streak is over: Everson Griffen’s sack streak ends at eight. Griffen did not play last week in the Vikings’ win over the Redskins due to a foot injury and was not able to sack Jared Goff in Week 11. He had a sack in eight straight games to start the season and has 10 on the year. Third-year defensive end Danielle Hunter was the only Minnesota defender to sack Goff on Sunday, which forced a three-and-out late in the first quarter after the Rams had to burn a timeout the play before to avoid a delay of game penalty.

What’s next: “Teddy Watch” continues as the Vikings prepare to face the Lions on a short week. Bridgewater suited up for a second straight game as Keenum’s backup and remained on the sideline. He has not played since the Vikings lost to the Seahawks in the 2015 NFC Wild Card game. The Vikings begin a tough three-game road stretch against their division opponent before traveling to Atlanta and Carolina in Weeks 13 and 14.

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