Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer isn’t hitting the panic button, but he does know things need to be figured out in a hurry.
After an offensive shootout on the West Coast, the Vikings came up on the short end of a 38-31 final score against the Rams.
Zimmer was asked how to best clean up things defensively in the wake of Minnesota allowing the Rams 565 yards of offense.
“At this point, I don’t know,” a frustrated Zimmer responded. “We’ve never been, probably anywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve never been this poor in pass coverage. We’re going to have to look at everything we’re doing and get back to doing things [effectively].”
The Vikings struck first, capping off a steady drive with a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson.
But the Rams answered back by moving the ball themselves, and Jared Goff targeted running back Todd Gurley for a score on their first possession. During the drive, the Vikings seemed to have the Rams stopped on third-and-4 near midfield, but a holding penalty on cornerback Xavier Rhodes gifted Los Angeles with a first down.
Later in the game, Rhodes was penalized again and kicked the flag out of frustration, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct call. The corner was taken out of the next play.
“Those are the kinds of things we’ve been doing – having penalties on defense and giving up big plays,” Zimmer said. “It reared its ugly head again tonight.”
Big plays were the name of the game for Goff and the Rams.
On their second series of the night and after a Dan Bailey field goal gave Minnesota a 10-7 lead, the Rams lined up on second-and-5 from their own 30. Goff stepped back, threw and hit Cooper Kupp in stride for a 70-yard touchdown ahead of linebacker Anthony Barr.
“He came off the back side and ran a wheel route off the back side, and we didn’t help him,” Zimmer explained of the play.
“He snuck behind the defense, and they were able to make a big play,” Barr said.
The Vikings in the second quarter did force the Rams second three-and-out of the season.
On Los Angeles’ following series, however, Minnesota allowed a 5-yard rush by Gurley, an 11-yard grab by Kupp, a big catch by Robert Woods that moved the chains 36 yards, and on the fourth play Goff found Kupp for his second touchdown of the night, a 19-yarder.
Following a series that ended in a punt by the Vikings offense, Goff and company once again took the field.
Two plays in, another touchdown. This time, it was wide receiver Brandin Cooks with the 47-yard play.
The Vikings limited the Rams to one touchdown after halftime, a 31-yard score by Woods late in the third quarter, but the damage already was done. Cousins led a valiant effort offensively, but Minnesota couldn’t execute the comeback and fell short.
Zimmer was asked “how concerned” he is about the way Minnesota has started games. Over the first four games, opponents have totaled 75 points against the Vikings in the first half. In the second half, 35.
“Yeah, I’m concerned,” Zimmer said. “I’ve been concerned all year long. We have not played well defensively.”
Goff finished the game 26-of-34 passing for 465 yards and five touchdowns for the NFL’s highest possible passer rating of 158.3.
Kupp, Woods and Cooks each finished with more 100 yards receiving.
When asked about the Rams scheme under Head Coach Sean McVay, Zimmer gave credit was credit was due.
“They had a good scheme. I’m not going to take anything away from their scheme,” Zimmer said. “But it’s the same scheme that we played last year, and they had seven points.
“We made some mistakes, we left a bunch of guys open. They have a good scheme,” Zimmer continued. “They don’t get too many drop-back passes where you can rush the quarterback, there’s a lot of play-actions where they’re blocking eight and nine guys, and it’s difficult to get to him.”
The Vikings tough road loss moved them to 1-2-1 on the year. They will open the second quarter of the season against the Super Bowl LII-champion Eagles at Philadelphia on Oct. 7.
“I still have faith in this football team that we can come back and get to where we need to,” Zimmer said. “We’ve only got two losses. I’m not worried about that; I’m worried about how we played.”
Added Barr: “You’ve got to be concerned. We have to figure something out and get this thing turned around.”
Even with a tough outing for Minnesota defensively, the Vikings locker room remains united and committed to moving forward.
Adam Thielen, who racked up eight catches for 135 yards and a touchdown, emphasized that it’s a team game and shouldered responsibility.
“You’ve got to put up more points than the opponent. We didn’t do that, so we didn’t play well enough on offense to win,” Thielen said. “I’m proud of the way our offensive guys and defensive guys kept fighting. The defense came up with some big stops at the end of the game, so the fight is the positive.”
View images as the Vikings take on the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football.