MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings defense saw the play action time and time again, but cut through the subterfuge in the second half in a 21-18 overtime win over the Rams on Sunday.
St. Louis sent QB Nick Foles backward, RB Todd Gurley forward and WR Tavon Austin sideways. Foles could choose between the promising rookie with the blend of power and speed, the shifty speedster or keep it and see what developed on the pass routes.
The same play action was used on a 55-yard completion from Foles to WR Kenny Britt that set up the Rams only touchdown, a 1-yard run late in the first quarter by Gurley, who finished with 24 carries for 89 yards (36 below his average in five previous games).
"I don't know how many plays they had, but I'd say they ran it 30-40 times," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "It was the same play-action. It was working for them, so I guess they said if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Austin wound up with 66 rushing yards on eight carries, but the Vikings clamped down to force five field goal attempts (Greg Zuerlein made four, including a 61-yarder) and six punts the rest of the game.
"They kept on running that flash formation when Tavon [Austin] kept coming across the formation and getting the ball," linebacker Anthony Barr said. "We made an emphasis to try and keep our eyes on him and keep him bottled up as much as possible."
Chad Greenway, who tied with Linval Joseph for the team lead with 10 tackles (press box tally), said the Vikings defense adjusted as the game progressed.
"It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but the second half we played better," Greenway said. "I know he got dinged up a bit in the game, but when the ball is in his hands he is as good as anyone in the NFL. We tried to contain him as much as we could. Some of the plays were not pretty but we figured out a way to get off the field in a lot of tough situations."
The toughest came in overtime after the Vikings won the coin toss and Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to defend* *the end zone that would place the wind at the back of the defense (only six of the game's 39 points were scored in the end zone the Vikings defended last).
Blair Walsh kicked his fifth touchback on as many kickoffs to open the extra period.
The Rams went to Gurley first, but Harrison Smith delayed him until reinforcements from Joseph took down the rookie for a 6-yard loss.
"He tried to stiff-arm me, so I grabbed the arm and tried to wait on some guys to get him," Smith said.
View game action images from Sunday's game against the Rams.
The Rams followed with a pass to Austin in the slot, but Munnerlyn pounced on him for no gain. Everson Griffen pressured Foles on third-and-16 to force an incompletion and punt.
Marcus Sherels returned the 63-yard boot 26 yards, doing a high-wire balance act in front of the Rams sideline.
With Teddy Bridgewater sidelined because of a concussion, Adrian Peterson rushed four times for 21 of the possession's 29 yards before Walsh drilled his fifth game-winning kick from 40 yards.
The Vikings improved to 6-2 on the season and moved into a tie with Green Bay for first place in the NFC North. They also continued to show a gritty identity that's formed under Zimmer's guidance.
"Just a lot of tough guys, kind of our identity," Smith said. "It doesn't matter who makes the play, but somebody is going to make them. We're all swarming to the ball and making plays."