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5 Vikings-Colts Storylines to Watch

The Vikings are setting out in the second week of their 60th season to do something no team in franchise history has been able to do: defeat the Colts on the road.

Minnesota is a combined 0-for-11 in two different cities against the franchise that began in Baltimore and moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The losing streak includes eight meetings in Maryland, including the 1968 Western Conference Championship, and three in Indiana (2000, 2004 and 2012).

One reason for the lack of success is opportunities have been limited. The Vikings did not play the Colts in Baltimore after that 1968 playoff game and never visited Indianapolis before the Peyton Manning era was up and running.

Historic factors aside, the fact of the matter is that neither of the current teams want to fall to 0-2 to open the season.

Here are five storylines to watch this week as well as a list of current connections between the teams.

1. Thielen open or Rhodes Closed?

The previous few Verizon Vikings Training Camps have offered some great 1-on-1s between Adam Thielen and Xavier Rhodes. Fierce competition made each player better, helping both players become Pro Bowlers. Now, they're likely to square off with in-game results on the line in addition to the personal pride that both players brought on practice reps.

Thielen recorded six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday against Green Bay, picking up where he started the 2019 season before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 7 at Detroit.

Rhodes was on the field for 43 snaps and worked almost exclusively on the right side of Indianapolis' defense (according to Next Gen Stats) in his Colts debut, but he has "traveled" in the past to follow a team's No. 1 receiver.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn't "perceive" that Rhodes will travel with Thielen but added "you never know each game."

"Maybe because he knows Adam pretty well and has gone against him in practice a lot, maybe he will, but I don't think that will be the case," Zimmer said.

Jacksonville QB Gardner Minshew II completed 19 of 20 passes but didn't have a completion on a throw that was longer than 22 air yards, which happened to be a touchdown pass to Keelan Cole. Rhodes was the closest defender after what appeared to be a miscommunication in the Colts defense. Minshew also was able to get a 30-yard pass interference penalty against Rhodes.

"I thought he did well. They obviously play a little different scheme than what we do, but the things that he was asked to do, he did fine," said Zimmer, who then was asked about the touchdown pass to Cole. "It's hard for me to tell. I know [Pro Football Focus] can probably give you a better idea."

View game action images between matchups of the Vikings and Colts through the years.

2. Bounce back for young Vikings corners?

The overhaul at cornerback for the Vikings this offseason has been well-documented. Minnesota knew its first test — Aaron Rodgers — for an inexperienced group would be tough, and it was. Complicating the day for the secondary was a lack of pressure on Rodgers, who was quite comfortable at fan-less U.S. Bank Stadium, which has been anything but cozy for him since opening in 2016.

Rodgers completed 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. In his four previous games at the venue, Rodgers had combined for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The saying goes that you have to have a short memory to play cornerback, and that's the case for the group as they learn under Zimmer without the benefit of preseason reps and game film.

"You just stick with it. You just kind of keep going and keep trying to harp on them to do their best and iron out the little mistakes that they did make," Zimmer said Monday. "Again, it gets back to technique a lot of times and then alignments, making sure you're in the proper alignment and the proper hand placement. But it's good to find out where we were and where we have to go from there."

3. Another prolific passer

Part of the impetus for a fast rebound by Minnesota's corners is the fact that Philip Rivers is waiting in the wings.

A week after Rodgers (47,310) overtook Fran Tarkenton (47,003) for 12th on the all-time passing yards list, they'll face a QB who needs 366 yards to become the sixth player to ever pass for 60,000 yards.

Rivers, who is in his 17th season and 15th as a starter, faced Zimmer's Vikings twice as a member of the Chargers, including last season in Los Angeles when he threw for 307 yards and a score but was intercepted three times.

Pressure was a big part of Minnesota's success last year, and the Vikings will try to affect Rivers more than they were able to impact Rodgers last week.

4. Next men up

The Colts were dealt a tough loss Sunday when running back Marlon Mack suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Mack led Indianapolis with 1,091 yards and eight scores on 247 rushes in 2019. Nyheim Hines, a former teammate of Vikings C Garrett Bradbury at N.C. State, and rookie Jonathan Taylor are expected to carry the load.

Colts Head Coach Frank Reich said Monday that Taylor, who totaled 22 rush yards on nine attempts and added 67 yards on six catches, will be the starter. Hines rushed seven times for 28 yards and a score and added eight catches for 45 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.

5. Reclaim the pigskin

The Vikings may have opened on their home turf, but they didn't play Sunday's game on their terms.

Minnesota trailed time of possession by a whopping 41:16 to 18:44. The lopsided imbalance resulted in part from mistakes at critical junctures that prevented the defense from getting off the field.

Stacking games of poor possession times can have residual effects on a defense, and the Vikings would like to avoid that from happening early this season. Minnesota ranked 26th in average time of possession (28:50) last season.

Indianapolis tied for 14th a year ago with an average of 30:02 and won time of possession against Jacksonville 33:23 to 26:37 last week.

Vikings-Colts Connections

Rhodes played for the Vikings from 2013-19. He was drafted by Minnesota in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and made three Pro Bowls.

Colts defensive line coach Brian Baker was an assistant with the Vikings from 2001-05 (defensive line in 2001 and 2004-05; linebackers from 2002-03).

Indianapolis defensive backs coach/cornerbacks Jonathan Gannon was the assistant defensive backs/quality control coach in Minnesota from 2014-17.

Indianapolis defensive backs coach/safeties Alan Williams was Minnesota's defensive coordinator from 2012-13.

Professional Connections

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak was a senior personnel advisor from 2017-18, and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak was an offensive assistant/quarterbacks from 2016-18 in Denver, overlapping from 2017-18 with Colts offensive line coach Chris Strausser, who was an assistant offensive line coach in 2017 and offensive line/tackles coach in 2018.

College Connections

Colts defensive quality control coach David Overstreet II coached Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes at Garden City (Kansas) Community College in 2016.

Vikings LB Anthony Barr (2010-13) and LB Eric Kendricks (2011-14) overlapped with Colts DT Eli Ankou (2013-16) at UCLA. Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu was UCLA's running backs coach from 2014-15 and offensive coordinator in 2016.

Bradbury teamed with Hines at N.C. State.

Minnesota LB Ryan Connelly and Taylor overlapped at Wisconsin.

Vikings RG Pat Elflein and DE Jalyn Holmes were teammates of Colts S Malik Hooker, DT/DE Tyquan Lewis and WR Parris Campbell during parts of their careers at Ohio State.

Minnesota DE Ifeadi Odenigbo and Indianapolis LB Anthony Walker teamed together at Northwestern.

Vikings DE D.J. Wonnum and Colts DT Taylor Stallworth were teammates at South Carolina.

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