Sunday, January 22, 2017

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Blair Walsh’s 40 yard field goal in overtime gave the Vikings a 21-18 victory at TCF Bank Stadium against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Mike Zimmer’s defense came up big again this week holding Todd Gurley to 86 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries ending his four game streak of 125-plus yards per game.

In a grind-it-out affair that saw Teddy Bridgewater get knocked out of the game with a concussion, solid defense plus 125 yards rushing from Adrian Peterson helped propel the Vikings past an evenly matched Rams team.

The Vikings won the overtime coin toss and elected to kickoff. Zimmer’s confidence in his defense paid off as they held the Rams to a three-and-out and forced a punt. Marcus Sherels tiptoed down the sideline on the 26-yard return and Peterson contributed 21 yards on the ground to move the Vikings into game winning field goal range.

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Today, the Minnesota Vikings will try to stop Todd Gurley without two of their best defensive players; linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Both are inactive for what is the Vikings’ most important game of the season, as Minnesota will look to gain ground on the division-leading Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

In their place, Audie Cole and Tom Johnson will start. Last season, Cole started the Vikings’ Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears and recorded 11 tackles. He’s shown the ability to step up when called on, though the loss of Kendricks will surely hurt the Vikings in blitzing situations. Johnson, meanwhile, has played well in place of Floyd. Below, a look at the rest of the team’s inactives:

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How do the Minnesota Vikings contain St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley tomorrow? With news that Eric Kendricks will miss Sunday’s game and Sharrif Floyd will be inactive for a third straight week, the answer’s becomes much less clear. There’s Anthony Barr, but Mike Zimmer’s double A-Gap blitzes are only as effective as the players executing them; without Kendricks, the threat of the “Bruin Brothers” attacking the quarterback is gone. Up front, Tom Johnson has been a revelation while filling in for Floyd, making an impact as a pass rusher and run-stuffer.

Without Linval Joseph clogging the middle of the defense, though, this unit wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it has been this season. The nose tackle, who Zimmer recently called “the best” he’s ever had, is giving the Vikings’ head coach the ability to get aggressive with his play calls. Joseph consistently flashes his strength and deceptive speed on film, and those traits will be critical as the Vikings look to move to 6-2 tomorrow. Joseph is the cog in the middle that makes Zimmer’s scheme work, and his addition to the team last offseason is paying dividends for the Vikings as they push toward the playoffs.

Signed to a five-year, $31.25 million deal before the 2014 season, Joseph was expected to become the next great defensive lineman in Minnesota. Initially, he struggled to pick up Zimmer’s complex defense, but a year under the coach’s tutelage has helped Joseph blossom into an elite disruptor for the Vikings. “I feel way more comfortable this year than I did last year in the system,” said Joseph. “I just want to do whatever it takes to make my team win.”

Through seven games, Joseph has just 19 tackles, but his impact goes much deeper than the stat sheet. A look at the film reveals a player who not only creates havoc in the backfield with explosion and raw strength, but creates opportunities for other defenders. If the Vikings are to stop Gurley on Sunday, Joseph will need to be the focal point of their defensive attack.

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Over the last two weeks, we have seen the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) offense overcome two lopsided defensive efforts and come out victorious.

Two weeks ago, the Detroit Lions sold out to stop Adrian Peterson by flooding the running lanes and consistently stopping him in the backfield, only to let Teddy Bridgewater take advantage of some leaky coverage for over three hundred yards.

Last week, the Bears did their best to clog up all of Bridgewater’s passing lanes all afternoon, and Peterson was able to exploit the softer approach at the line for a 100-yard chain-moving performance.

This week, however, the Vikings offense will square off against a St. Louis Rams (4-3) defense that is talented enough to play well against both the run and the pass, overwhelm Minnesota’s offensive line, and pressure Bridgewater on a regular basis.

The Vikings will likely have to play great in all phases or be quite lucky to beat the Rams, and it is hard to predict which is more likely. They will need plenty of help from the defense and special teams to come out on top, but the offense needs to do their part if they want to avoid another close loss like they saw in Denver.

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Vikings Injury Report
NamePositionInjuryWed.Thur.Fri. Status
Floyd, SharrifDTKnee/AnkleDNPDNPDNPOUT
Trattou, JustinDEFootLimitedLimitedLimitedOUT
Barr, AnthonyLBLow BackDNPDNPFullQuestionable
Berger, JoeCChestDNPLimitedFullProbable
Cole, AudieLBFingerLimitedFullFullProbable
Clemmings, T.J.TNeckFullFullFullProbable
Diggs, StefonWRHamstringDNPLimitedFullProbable
Ellison, RhettTEConcussionFullFullFullProbable
Griffen, EversonDENeckLimitedLimitedFullProbable
Johnson, TomDTKneeLimitedFullFullProbable
Smith, HarrisonSNeck________LimitedFullProbable

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