Stifling defense, Murray help Vikings knock off Rams
MINNEAPOLIS — Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught the pass over the middle and turned toward the end zone looking to put the Los Angeles Rams ahead in a matchup of division leaders in the NFC.
Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris — playing for an injured Andrew Sendejo — closed in and grabbed Kupp short of the goal line, punched the ball with his free hand, then stripped it away and recovered the fumble.
Minnesota’s vaunted defense is getting big plays from everyone as the Vikings establish themselves as one of the NFC best teams.
Meanwhile, Latavius Murray ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns and Minnesota’s defense held down the Rams’ top-scoring offense in a 24-7 win on Sunday.
“I’m just trying to be prepared. I think I can be a big contributor in this league and for this team,” Harris said. “Sometimes that’s on special teams. Today my number was called on defense. So when I go out there, I just try and execute.”
Case Keenum was 27-of-38 passing for 280 yards and a touchdown against his former team, and Adam Thielen added six catches for 123 yards and a 65-yard touchdown reception for the Vikings (8-2), who won their sixth straight game.
Minnesota, which entered the game with the league’s fifth-best defense in terms of yards and points allowed, held Los Angeles to 261 total yards on 4.7 yards per play and a season low in points.
“These guys work their rear ends off all week long and all year long, and get a chance to go in there and prove what they can do,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’re going to need it down the stretch. That’s just how this game works. You got to have a lot of depth and we’re fortunate to have some good football players who aren’t playing right now.”
Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley had five carries for 20 yards and a touchdown on the first possession of the game, but was held to 17 yards on 10 carries the rest of the way. The Rams converted 3 of 11 chances on third down.
“It kind of messes with you because you think you are going to do good the rest of the game,” Gurley said of the successful opening drive. “Obviously we didn’t and we weren’t able to execute like we wanted to. We are going to go look at the film and see what we did wrong, see what they did right, take this L on the chin and go get better from it.”
Jared Goff was 23 of 37 for 225 yards passing for Los Angeles (7-3), which had won four games in a row.
The Rams went 75 yards in nine plays on the first drive of the game and finished with a 6-yard touchdown run by Gurley. Minnesota held Los Angeles to 179 yards the rest of the way.
“We just didn’t play good on that first series, to be honest with you,” Zimmer said. “It’s nice to say you made adjustments, but the players played their butts off.”
Kupp’s turnover in the second quarter was the first for the Rams in 11 quarters. The previous one was a Goff interception in the third quarter of Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals in London.
“I just went for a punch, felt the ball move a little bit and ripped, and then it dropped right out,” Harris said, who also saved a late touchdown with a deflection in the end zone.
The Vikings began to take control on the offensive side in the third quarter. Murray had his second touchdown to cap an 11-play, 71-yard drive in that quarter.
Minnesota held the ball for 20:06 in the second half with 99 yards rushing, and tallied 452 total yards in the game.
“We definitely got humbled today by a very good team,” Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay said. “You’ve got to look at yourself critically. I’ve got to do a much better job for our team and especially for our offense. I didn’t put them in enough good situations today. But every single loss provides us with an opportunity to handle some adversity the right way. Up to this point, our team has done that.”
NOTES: Minnesota DE Brian Robison was inactive Sunday with a back injury. Robison showed up on the injury report on Friday with the injury. RT Mike Remmers (concussion) and S Andrew Sendejo (groin/hamstring) were other starters out for the Vikings. ... Los Angeles lost starting CB Kayvon Webster (concussion) and backup CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (thigh) during the game. Neither player returned. ... Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes missed one defensive series with a left calf injury, but later returned. ... The Rams have scored on their opening drive in five straight games. They were 7-1 when scoring on the opening drive this season. ... Los Angeles had been one of two teams (Kansas City) that hadn’t trailed by 14-plus points in any game this season.