Week 16 Players of the Game: LA Rams at Minnesota Vikings

Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on as players warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tough loss for the men in purple on Sunday. It was one where the defense showed up, even though the LA Rams scored 30. A TD was given up on a punt return. The offense had three 3 and outs and another 4-play drive. The defense setup the offense inside the rams Red Zone twice, which led to 10 of the 23 points scored. If you give credit to the defense for allowing 23 and then providing an easy 10 to the offense, the 13 point difference is very good against the Rams. The punt return was a back breaker. The first half offense was anemic. The Rams were able to hang on for the win. Still, there were a few players who did impress on Sunday.

Anthony Barr

Game ball would’ve gone to Anthony Barr if the Vikings were able to pull a victory out. He was balling all day. Barr’s 1st interception was just before halftime when the Vikings were getting shut out. He was unable to get to his feet quick enough to return the INT for a score, but it did lead to the team’s first 3 points. Barr’s 2nd interception was at the beginning of the 3rd quarter after the offense wasted a Xavier Woods INT. That setup the team’s first TD. Barr kept the team in the game when the offense had nothing going. The first 10 points of the game were a direct result of his play. The team was down 13-10 and that was the closest the game was after the opening drive TD from the Rams. Anthony Barr deserved better today.

Xavier Woods

Woods started the 2nd half off with an interception. He returned it back to the Vikings 38 from the 23. The defense was also able to hold the Rams passing offense to under 200 yards. There were very little chunk plays from the Rams offense in large part to the duo of Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods. The run defense from the team was disappointing, but the big gains were limited. The Rams test the safeties and LBs a lot with Kupp and their TEs. Woods held his own on Sunday.

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Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson had the tough task of facing Jalen Ramsey for most of the game. He was mostly held in check in the first half with only 2 catches for 14 yards. JJ came out in the 2nd half ready to go. He had 6 catches for 102 yards after the half. He was a big part of the 2nd half surge. The team came up short but wouldn’t have been close without JJ’s efforts. I do have to ding him for celebrating a 1st down with 40 seconds left on the clock and the clock running. Just a dumb move by a young player. He did have some pretty harsh words about the play calling in the Red Zone: “I think we should be more aggressive as soon as we get down there…but I’m not the one calling the plays.”

Harrison Smith

Must give credit to the other half of the safety combo. It is such a tough matchup with the Rams. They keep Kupp and Higbee in the slot and it is tough. Harrison Smith was his usual self keeping the big plays to a minimum and strong help against the run. He led the team in tackles with 9 total (7 solo). That is impressive, but also damning for the run defense in front of Smith. Smith also had a moment where he got an unsportsmanlike penalty after the Rams got the punt return TD. That didn’t help when the team needed some leadership. It was a blemish on a nice day for Smith. 

It has been a season of “almosts” for the Vikings. This loss doesn’t mean the playoff hopes are over, but it does mean the Vikings need help to get in. Disappointing to say the least. That slim chance likely keeps Mike Zimmer employed through Jan 2nd. However, he is firmly on the hot seat.