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Vikings Defense Shuts Down Rams High-Scoring Offense

MINNEAPOLIS — For the opening few minutes Sunday, the Rams high-flying offense came as advertised, marching 75 yards in nine plays to take an early lead.

There was no panic on the Vikings sideline at that point. Defensive players just knew they had to get to work.

More than 55 minutes later, as the clock ticked down the final seconds, the Rams had yet to score after their early touchdown.

Vikings safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris explained the mindset of Minnesota's defense over the final three-plus scoreless quarters.

"Sometimes they just make plays and have good calls," Smith said after a 24-7 Minnesota win. "But we just chilled out.

"We just started focusing on us, executing our assignments and Coach [Mike Zimmer] made some great calls," Smith added. "We started focusing on us. There was no magic."

Added Harris: "Just stay together, weather the storm and continue to be aggressive."

The Vikings defense allowed 254 yards of total offense to the Rams, almost 135 yards less than Los Angeles' season average.

The Rams entered Sunday's contest averaging more than 38 points per game on the road, and had averaged nearly 33 points per game all season. They left U.S. Bank Stadium with their lowest total of the year.

A Los Angeles offense that had constantly churned up opponents for one chunk play after another only had two plays over 20 yards, and didn't gain 10-plus yards on a rushing play all game.

Yet even though the stats were impressive and tilted in Minnesota's favor, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said the unit doesn't get caught up in the hoopla of being one of the league's top units.

"I feel like we just have our own standard," Kendricks said. "It's always on us. It's not about what they're doing; it's always what we're doing.

"We've got a good group of guys," Kendricks added. "People adjust — people go down and people step up, and it's awesome to see."

While Harris made the highlight-reel play with a forced fumble and recovery that kept the Rams out of the end zone early in the second quarter, it was Minnesota's run defense that set the tone all game.

Rams running back Todd Gurley entered Sunday ranked fourth in the NFL with 754 rushing yards, but gained just 37 yards on 15 attempts against one of the league's top-ranked run defenses.

As a result, the Vikings forced Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff to try and beat them through the air. The former No. 1 overall pick didn't throw a touchdown pass for only the second time all season.

"We stopped the run. At the end of the day I feel like they are based off the bootleg and the run," said Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph. "If you stop the run, then you stop the bootleg. You pretty much have them bottled up.

"We had some great pressure on him, and we made him throw where he didn't want to," Joseph added. "He put some in the ground. I feel like we did a good job today."

Vikings cornerback Terence Newman, who had multiple tackles for loss Sunday, pointed across the locker room to explain how well Minnesota's front seven stops the run and changes the game.

"You see those numbers. 98, 99, 97, 93, 92, 91, 54, 55, I mean, those guys are unbelievable up front," Newman said. "When you got guys that can get after the quarterback, you just have to be in position in the back end to cover guys."

Added Smith: "The guys up front amaze us every week. We normally have a good time in the DB room watching Linval or Everson or Danielle or Tom. It doesn't matter [who], they're fun to watch."

After the Vikings and Rams were tied at 7 at halftime, Minnesota's offense got going as the Vikings scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, didn't run more than five plays on any of its first four offensive possessions of the second half.

By then, the Vikings defense was awake and in full force.

"We have a lot of guys that love playing football," Smith said. "I think that shows up."

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