EAGAN, Minn. – From a-results-in-close-games standpoint, the 2021 Vikings are in alignment with the 2020 Chargers.
Minnesota (3-5) has played in seven games decided by one score this season and lost five of those contests.
Last season, Los Angeles finished 7-9 overall after going 5-7 in one-score games with rookie Justin Herbert at quarterback.
This season, Herbert has helped the Chargers open with a 5-3 record that includes a 4-2 mark in one-score games.
Los Angeles hired Brandon Staley as its head coach after he spent a year as Rams defensive coordinator, and it appears Herbert has applied lessons from how to win close games.
"That's a tough question for me to answer because I haven't looked at that part of it. I think the biggest thing that's happened is that the quarterback can make explosive plays," Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson said. "So they've been able to get a lead and keep a lead, and then he's been able to bring them back in games. Because he has the ability to flip the field with his arm, and he has two big-time receivers that can make plays. But he has the ability to get it to him."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer pointed toward Herbert's ability to scramble, his two rushing touchdowns this season and a big arm that was one of the major reasons Herbert was drafted with the sixth overall pick last year.
"They do a lot of max protection with him, get the ball to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the other side, typically," Zimmer said. "They've got Jared Cook at the tight end spot, another athletic guy. He does a nice job reading coverages, going where he needs to go. Looks like he's playing with a lot of confidence and smarts. The teams that have pressured him haven't done great against him."
Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer credited Herbert for seeing the field at a level beyond his years of experience in the NFL and his ability to move around the pocket.
Last week, Minnesota tried to simulate the speed of Lamar Jackson by using cornerbacks at QB for option plays. This week, Zimmer said, they can rely on backup QB Sean Mannion to simulate the arm strength of Herbert.
"Sean Mannion's got about as strong of an arm as anybody," Adam Zimmer said. "He throws the ball by your head, and you can hear it whistle, so he'll give us a great look this week and has given us a great look at some of the deep balls and with him humming it in there, but yeah, Justin does have a great arm, and he does a great job of creating [plays] in the pocket."
Here are all the ways to catch the action, a synopsis of the series history and a key topic addressed this week by Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak, Patterson, Adam Zimmer and Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken.
FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities)
Kickoff: 3:05 p.m. (CT)
Play-by-Play: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Mark Sanchez
Field Reporter: Laura Okmin
Fans who live in the blue areas shown on the map from 506sports.com will be able to watch the game on their iOS mobile devices with the Vikings app or Vikings mobile site (Safari browser only). The Yahoo! Sports app for smartphones and tablets offers another method for viewing live local and prime-time NFL games.
Radio: KFAN (100.3-FM), KTLK (1130-AM) and the five-state Vikings Radio Network
Radio Pregame Show: Hosted by Mike Mussman (1 p.m.)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline reporters: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber
Play-by-Play: Mike Morgan
Analyst: Brian Baldinger
Minnesota: Sirius 137, XM 380, SXM App 820
Los Angeles: Sirius 83, XM 225, SXM App 817
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The Vikings are 7-6 all-time and 2-3 in road games against the Chargers.
Kubiak on Kene Nwangwu potentially working his way into some reps on offense:
"Kene has been proving since OTAs that he's capable of being a really explosive playmaker. We're glad to get him back [from injury] and get him more incorporated into our offense. Proved it on special teams, proved it with us in practice. He's got two good backs that he's playing with, so we have to find a way to get them all touches."
Patterson on D.J. Wonnum's progression:
"D.J. makes a lot of plays in the running game. They made the call on the horse-collar [tackle]. That was a big play. To me, he had [Lamar Jackson] on the 8 number and not at the nameplate, which is supposed to be the rule, which caused a fumble. It was a big game-changing type of play, so I'm very pleased with how D.J. is playing the run game. I've just got to continue to get him to let it loose as a pass rusher. He's thinking about it too much and rushing by the numbers and is not doing that as a run player. As a run player, he's just letting his athleticism show, going and attacking his guy and playing football. That's what he has to do as a pass rusher. He's trying to be too perfect, and a lot of times, you have guys go through that. We'll keep working with him on that to get him to improve that, because once you see the athleticism that he shows as a run defender show up as a pass rusher, then I'll start getting the player I know he is."
Zimmer on having to deal with game-day changes to the lineup:
"Around here nothing really surprises you, especially the last two years or really going back eight. It's just like losing a guy in pregame warm-up. [Eric] Kendricks got hurt — I think it was the Jacksonville game — in pregame warm-ups last year. You have to make your adjustments, coach up young guys on the fly and try to get them in the best position. That's why we practice and give those guys reps during the week. You never know, one play and they could be in there."
Ficken on preparing during the week to execute a fake punt:
"It's a lot of study that goes on throughout the week. I'll sit down with Coach [Mike Zimmer], give him the parameters of what I think would be the best time. It's up to Coach on when he wants to go ahead and make that call. We talked about that throughout the course of the week, and talk about situations and all that. There's a lot that goes into it."