MINNEAPOLIS — Forward progress.
The Vikings haven't been able to make enough of it in 2021.
That was evident again Sunday when the Vikings fell 30-23 to the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota failed to seize opportunities that knocked, including the following:
Q1, 1:31 remaining, First-and-goal at the L.A. 8
The Vikings had driven 84 yards over the course of nine plays that included an 18-yard run by Alexander Mattison, a 14-yard completion to the running back and a 25-yard pass to Adam Thielen.
Out of a timeout called by the Rams, the Vikings run Mattison for a loss of 1 and follow with a gain of 1 on another carry by Mattison.
On third-and-8, a Kirk Cousins pass intended for K.J. Osborn was intercepted by linebacker Travin Howard.
The longest drive of the day for either team resulted in no points.
Minnesota went 2-for-5 with touchdowns after reaching the red zone.
"I felt that the red zone, inability to score touchdowns and instead kick field goals at best – obviously the one drive we didn't even kick a field goal," Cousins said. "In this league, it just tends to hurt you when you don't score touchdowns and you settle for field goals. I think we were 2-for-12 on third down. That's obviously not good enough, and we need to find ways to stay on the field and score points throughout the game, not just in spurts. Those are my thoughts coming away from it."
Q2, 4:02 remaining, First-and-goal at the L.A. 11
The Vikings have just gotten the ball after the first of two interceptions on the day by Anthony Barr.
On the following snap, Cousins is sacked by Greg Gaines, who hit the QB low. He was not flagged, however, because Garrett Bradbury was flagged for tripping.
Rather than accept the penalty, the Rams took the sack, setting up a second-and-17. Justin Jefferson caught a 5-yard pass. Thielen followed with a gain of 9, but his injured ankle was hurt worse by Taylor Rapp's tackle at the L.A. 4.
The Vikings opted to get on the board with a 23-yard field goal that made it 10-3 with 2:34 left in the first half.
But the progress of scoring was erased by the Rams answering with a field goal before halftime.
Q3, 14:05 remaining, First-and-10 at the Minnesota 38
Xavier Woods intercepted Matthew Stafford on the second play of the second half.
A fumble (recovered by Mattison followed on the next play), setting up a second-and-12. The Vikings overcame that to get a first-and-10 at the L.A. 49. Mattison was tackled for a loss of 2 on the next snap.
Consecutive incompletions followed to force a punt.
Barr intercepted Stafford two plays later to set up a 2-yard touchdown by Mattison that made it 13-10 with 11:01 left in the quarter.
The Vikings defense forced a quick punt but suffered a false start penalty on third-and-4.
Cousins scrambled for a gain of 8 when Minnesota needed 9 on third down.
Brandon Powell returned the ensuing punt 61 yards for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead with 7:06 to go.
Rather than settling into a flow early or rallying to seize control with a golden opportunity in the third quarter, the Vikings played the rest of the game on the Rams terms.
"We talked all week about controlling the game with our tempo and being able to run the football, and they ran the ball way better than we did today," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "We had some guys get out of their alignments and gaps and things like that, so it was difficult in the run game — we didn't do a good enough job there."
The Rams were 7-for-14 on third downs, including a run of 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter to finish the game.
Right before that stretch that included a touchdown pass on third-and-6 from the Minnesota 7, the Rams were ruled to have had their forward progress stopped at the very best moment for Los Angeles.
View game action photos between the Vikings and Rams during the Week 16 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cooper Kupp caught a pass for a gain of 8 to open the fourth quarter.
Cameron Dantzler forced the ball loose while the receiver was still in bounds, but the same officiating crew who allowed the Rams to move masses on run plays at multiple points in the game ruled that Kupp's — you guessed it — forward progress had been stopped before the fumble.
Zimmer wanted to challenge but forward progress is not reviewable.
"I told them, you know, they let these guys get in these piles, and they run forever, you know, they never blow the whistle, and all of a sudden we have a 1-on-1 thing there, and they're going to say it's blown dead," Zimmer said. "They did tell me the replay said the ball came out and touched the player that was out of bounds, so I don't know if he was or not."
What we do know is for the fourth time this season (Weeks 1, 8 and 12), the Vikings failed to net a victory and go above .500.