The Vikings OL had No Answer for Aaron Donald

Vikings Keys to beating Rams
Sep 27, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams defeated the Vikings 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald proved once again why he’s known as the “game wrecker.” The Minnesota Vikings offensive line had no answer for the 3-time DPOY. The Rams secured a playoff berth with their 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Rams are having an excellent season so no one expected the Vikings to have an easy victory but the Rams were coming off a short week after playing Seattle on Tuesday. After a Covid outbreak two weeks ago, the Rams were hit hard. They had more than 20 players on the Covid list and were one of 3 games postponed heading into their match-up with Seattle. Even still, they found a way to beat Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium.

What Needed To Be Done

Any team playing the LA Rams has to develop plays to stop, slow down, or distract Aaron Donald. Donald, the 3-time DPOY, is a known pass-rush beast. Donald’s ability to sniff out big plays and read quarterbacks is the stuff of legend. He can also be a significant threat in the running game, as well. He is such a disruptive player that he needs to be double-teamed on almost every play. The Minnesota Vikings OL had already crumbled the previous week as Akiem Hick showed how to exploit them. It was going to be up to Klint Kubiak, offensive coordinator, to find some new looks for this struggling OL.

What Happened Instead

Instead of the OL producing some new looks or having any kind of answer for the future Hall of Famer, they were unable to stop him from ruffling QB Kirk Cousins’ feathers. It ended with Aaron Donald having the kind of game that makes him a contender for DPOY yet again. He had 5 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, and 7 QB pressures. He was consistently an issue. Oli Udoh, Ezra Cleveland, and Garrett Bradbury looked outmatched.

The constant pressure that Donald brought caused Cousins to rush to get rid of the ball. Kubiak needed to find an alternative way to buy Cousin’s more time in some sort of modified pocket. When that did not happen Cousins was forced to speed up his internal clock and dump the ball. It did not matter if Cousins tried to throw the ball inside or outside of the sticks, it seems like Donald was there to punish him. That kind of constant pressure would get to any quarterback. There was not much success with the Vikings run game either. While Donald is not traditionally known as a run stopper, he was that game. He seemed to be everywhere. 

How That Hurt The Vikings

There was optimism heading into this game that the stars would align a bit since an excellent Rams team was facing some challenges. The Rams had a short week, had dealt with large numbers of Covid disruptions, and Matthew Stafford played one of the worst games of his career. Stafford threw for 197 yards with 3 interceptions and only one touchdown. His quarterback rating was 46.8 which is his lowest of the season. The Viking defense did everything it could to help the offense stay in the game but it was not enough. It’s because of players like Donald that the Rams were able to stay in the game and ultimately win it. 

When teams have to stop a dynamic player like Donald, they have to consider the big picture. When offensive plays are designed to double team Donald or distract him it frees up other defensive linemen. Donald has proven over and over how he helps disrupt everything. This allowed the other defenders such as Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, and Greg Gaines to have success. When Donald plays well, typically the whole defense plays well, and that is what happened against the Vikings. This time it was not penalties that killed the Vikings’ chance of winning, it was Aaron Donald.

The Vikings’ next game comes against the Packers, who have Kenny Clark along the inside. In other words, the team’s iOL will need to get better in a hurry.