MINNEAPOLIS — Todd Gurley was finding holes, Sammy Watkins was getting involved, and the play-action game was working. The Los Angeles Rams‘ resurgent offense opened the biggest game of the season by humming along amid the noise at a raucous U.S. Bank Stadium. The Rams had outscored their past three opponents by a combined 93 points, and their opening drive seemed to signal the start of another blowout victory.
It wound up being an outlier.
A Minnesota Vikings defense that ranked within the top five in yards and points allowed stifled the Rams’ offense for the 56 minutes that remained in Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup. The Rams gained 186 yards, picked up 11 first downs and scored zero points after their opening drive, the backdrop in a deflating 24-7 loss that dropped their record to 7-3.
Cooper Kupp made a couple of key mistakes and the Rams lost a couple of key cornerbacks, and for one of very few times this season, their margin for error proved too small to overcome. The Rams snapped a four-game winning streak, lost outside of L.A. for the first time all season and watched the Vikings improve to 8-2.
At the four-minute mark of the second quarter, Kupp caught a short pass from Jared Goff on a slant route but fumbled at the Vikings’ 1-yard line. On third-and-10 at the Vikings’ 49 early in the third quarter, Goff made an accurate deep throw down the middle of the field to Kupp, his favorite third-down target, but he dropped it.
The dagger came five plays later.
A Case Keenum-led Vikings offense that had spent an entire afternoon chewing up clock and beating the Rams underneath finally got an explosive play. Adam Thielen, third in the NFL in receiving yards, ran a short route. Dominique Hatfield, pressed into action after Kayvon Webster was diagnosed with a concussion, was all alone with him in space. Thielen made a quick move to the inside, got free, sprinted up the sidelines and basically went untouched for the 65-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings a two-touchdown lead they would not relinquish.
Keenum, starting against his former team, went 27-of-38 for 280 yards, avoiding any turnovers and countless sacks by continually navigating out of the pocket to evade pressure. Goff — coming off back-to-back games of at least 300-plus yards, three or more touchdowns and zero interceptions — went 23-of-37 for 227 yards and was hit often. Gurley, the NFC’s leader in scrimmage yards heading in, picked up only 25 yards after the opening drive.
The Vikings’ offense controlled the ball for more than 37 of 60 minutes.
In the end, a Rams defense that lost both Webster and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman (thigh) was too gassed to keep the game within reach.