EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings will have their hands full with a pair of dynamic edge rushers.
The Chargers have a dual threat in defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, both Pro Bowlers who can wreak havoc on an opposing offensive line.
Ingram has been with the Chargers since 2012, when he was selected with the 18th overall pick.
The 30-year-old defender hasn't lost a step. Ingram this season has 5.5 sacks, 40 tackles (press box stats), 10 tackles for loss, three passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Bosa, who was drafted third overall by the Chargers in 2016, ranks eighth in the NFL with 10.5 sacks, 2.0 behind Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Bosa also has 55 tackles (press box stats), 15 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
"He's a bit of an animal," former Vikings linebacker Pete Bercich said during this week's segment of Vikings GamePlan.
"He's so quick, he knows how to use leverage, and then they move him everywhere. You're gonna find him inside, outside, all over the place," Bercich added. "Joey Bosa is one of the most fun guys to watch."
The Vikings may not use the word "fun," per se, but right tackle Brian O'Neill is looking forward to the challenge of facing Bosa and Ingram.
"That's the best of the best; that's as good as you can see," O'Neill said. "It's a measuring stick for you as a tackle. … I've got goals, too, in this league, and I have things that I want to accomplish. It's a good measuring stick for me, but I'm [most focused on] us winning the game. But you do get excited, because it's a chance for you to show your stuff against the best."
Lucky for O'Neill and left tackle Riley Reiff, they're used to practicing against some pretty elite pass rushers, themselves.
"Thankfully, I get to go against two guys (Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen) here every day, who I'd like to think are similar-level players," O'Neill said. "Our guys are pretty good, and I get a lot of work with Danielle. Anytime you get a guy like that, that helps.
"You kind of treat it like any other time you play an elite pass rusher," O'Neill continued. "You always have to know where [Bosa] is, and you can't get away with stuff [that you maybe can against others]. Just making sure you dot your Is and cross your Ts and make sure that there's no detail left unturned, because they're so explosive and good and can make you miss that quickly, that you need to be on-point with all your details to give yourself a chance."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the Chargers have "three tremendous players" in Bosa, Ingram and safety Derwin James, who recently returned from injury.
Kyle Rudolph, who is used in Minnesota's offense both as a pass catcher and as a blocking tight end, highlighted the same trio.
"For me, the three guys that jump off the page immediately are both edge rushers, and then getting Derwin back is a huge lift for that defense, a guy they were without for the first 10-11 weeks," Rudolph said. "They're of that Seattle descendant; they bend and don't break. We have our work cut out for us."
The Vikings on Friday ruled out safety Jayron Kearse (toe) and running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) for Sunday's game.
Receiver Bisi Johnson (quad) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) were listed as questionable.
Which means receiver Adam Thielen should be good to go. Assuming he plays, it will mark his first real action since Week 7. Thielen injured his hamstring early in the game at Detroit; he attempted to come back in Week 9 at Kansas City but returned to the sidelines after just one series and has not played since.
The Chargers only listed linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) as questionable. Fellow linebackers Drue Tranquill (elbow) and Thomas Davis (not injury related), as well as receiver Mike Williams (knee) were not given a status on Friday's report and should be active Sunday.
It seems that the Vikings have been getting stopped lately on third and short rushing plays, from Cook to Ham to Cousins on quarterback sneaks. Is that because their offensive line does not get a good push?
– Jim S.
The Vikings are tied for 14th in the NFL on third-and-short (1 or 2) when running the football, having converted 68.4 percent of those plays. So, as frustrating as it can feel in the moment when a run is stopped short on a third down, Minnesota actually is in the league's top half.
The Titans lead the NFL with a success rate of 93.3 percent, and the Dolphins are second at 90.9 percent. The Bills, by the way, are last at 45.8 percent.
Minnesota's offensive line is built to use athleticism and get to the second level, more so than move the pile. This mobility has helped dramatically in the screen game and on play-action passes. Ultimately, every play that's called is believed to be a play that will work, so then it's up to the players to make the coaches right, and then the coaches to resolve what may be preventing success.
"I actually talked to [Cris Carter] when there was a chance I could win it last year. He always told me, 'I hope you have a trophy like mine to put right next to it because you deserve it.' As another guy that's from southwest Ohio like Cris, it would be a great honor to be recognized alongside him. Just being associated with this award, being associated with Walter Payton's legacy, all of the past winners, all of the past nominees, all of the work that they do, that's what's important."
– Kyle Rudolph on being named the Vikings 2019 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee
Stat of the Week
The Vikings are 9-3 when they force at least one turnover this season.
Putting pressure on Chargers QB Philip Rivers and forcing him to make risky throws could be key for Minnesota against a 5-8 AFC West team that is much better than its record may indicate.
Rivers is a talented QB capable of making big plays downfield, but he's also been known to take chances that have backfired on the veteran passer. The Chargers rank 27th in the NFL with an interception rate of 3.17 percent.
The Vikings defense is ninth-best in the league with an interception rate of 2.68 percent.
CBS (WCCO in the Twin Cities)
Play-by-Play: Greg Gumbel
Analyst: Trent Green
Sideline Reporter: Melanie Collins
KFAN (100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber
Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 1 p.m. (CT)
KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.
Sirius: MIN 135 or Streaming 819; LAC 121 or Streaming 816
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