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Vikings O-Line: Reaches 2nd Level, Limits Negative Runs

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The difference in the Vikings final rushing tally the past two weeks was only seven yards.

The way the totals of 140 and 147 yards were reached, however, couldn't have been more different.

Minnesota gained three yards or less on 24 of its 35 attempts (68.6 percent), including 16 of the 19 carries (84.2 percent) by Adrian Peterson in Detroit. The Vikings kept pounding the ball against the Lions, and Peterson eventually got loose for gains of 12, 75 and 15. The 75-yarder was the fifth-longest play of Peterson's career.

This past Sunday, however, the Vikings lowered that rate to 11 of 25 carries by the team (44 percent) and 9 of 20 by Peterson, whose long for the day was 12 yards (two times) and had eight carries that gained six or more yards. Peterson's final carry of the day was a gain of 9 to set up a game-winning field goal by Blair Walsh in a 23-20 win at Soldier Field.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said this week that the offensive line did a better job in Chicago of "getting to the guys that were pressuring" the Vikings on run plays.

"We got beat a couple of times, but I thought (the offensive line) did a nice job," Zimmer said. "I thought [T.J.] Clemmings did better, in the running game especially, but he had a good matchup and I thought he played well. Actually, all of those guys played well, Mike Harris played well, [Brandon] Fusco probably had his best game and [Matt] Kalil did like he has been doing."

Harris said the Bears "were trying to do a lot of line stunts, and we were able to pick them up."

"Me personally, I was able to get up to the second level and block linebackers," the right guard said. "If we can do that, we'll make a lot of yards, especially with Adrian. If you give him that little bit of a hole, he's going to make them pay for it.

"Sunday was a lot of fun, seeing him run past our blocks," Harris added. "The dude is just a legend, man. We're going to keep getting better as the offensive line grows. If we can just stay healthy, we're going to be fine."

The Vikings (5-2) will host the St. Louis Rams (4-3) at noon (CT) Sunday and are well aware of the challenges posed by a defensive line that has five first-round draft picks: defensive ends Chris Long (second overall in 2008) and Robert Quinn (14th in 2011), and defensive tackles Aaron Donald (13th in 2014), Michael Brockers (14th in 2012) and Nick Fairley (13th in 2011).

Fusco said the Rams front could be the "toughest challenge yet" for the Vikings, who are fifth in the NFL with 131.0 rush yards per game.

St. Louis has 26 sacks on the season (tied for second most in the NFL) from a total of 13 different players.

Minnesota has allowed 20 sacks but only 3.0 in home games this season. After allowing 4.0 in Detroit in a game where 11 hurries of Bridgewater were counted by press box statisticians, the Vikings yielded 1.0 sack and three hurries of Bridgewater.

"Those guys did a great job. We had a game plan built for those guys to just go out there and play fast and those guys did exactly that," Bridgewater said. "We knew that Chicago had a nice pass rusher, McPhee. We wanted to slow him down, and I think we did a great job of doing that. The offensive line did an excellent job of opening holes for Adrian. Those guys are just playing some good football right now."

The second-year quarterback was able to erase a late takedown for a loss by Pernell McPhee with a 19-yard scramble to convert second-and-17 on the following play to spark Minnesota's game-tying drive that Bridgewater capped with a 40-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs. Both are up for weekly awards. Vote for Bridgewater **here**, and Diggs **here**.

Triple threat: While there's seemingly a challenge at every turn from Rams defensive linemen, the Vikings defense and special teams units will face multiple challenges packed into one player, Tavon Austin, who has 567 all-purpose yards this season.

Austin has 285 receiving yards on 24 catches and 141 rushing yards on 17 carries. The slippery speedster also has averaged 15.1 yards per punt return this season.

"I call him the 'Triple Threat' because of special teams, and then you can line him up in the backfield and hand it off and he can run routes and catch the ball," nickel cornerback and special teamer Captain Munnerlyn said. "He's definitely a special athlete. He likes to get the ball in his hands and make plays."

The Vikings limited Bears slot receiver Eddie Royal to two yards on three catches, and Brian Robison avoiding any shakedown from Royal on end around trick play that resulted in a loss of 1.

"Eddie Royal is not an easy tackle," FOX analyst Ronde Barber said during the broadcast. "That was a heck of a play by (Robison) there."

Robison not only followed the ball. He followed the belly.

"It's funny. It's going to sound simplistic, but we've been taught since we were little kids to always look at the belly button," Robison said. "The belly button doesn't move so that's what it was for me. I broke down, I looked at his belly button and didn't allow him to give me any false movement or anything like that. Look at the mass of his body and make the play."

Injury reports: The first injury report of Week 9 included 11 Vikings and seven Rams.

Anthony Barr (low back), Joe Berger (chest), Eric Kendricks (ribs), Sharrif Floyd (knee/ankle) and Diggs (hamstring) did not participate Wednesday. Justin Trattou (foot), Everson Griffen (neck), Tom Johnson (knee) and Audie Cole (finger) were limited. Rhett Ellison (concussion) and Clemmings (neck) fully participated.

For the Rams: Long (knee), Quinn (knee), DE William Hayes (thigh), RB Chase Reynolds (thigh) and T Rob Havenstein (ankle) did not participate. RB Tre Mason (ankle) and S T.J. McDonald (foot) were limited.

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