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Vikings Defense Dominates with 7 Takeaways in L.A.

CARSON, Calif. — See the ball, attack the ball, get the ball.

The Vikings defense followed a simple formula in Sunday's 39-10 win in Week 15, forcing an astounding seven turnovers against the Chargers.

"That was crazy. Every time I looked up, the ball was on the ground," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "I feel like we were just so thirsty for turnovers all day."

Don't take Kendricks' quote literally. The Vikings didn't force a takeaway on every possession, even if it certainly felt that way at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Of Los Angeles' 12 total offensive possessions, seven ended in turnovers.

The seven takeaways — four fumble recoveries and three interceptions — are the most in a game under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota forced five turnovers in a Week 17 win against Chicago back in 2016.

Minnesota recorded seven takeaways for the 13th time in franchise history. The Vikings are 8-5 in such games.

And it seemed everyone had a hand in the fun.

Danielle Hunter had two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, while Harrison Smith added an interception and a fumble recovery. Shamar Stephen and Kendricks forced fumbles, while Ifeadi Odenigbo and Trae Waynes had fumble recoveries.

Mike Hughes' first pick of the season was turnover No. 6, and Anthony Harris capped off the wild day with another interception. Harris now leads the Vikings with five interceptions in 2019.

The turnovers began early, as Hunter forced a fumble by running back Melvin Gordon on the Chargers second possession of the game.

Smith snagged a pick on Los Angeles' fourth possession before Odenigbo made the play of the game when he picked up his fumble and raced 56 yards for his first-career score.

"That's what we talk about, everybody doing his individual job, not worrying about the credit," said Harris. "When you do your job, there's going to be an opportunity to make a play. Different guys stepped in.

"Whether they forced a fumble or were hustling, they were able to scoop it," Harris added. "Ifeadi did a great job and was able to take it in for the touchdown. It really got everybody riled up."

The Vikings weren't done, though, as Stephen forced a fumble on Gordon on the first play of the second half. Hunter recovered it.

Los Angeles then went two straight drives without a turnover — its best stretch of the day — before Kendricks stepped up.

The linebacker, who has certainly made his case in vying for a trip to his first-career Pro Bowl, stayed with tight end Hunter Henry on an out pattern and jarred the ball loose. Waynes picked it up but was brought down at the Chargers 10-yard line.

Stephen, a hefty defensive tackle, couldn't resist directing some playful ribbing at Waynes, who is regarded as one of the fastest players on the team.

"[At least Odenigbo] scored … he ran faster than Trae," Stephen said with a wide smile.

That fumble recovery began a streak of three straight takeaways on the Chargers final three drives.

Hughes and Harris capped off the game with interceptions.

Hughes' was his first interception since a pick-six in his NFL debut — Week 1 of the 2018 season.

"It feels good, but I want to give a lot of credit to the defense," Hughes said. "But it felt great to finally get my hands on one.

"I look forward to getting some more," Hughes said. "But the D-line does a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback, so it's not all on me."

Harris now leads the Vikings with five interceptions in 2019. Rivers has now thrown 18 picks in 2019.

"He has a big arm, has got some good weapons, and he's a guy that is confident he can fit the ball in there and give his guys a chance to make a play," Harris said. "He gave them some chances … but we were able to come down with some."

View postgame celebration images that followed the Vikings win over the Chargers.

While the Vikings defense celebrated the opportunistic day, the offense stewed a bit as the unit felt the missed chances for an even bigger lead.

Minnesota was just 3-of-6 in the red zone Sunday and kicked more field goals (four) than touchdowns scored (three).

Besides Odenigbo's touchdown, the Vikings offense scored just 13 points on the six other takeaways.

"It made a big difference, and I was disappointed that our offense didn't get more points off of those turnovers," said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. "We were given a short field quite a bit and just did not take full advantage of it. That was disappointing."

Added wide receiver Stefon Diggs: "Seven turnovers is a lot of turnovers. The defense is playing how the defense plays. We didn't help them. We didn't put them in a great position. All we've got to do is take care of what we can control, as far as on offense, everybody doing his job. The defense is going to make plays."

But on a day when the Vikings moved to 10-4 and kept pace with Green Bay in the race for the NFC North, there wasn't too much to complain about on the flight home.

"When you can do that, it obviously turns the game around," Zimmer said. "We knew they had been minus in turnover margin, so it was important we try to get some today.

"So, that was good," Zimmer added. "We still have a lot of things to work on, we have a lot of things to clean up, and we know we've got a big game on Monday night."

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