The Vikings and Los Angeles Rams took center stage on Thursday night as they kicked off the NFL's slate of Week 4 games. The teams put on a show, too, combining for 1,002 yards of offense and 51 1st downs along the way to 69 combined points. In the end, it was the Rams who came out ahead by a count of 38-31, sending the Vikings to their second consecutive loss while perching themselves atop the NFL with a 4-0 mark.
Here are five observations from Thursday night's game.
1. Goff carved up ordinarily stingy Vikings defense
The Vikings defense hasn't looked itself early in 2018 and Thursday night's performance in Los Angeles was downright confounding. Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed 33 of 36 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns for a passer rating of 158.3 as he triggered a rare 38-point outburst against the Vikings. Three Rams receivers had 100+ receiving yards, with Cooper Kupp leading the way with 162 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions; Brandin Cooks had seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown and Robert Woods added 101 yards and a touchdown on five grabs.
2. Diggs and Thielen can't be contained
Week after week, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen go out on the field and show they are as good a wide receiver tandem as there is in the NFL. On Thursday night, the pair combined for 19 catches, 258 yards and a touchdown on 27 targets. Thielen had the touchdown, a 45-yarder in the 3rd quarter that pulled the Vikings to within three points, and finished with 135 yards on eight catches. Diggs was the club's leading receiver, with 123 yards on 11 receptions. Thielen has recorded 100+ receiving yards in all four games this season.
3. Cousins leads Vikings fight back with another gaudy performance
It looked like Kirk Cousins was going to lead the Vikings on another 4th quarter rally. Cousins hit Thielen for the 45-yard score and followed that up with a two-point conversion toss to Latavius Murray. He then guided the Vikings on a nine-play, 58 yard drive that was capped by a Dan Bailey field goal to make it a seven-point game with 3:50 to play. The Vikings defense forced a Rams punt, setting the stage for Cousins and Co. to take the field with 2:20 to play. A sack on the first play of the series and a sack-fumble on the last play ended the comeback hopes, though. Cousins continues to prove he's worth every penny the Vikings invested in him, carving up the well-respected Rams defense for 422 yards, three touchdowns and a 117.2 passer rating.
4. Running game still looking to gain traction
The Vikings got Dalvin Cook back in the lineup for Thursday night's game, but he didn't see the field after halftime and the running game still wasn't able to get on track. The Vikings finished the game with 36 passing attempts and only 13 designed runs by the running backs. That is not the run-pass balance the team prefers. The Vikings rushed for 54 yards on 17 carries, and it was Cousins who was the leading rusher with 28 yards on four carries. This is sure to be a point of emphasis for the Vikings as they return to Minnesota and begin preparations for their Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
5. Vikings have 10 days to fix the errors
The Vikings showed on Thursday night they can be competitive with the best team in the NFL and it's clear the offense is much improved from 2017. It's just as clear, though, that struggles on defense are neutralizing some of that offensive improvement. Now, after a short week leading up to the Week 4 game in Los Angeles, the Vikings have 10 days to prepare for the Eagles and begin diagnosing and fixing the errors that have led to a disappointing 1-2-1 start. There will be no sacred cows in the head coach Mike Zimmer's evaluation and the Vikings will look to get back on the winning track when they visit the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles on October 7.