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NOTEBOOK: Vikings Offensive Line Handles 'Grind'

MINNEAPOLIS —The Vikings expected a "grind" from the Ravens but were able to do significant damage on the ground on Sunday.

"I told the team all week long this was going to be a grind today," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "I knew it was, I know how the AFC North teams play. I was in that division for six years."

The Vikings also dealt with a dose of the unexpected when two offensive linemen were injured.

Minnesota rushed for a season-best 169 yards, including 113 by Latavius Murray, who also made it into the end zone on a nifty, shifty 29-yard touchdown run in a 24-16 Vikings victory.

It was the sixth career game with 100 or more rushing yards by Murray, who signed with the Vikings (5-2) this offseason. He credited the performance of an offensive line that managed left guard Jeremiah Sirles and left tackle Riley Reiff leaving the game with injuries.

Sirles, who started for the second week in place of Nick Easton, was replaced by rookie Danny Isidora. Reiff was replaced by Rashod Hill.

"It started with the O-line. You talk about different guys moving around and the two new guys coming in there," Murray said. "I think all the credit goes to them. What they've been able to do this season with guys moving around, they continue to give us a chance to throw the ball downfield or run the ball. We knew we had to run the ball and how stingy they were. We just wanted to come in here with the mentality to run the ball."

Right guard Nick Easton said the Vikings offensive line has confidence in each player in the position group.

"We know what we've got in the room, so nobody was concerned about it," Berger said. "Obviously, you don't want to see guys get hurt. I hope the guys get back as soon as they can. We know we've got good guys waiting to get on the field."

The Vikings averaged 5.1 yards per rush, and Murray averaged 6.3, thanks to the 29-yard score and a 35-yard gain to open the third quarter.

"That's the way the run game sometimes works," Berger said. "You've got to keep going and going and then you break a few, so that worked out."

One type of compliment a lineman can receive without in-depth film study is that his play didn't stand out for wrong reasons.

Isidora and Hill pass those tests, according to Zimmer and quarterback Case Keenum.

"I didn't watch Isidora the whole time, but I watched him quite a bit when he first went in, and I thought he did good," Zimmer said. "He got to the second level; he did a nice job on things. I saw Rashod a little bit, I didn't notice him."

Added Keenum: "I think they did a great job. For me not to notice it really, the exact moment when they came in. I knew Jeremiah [Sirles] was hurt, but to not notice any of the operation or anything else, I think that's a really good thing. We kept our foot on the gas pedal and drove down to score again."

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Baltimore Ravens at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.

No sacks allowed again

The Vikings avoided giving up a sack for the third time in seven games this season and second week in a row.

Keenum was able to move in the pocket and avoid pressure. He also scrambled for a 9-yard gain on the Vikings opening drive of the second half that ended with a 43-yard field goal by Kai Forbath, which was one of six on a record day for the kicker.

Taking an early chance

Keenum finished 20-of-31 passing for 188 yards and a passer rating of 67.7 that was dampened when Baltimore intercepted his first attempt of the game.

The Vikings opened at the Ravens 35-yard line after a 46-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels, and Keenum took a shot on a deep toss to Laquon Treadwell against 1-on-1 coverage by Brandon Carr.

The cornerback corralled the deflection for his third pick of 2017.

"It was something [where] we wanted to take a shot early," Keenum said. "And then when the defense goes out and gets the sack, we have a good return, I'm taking the shot. I felt the momentum of the game. I thought we could jump on them quick and put the ball out there. The guy made a good play. That's what you do when you take a chance."

Sacking Flacco

The Vikings defense recorded five sacks of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Everson Griffen became the first Viking to record at least one sack in the first seven games of a season since Jim Marshall in 1969. His 2.0 on the day improved his season total to 9.0.

"You've got to put two on him if you're going to stop him," said Anthony Barr, who also recorded a sack. "Not many tackles can block him 1-on-1 through a whole game. He's bound to get a sack.

"If you drop back 30 times, he's going to win half of those times, so you're looking to get the ball out quickly," Barr added. "He works extremely hard. He's the first one out to practice every single day, working on his pass rush. He got paid, rightfully so, and is playing at a high level."

The day was particularly special for Griffen, who wore cleats in honor of his late mother, Sabrina Scott, and escorted his mother-in-law Rebecca Brandt out for the coin toss. Brandt, a breast cancer survivor, was the honorary captain for the annual "Crucial Catch" game.

Griffen moved into a tie with Brian Robison for ninth in Vikings history with 57 career takedowns of quarterbacks.

Danielle Hunter and Tom Johnson also sacked Flacco.

Up next

The Vikings (5-2) travel to London on Wednesday to prepare to face the Cleveland Browns (0-7) next Sunday.

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