Vikings-Rams Game Plan

While the focus will be on rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, things set up nicely for the Vikings' running game. The Rams, meanwhile, will bring a fairly reliable pass defense. Plus, get the key matchups to watch and the injury impact for Sunday's season finale.


Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will get a chance to rebound after the Vikings' dreadful performance in a loss to Green Bay last Thursday.

The Vikings passing game has been suspect all season — it won't get any better now that coach Brad Childress has jettisoned the team leader in touchdown receptions (Marcus Robinson) — and the Rams' pass defense is eighth in the NFL.

But the Rams are next to last in the league against the run, meaning it could be a big day for running back Chester Taylor. Taylor has been quiet in the past two games but this could be his chance to finish the season with a bang.

The Vikings would be wise to at least create the perception that they can throw the ball early in the game so they can set-up the run. If that doesn't happen, the Rams will stack the box as so many teams have done before.

The Vikings defense, meanwhile, could be in for a long day against the pass. Minnesota has fallen to last in the NFL against the pass and the Rams are No. 4 in passing offense with quarterback Marc Bulger leading the way.

It won't matter that the Vikings run defense is dominant if Bulger can sit back and pick apart the Minnesota secondary all day.


The Vikings rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and will be without CBs Fred Smoot and Cedric Griffin Sunday. One reason teams pass on the Vikings so much is because they rank first against the run, allowing just 54.5 yards a game and 2.6 yards per attempt. Even though they have given up a lot of yards, their opponent's passer rating is a very respectable 71.4. The Rams are expected to still try and run, while knowing the passing matchups can be exploited.

Defensively, while Vikings RB Chester Taylor will get his yards, the Rams have to make enough stops to force rookie Tarvaris Jackson into passing situations.


Rams interior line vs. Vikings DTs Pat and Kevin WilliamsPat Williams is listed as 317 pounds, which might be his weight from the waist up. Rams Gs Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito, along with C Brett Romberg have been very good run blocking in recent weeks. This will be their biggest challenge.

  • Rams WRs Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis vs. Vikings CBs Antoine Winfield, Ronyell Whitaker, Charles Gordon and Michael Hawkins — Winfield is a very good corner, but with Fred Smoot and Cedric Griffin hurt, the other corners on the roster are Whitaker, Gordon and Hawkins, who was claimed on waivers Wednesday from Cleveland. The Vikings will be hard-pressed to slow down the Rams' passing game.

  • Vikings rookie right tackle Ryan Cook vs. Rams DE Leonard Little — Cook has seen almost all the playing time the past two weeks and was taken to school several times last Thursday night going against Packers Pro Bowl end Aaron Kampman. It won't get any easier against the Rams disruptive left end Leonard Little. Little has 12 sacks this season and 21.5 over the past two seasons. This will be a good test for Cook heading into the offseason.

  • The Vikings defense — led by the tackle duo of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams — hasn't had a team rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Week 2. Rams running back Steve Jackson, who is fifth in the NFL with 1,386 yards on the ground, will provide a good final test for the Williams brothers. Jackson has gone for more than 100 yards five times this season. He also is a threat out of the backfield with a team-leading 88 catches. This means the linebacking corps could be busy.

  • Vikings running back Chester Taylor vs. Rams LB Will Witherspoon — Taylor is going to want to close the season on a positive note after getting only 26 combined carries and 87 yards in the past two games. MLB Will Witherspoon will be among those in charge of making sure Taylor does not return to the form he displayed before suffering bruised ribs on Dec. 3 in Chicago.


    The Vikings will be very thin at cornerback with Cedric Griffin and Fred Smoot out. Antoine Winfield will start at left corner, and either Charles Gordon or Ronyell Whitaker will start on the right side. Whichever one doesn't start will play in nickel situations. Newcomer Michael Hawkins also could see action, although he will have to be a quick study.

    The Rams enter the season finale in good health. Against the Minnesota running game, one question will be how effective DE Victor Adeyanju will be with a new cast on his right arm.

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