The Minnesota Vikings took an old-school approach to slowing down the Los Angeles Rams’ league-leading offense on Sunday: Never let them touch the ball.
The Vikings demolished the Rams in Time of Possession in their 24-7 win at US Bank Stadium, holding the ball for 37:22.
“The Rams can score quick,” left tackle Riley Reiff said. “We talked about that going in that being able to run the ball was crucial.”
At the center of those efforts was running back Latavius Murray, who gained 95 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Vikings totaled 171 yards on the ground on 35 rushes.
“Latavius was running hard,” Reiff said. “Every week he’s getting better and it’s fun blocking for him.”
”You always have to finish the play because you know one guy isn’t going to bring him down,” Reiff added.
When starting running back Dalvin Cook went down earlier this season, Murray took over as the starter and struggled at first, gaining only 59 yards on 27 carries in the first two games after Cook tore his ACL. Since then, he has gained 315 yards at 4.6 yards per carry.
“The O-line, I have to give them credit,” Murray said. “No sacks, no turnovers, they give us holes to run through, they give us time to throw the ball down the field, it all starts with them.”
”I think he’s gotten better,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think he’s running the ball physically.”
Both Murray’s ability in the red zone and the offensive line’s run blocking ability were on display against the Rams. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound back slammed his way into the end zone from the 8-yard line in the second quarter, then from two yards out to put the game away in the fourth.
”I think it’s a strength of mine, having a nose for the end zone, so I just have to use that to my benefit and continue to find the end zone,” Murray said.
The former Raider has helped the Vikings go from a struggling red zone team to a dominant one, going 2-for-2 in the red zone on Sunday following a 5-for-5 red zone performance last week against Washington.
Minnesota’s third down performance also contributed to their success in keeping the Rams off the field. They went 7-for-14 on third down, compared to Los Angeles’s 3-for-11.
The third down success was, in part, fueled by the running game as the Vikings only averaged 4.9 yards to go on the seven third downs they converted.
Reiff said the Vikings took pride in closing out the game late in the fourth. Up by two touchdowns with 8:18 remaining, the Vikings operated a 12-play, 5:55 drive that resulted in a field goal. Murray picked up 49 of his yards on that drive.
Zimmer pointed toward the offensive line’s performance as a catalyst for controlling the game despite facing a top-notch defensive line.
“Thank goodness it’s been the strength of our football team this year,” Zimmer said. “I just like their toughness and their mentality and their grit and the way they go about their business.”