The St. Louis Rams know they are going to have to slug out a few hard-nosed victories on the road if they are going to find a way into the NFC playoff field.
They had a chance to get one in Minnesota, but penalties, a pedestrian performance for rookie sensation Todd Gurley and a questionable decision by coach Jeff Fisher derailed them. And by the time they left on Sunday evening, they were already kicking themselves.
Gurley’s streak of four straight games with 125-plus yards came to an end and Blair Walsh’s 40-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Vikings to a 21-18 victory over the Rams.
“Losses are one thing, but overtime losses are another,” Fisher said. “You know you’re definitely going to have your work cut out coming back off of these. So we'll definitely have our work cut out.”
Gurley was held to 89 yards on 24 carries. The Rams (4-4) committed 12 penalties, and Fisher’s decision to go for 2 after a first-quarter touchdown rather than try an extra point with Greg Zuerlein on a very windy day at TCF Bank Stadium ended up looming large when the game went to overtime tied at 18.
After Gurley’s 1-yard plunge pulled St. Louis to 10-6 late in the first quarter, Fisher went for 2. Gurley’s run off right tackle went nowhere.
“I felt like we’re going to need as many scoring opportunities as we possibly can,” Fisher said. “Also, it’s indicative of how the wind was. We liked what we had and I let the coaches know after I observed the wind. It’s a long kick and pushing the ball around. Whether it worked out or not, I would do it again.”
Zuerlein set a franchise record with a 61-yard field goal in the second quarter and added three more on the day, including a 53-yarder with 12 seconds to play that forced overtime and atoned for a miss from 48 yards on the previous drive.
Zuerlein said he was confident he would have made the extra point kicking into the wind in the first quarter, but did not question Fisher’s decision.
“I’m never surprised by anything coach Fisher does,” Zuerlein said. “It’s his call and I just go with it. I’m happy to do whatever he tells me to do.”
Adrian Peterson rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (6-2), who were livid after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had to leave with a concussion on a hit from Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner in the fourth quarter.
Bridgewater was sliding on a scramble when Joyner launched himself and hit the quarterback in the head with his left shoulder. Joyner was penalized on the play and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer implied Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended for an entire season for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal, was partly to blame.
“I do know that there’s a history with their defensive coordinator, and I'll leave it at that,” Zimmer said.
Fisher and Joyner were adamant it was not an intentionally dirty play. Joyner said he grew up just across the railroad tracks from Bridgewater in Miami and has nothing but respect for the second-year quarterback.
“If I could take it back, personally, I would take it back because I’m not a dirty player,” Joyner said. “I wouldn’t want to take joy from his mom or from his team. Was it intentional? Not at all.”
Former Rams quarterback Shaun Hill finished the game, doing just enough to move the Vikings into position for the winning kick after they stopped St. Louis on the opening possession of overtime.
Nick Foles completed 18 of 33 passes for 168 yards for St. Louis.
NOTES: The Rams played without defensive ends Robert Quinn (knee) and Chris Long (knee) and starting S T.J. McDonald (foot). … Zuerlein became the second kicker in NFL history with multiple field goals from 60-plus yards, joining Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. … Trumaine Johnson had an interception of Bridgewater in the end zone. … Peterson’s TD in the first quarter was the first allowed by the Rams defense in four weeks. … Kenny Britt had three catches for 87 yards, including a 55-yarder to set up Gurley’s TD.