Vikings Beat Rams in Overtime, Lose Bridgewater on Late Hit
November 8, 2015

“It was a hard-fought game,” said Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer after his team beat the St. Louis Rams 21-18 in overtime. “I know we played very clean on our side of the ball.”

Zimmer’s first sentence was standard fare for opening statements, but his next revealed much of his feelings of the physical play of the Rams. The most notable play was a hit by St. Louis cornerback Lamarcus Joyner on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who went into a slide after running for a first down in the fourth quarter. Joyner was penalized for a personal foul, but Bridgewater suffered a concussion and left the game.

Asked if he thought the Rams, who were penalized 12 times for 87 yards in the game, had crossed the line, Zimmer replied promptly and concisely, “Yes.” Zimmer wasn’t sure how long Bridgewater would be out and said this was his first time as a coach dealing with a concussion.

The win raised the Vikings’ record to 6-2 and put them into a first-place tie with the Green Bay Packers, which lost to Carolina.

The game-time temperature was 54 degrees under sunny skies with a wind out of the west at 18 miles per hour. Zimmer said he did not initially think about the wind and chose to defer the choice after the Vikings won the pre-game coin flip. This decision allowed the Rams to have the wind at their backs in the second and fourth quarters.

When Greg Zuerlein was able to take advantage of the wind with a 61-yard field goal for St. Louis in the second quarter, Zimmer became aware of the conditions.

He kept that in mind for the overtime kickoff. The Vikings won the coin toss and chose to defend the west goal, allowing the Rams to get possession first. Under sudden-death overtime rules prior to 2012, a team would never choose to let its opponent get initial possession; however, current rules require a team to score a touchdown on the opening possession to end the game. Otherwise, the opposing team gets a chance with the ball.

Confident that the Vikings could keep the Rams out of the end zone, Zimmer went with the wind. All St. Louis could do was lose six yards on its first series in overtime. Johnny Hekker boomed a punt into the wind for 63 yards, but Marcus Sherels returned it 26 yards to the Minnesota 49.

Adrian Peterson ran the ball four times, and Shaun Hill, who took over for Bridgewater, completed short passes to Rhett Ellison and Matt Asiata, setting up Blair Walsh for a game-winning 40-yard field goal.

The Vikings had taken a 3-0 lead on their first possession, Walsh hitting on a 34-yard field goal, and made it 10 to 0 on an 80-yard drive capped by Peterson’s six-yard touchdown run. The big play was a 21-yard completion from Bridgewater to Charles Johnson. (Bridgewater completed nine passes in the first half, to nine different receivers.)

St. Louis sputtered its first two times with the ball and faced a third-and-five at its 39 on the next possession when Nick Foles lofted a pass that Kenny Britt hauled in for a 55-yard gain to the Minnesota 6. Two carries by Todd Gurley, a rookie out of Georgia, put the ball in the end zone.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher opted for a two-point conversion, which failed, a decision that proved crucial to the outcome of the game.

Early in the second quarter Zuerlein kicked his 61-yarder and added field goals of 35 and 45 yards to give the Rams a 15-10 lead at halftime.

Minnesota wasted a 42-yard kickoff return by Corderrelle Patterson and a 15-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph when Bridgewater’s next pass, intended for Stefon Diggs in the end zone, was intercepted by Trumaine Jackson.

The Vikings quickly got the ball back, starting with good field position from their own 49. Bridgewater hooked up with Diggs on a 30-yard completion, and the Vikings moved on. On third and two at the St. Louis six, Bridgewater scrambled up the middle for a touchdown to put the Vikings in front. Since St. Louis had missed a point by opting not to kick after its first-half touchdown, Zimmer decided to go for two points; when Bridgewater ran the ball to the right corner and hit the pylon for the conversion, the Vikings had an 18-15 lead.

The Rams got the wind in the fourth quarter, but Zuerlein was wide right with a 48-yard field-goal try with 1:42 left. He got another chance, however, and was accurate with a 53-yarder with 17 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.

Peterson led the rushers with 125 yards on 29 carries. Gurley racked up 89 yards on 24 rushes. Neither had a break-out run. Tavon Austin, a St. Louis receiver, ran for 66 yards, his longest being 22 yards, often on end arounds and once after a cross-field lateral from Gurley.

Bridgewater was 13 of 21 for 144 yards and Hill completed 2 of 6 passes for 15 yards. For St. Louis Nick Foles was 18 for 33 for 168 yards, only 37 of those yards coming after halftime.

Pleased with the win, Zimmer was unhappy with how St. Louis played. Although he acknowledged that he was holding back on his feelings in his post-game press conference, the coach was clear about his sentiments and referred to the history of the Rams’ defensive coordinator.

The man Zimmer referred to is Gregg Williams, one of the principals in the bounty scandal of the New Orleans Saints. Williams had been suspended nearly a year by the National Football League after it was learned that the Saints had paid players to target and injure opponents.

Zimmer was asked if his lack of comments to Fisher during the post-game handshake was due to the nature of the game, Zimmer said, “I didn’t have much to say to him.” Moments later he added, “If we were out on the street, we probably would have had a fight.”

Zimmer, when asked, said he did not plan to send video footage to the league but did say, “I might make a phone call.”

Viking Notes: Perhaps the Vikings could have used the security forces Rams owner Stan Kroenke had in the press box. Kroenke—who owns several other sports teams, including Arsenal in the Premier League—had a pair of heavies blocking the door to the press-box restroom every time he used it. Other reporters, who had to wait as Kroenke’s posse told them the restroom was closed when their boss was in it, were more amused than annoyed.

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