The Minnesota Vikings traveled to the west coast for a showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. This game was initially scheduled for Sunday Night Football but was flexed out in favor of Bills versus Steelers. Minnesota aimed to stay one game back of Green Bay in the standings, before their week 16 meeting next Sunday.
This game marked the first game back for wide receiver Adam Thielen, who returned from a hamstring injury. Sunday’s matchup was Minnesota’s away finale for the 2019 season. A win would give them a 4-4 road record and a 10-4 record overall. Could the Chargers pull off an upset, or would Minnesota cruise to a victory?
The Vikings wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. On the game’s opening possession, they marched down the field for a touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins to rookie Irv Smith Jr. This was Smith Jr’s second touchdown of the year, and the only touchdown pass thrown by Cousins on the afternoon. Dan Bailey failed to convert the PAT, but the Vikings still lead 6-0.
Chargers kicker Michael Badgley tacked on a 41-yard field goal a few minutes later, and Minnesota took a 6-3 lead into the second quarter.
Another Dan Bailey field goal gave Minnesota a 9-3 advantage, but the Chargers would answer back. Philip Rivers took his team on a ten-play, 75-yard drive, which culminated in a 2-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Mike Williams. The Chargers now lead 10-9, but not for long.
The Vikings later retook the lead 12-10, but the Chargers offense had one last opportunity to score before halftime. Los Angeles was on the edge of field goal range with time ticking down in the second quarter, and then disaster struck.
Philip Rivers took a sack and lost control of the football. The ball was picked up by Vikings lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo and returned 56 yards for a defensive score. The Phillip Rivers sack fumble was one of SEVEN turnovers for the Los Angeles offense on the day. The Vikings cruised to a 19-10 lead into the locker room, despite just one offensive touchdown.
The Chargers fumbled yet again on their opening possession of the third quarter. Minnesota failed to score on their next drive, but that was the least of their worries. Star running back Dalvin Cook took a hard fall on the same shoulder that he injured two weeks ago in Seattle.
Cook managed to shake off the previous injury, but this one appeared to be more serious. He immediately left the game for the blue medical tent and was declared out of the game just minutes later. Cook’s status has not yet been announced, but all eyes will be centered on him as the Vikings head into week 16.
The rest of the third quarter proved to be rather uneventful for both sides. The Vikings added two additional field goals from Dan Bailey, while the Chargers offense was shut out. Minnesota held a 25-10 advantage at the end of three quarters.
Boone goes Boom
The fourth quarter became the Mike Boone show in Dalvin Cook’s absence. Backup running back, Alexander Mattison did not suit up for this game due to an ankle injury, so it was Mike Boone handling tailback duties. Naturally, Minnesota ran the ball for much of the fourth quarter with a big lead already. Boone rushed for a pair of scores in the fourth quarter alone and finished his day with 13 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t a bad afternoon for a guy who was the Vikings third-string runner just a week ago.
Meanwhile, the Chargers offense continued to be pitiful throughout the fourth quarter. Los Angeles committed turnovers on their final three possessions of the game. This included two more interceptions for Phillip Rivers, who now has 18 picks this season. The Vikings defense shut out the Chargers in the second half and cruised to an eventual 39-10 victory.
The Chargers dreadful season reached new heights on Sunday with a seven-turnover performance. After a wild card berth a year ago, Phillip Rivers and the rest of the offense looked lost. Los Angeles drops to 5-9, and are now guaranteed a losing 2019 season. On the other hand, the Vikings improved to 10-4, while staying one game back of Green Bay in the NFC North. Next week’s showdown will likely be for all the marbles when the Vikings and Packers meet once again.
Green Bay won the first matchup 21-16 in week 2, but the Vikings will be at home this time. Minnesota got Adam Thielen back this week, though the status of Dalvin Cook will now be on everyone’s minds throughout the week. Monday Night Football will be the perfect stage for these teams in week 16, as the NFC North crown is up for grabs.
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