Chargers flustered by Vikings’ gameplan

INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – Records don’t lie but they also don’t tell you the whole truth. On paper, the Minnesota Vikings seem to be a mediocre football team. On paper, this should have been a walk-in-the-park win for the Los Angeles Chargers.

It turned out not to be so. The Vikings made the plays when it mattered and walked away with a 27-20 win at SoFi Stadium.

“I like the way that we’re utilizing our people,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said. “I think that we’ve gone into these games with really quality plans. I think that our execution today wasn’t good enough. Our execution on offense, our execution on defense and in the kicking game, it wasn’t consistent enough to beat that team. That’s why we lost, because our guys are playing really hard. We need to execute better, for sure.”

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) goes back to pass against the Minnesota Vikings defense. Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers

What a difference a week makes. Last week in a road win against the Philadelphia Eagles, quarterback Justin Herbert completed 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ended the game with a 123.2 passer rating. Against the Vikings, Herbert misfired on 14 of the 34 passes he threw for just 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Herbert, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Eagles, finished the game against the Vikings with a 72 passer rating.

“That is just the NFL. Obviously, you want to win every game, but it is not going to happen like that. It is all about reacting to this adversity. It is tough to lose a game, especially after the game we had last week, but it is all about the preparation that we are going to have this week; to watch the film tomorrow, to be better from it and to learn from it because we cannot let this team beat us twice.”       

Like the Chargers, the Vikings have playmakers on both sides of the football. Minnesota has a stud running back in Dalvin Cook and they have a pretty decent enough defense to make the team competitive. Minnesota would use that formula to win its fourth game (4-5) of the season.

Cook rushed for 94 yards on 24 carries, while the Vikings’ defense made life in the pocket miserable for Herbert.  

“Nice win today,” Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. “I thought our guys played very hard, as they typically do. We made some plays at the end. I thought, defensively, we played well all day. We got some good output from the specials team and returns and good kicks. Offensively, I thought we played much better in the second half.”

For the last couple of years, the Chargers were going through a self-identity crisis with close losses mounting like stacking chips in a poker game. Under first-year coach Brandon Staley, the Chargers seem to have turned the corner in that regard, coming into their matchup against the Vikings tied for first place in the AFC West Division.

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) tries to evade Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James (33). Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers

After the defeat to the Vikings, the Chargers are now in second place. This figured to be a tough game for the Chargers, and it was. That is the thing with the National Football League. Records don’t mean squat in the field of play. 

Before playing the Chargers, the Vikings sported a wonderful record of 3-5 in their first eight games. That kind of record suggests mediocrity at its best. But when you really look at Minnesota’s record on the season, this is a ballclub that can play with any team.

Minnesota reminded Los Angeles of this. Yes, mind you that the Vikings are the second-best team in the NFC  Of the five losses the Vikings suffered, two took place in overtime. All five defeats were by seven points or less.

And to add to that, both the Chargers and Vikings share a couple of opponents. The Vikings lost in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers, on the other hand, suffered a humiliating defeat to the Ravens.

Minnesota lost to the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers won a scoring shootout against the Browns. So, how do we define the game between the Chargers and Vikings? Gritty. Neither team could get into any type of offensive rhythm.

And for the Chargers, the first half of the ballgame looked like players from Los Angeles were walking on sand, especially when it came to running the football. The Chargers rushed the ball for 41 yards with 17 coming on a scramble from Herbert.

Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu (42) puts the hard hit on Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33). Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers

Speaking of Herbert, the Chargers’ second-year quarterback could not get it going in the first half, completing 9 of 15 passes for 72 yards along with an interception.  

That pick by Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks, a former star at UCLA, led directly to the Vikings’ only touchdown in the first half. Thanks to a couple of field goals from Greg Joseph the Vikings went into halftime with a 13-10 lead.

Herbert and the Chargers changed that on their first possession of the third quarter. Herbert directed the Chargers on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to take the lead after completing a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back Austin Ekeler. Things then started to go South for Herbert and the Chargers.

After three quarters, Herbert had a grand total of 134 yards in the game. Minnesota answered the Chargers’ touchdown with two straight scores to go up, 27-17.

“Great to get a win against a good football team,” said Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ win. “I thought it was a hard-fought game. We were pretty balanced today. It was good to run the football well and have productive runs. I thought we spread the ball around, completed a lot of passes to different guys. I thought our defense did a great job of getting us the ball back.” 

Featured Image Caption: Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers