Vikings Fall Hard, 41-21

The St. Louis Rams dominated the Vikings on offense, defense and special teams in a 41-21 blowout that wasn't even that close.

You know it's a bad day when the pipes in the men's room at the Metrodome are more explosive than the Vikings.

A broken pipe caused water to spill into the concourse and press box and reroute human traffic that left the Metrodome in floods after halftime, and that might have been the most interesting development of the day in a game where the Vikings offense and defense played without much purpose.

The Rams offense went for 416 yards, including 168 rushing yards that kept the Vikings defense from setting the modern-day record for least rushing yards yielded, while allowing a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 28 games, as Steven Jackson went for 142 yards on 25 carries. The defense also failed to get a sack, fumble or interception.

While the defense had players talking about not being ready to play, the offense wasn't much better. Rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson was 20 for 34 for 213 yards, a late touchdown and two interceptions for a 62.5 rating, and he also was the team's leading rusher with 34 yards. Travis Taylor was the leading receiver with 54 yards.

Only two late touchdowns by the Vikings kept the game from looking even more ridiculous than the 41-21 blowout for the Rams.

Jackson's woes started early. On his second pass, he tried for a quick hit to the left sideline, a pass that Ron Bartell jumped on for an interception and a 38-yard touchdown return for a 7-0 St. Louis lead with 13:38 to play.

The Minnesota offense went three-and-out on its next possession, and St. Louis started its march into Vikings territory. Steven Jackson picked up the initial first down with an 18-yard run, and Isaac Bruce followed with a 13-yard reception that backed up 15 yards after he was flagged for tossing the ball at CB Ronyell Whitaker. Dane Looker took an end-around 13 yards for another first down, and, one play later, Bruce made a diving catch for a 23-yard gain to overcome a holding call that put St. Louis at second-and-20. But that was as far as the Rams would get. Jeff Wilkins capped the drive with a 42-yard field goal to extend the Rams lead to 10-0.

But midway through the first quarter, the Vikings offense found its groove, at least for one drive. On the second play, Tarvaris Jackson hit Bethel Johnson for a 19-yard catch-and-run, and rookie Martin Nance caught a 12-yard pass that he fumbled and Travis Taylor recovered to put them on the doorstep of the red zone. Jackson put them at the 20 with a 7-yard run, and when he hit Travis Taylor for 14 yards, they were looking at first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Chester Taylor brought them to the 1 with a 4-yard run, and Jackson capped it on third down with a 1-yard scramble into the end zone with 2:04 to play in the first quarter.

After three punts between the teams, the Vikings were back in business at their own 24-yard line. They drove across midfield when Chester Taylor broke a tackle for a 16-yard gain, but three plays later Jackson unloaded a pass while getting knocked back – a toss that floated high and was intercepted by Bartell again.

The Rams took advantage of the midfield position, with Bruce starting the drive with a 14-yard reception, followed by catches of 13 and 18 yards by Torry Holt, his first of the game. From there, Steven Jackson took it into the end zone with a 4-yard run to put the Rams ahead 17-7 with 8:12 to play in the first half.

When the Vikings went three-and-out, it left the Rams plenty of time to go on their first touchdown drive that didn't follow a Vikings turnover. Jackson started with a 13-yard run, but Kevin Curtis came up with the most explosive play of the half, a 31-yard reception down the left sideline. Holt converted a third down with a 12-yard catch, and Jackson finished the drive by taking a shovel pass 10 yards into the end zone for a 24-7 lead that held up until halftime.

But the Rams didn't let up at the start of the second half, either. On their first possession of the third quarter, the Rams drove across midfield, where Wilkins kicked a 53-yard field goal for a 27-7 lead.

On their next possession, the Rams went 73 yards – with two 11-yard passes to Holt and a 26-yarder to TE Aaron Walker highlighting the drive before Jackson drove in from 2 yards out for a 34-7 St. Louis lead with 4:16 to play in the third quarter.

Minnesota's offense picked up one first down on a 21-yard pass to Travis Taylor, but that was followed by an exchange of punts before St. Louis returned to its scoring ways. Steven Jackson gained 14 on a reception and 8 on a run before he rattled off a 59-yard run that broke the Vikings' bid for the modern-day record of least rushing yards given up. It also put the Rams ahead 41-7 and ended the Rams' scoring domination.

The Vikings scored on consecutive possessions to make the game look closer than it was for the majority of the contest. The first scoring drive of the half started with a 65-yard kickoff return that put them in St. Louis territory, and when Dexter Coakley was flagged for pass interference on Billy McMullen in the end zone, it set up Chester Taylor's 1-yard TD run with 9:28 to play.

When the defense forced another St. Louis punt, the Vikings offense went through a softened Rams defense on an 87-yard drive. Billy McMullen started with receptions of 16 and 5 yards, and Jackson converted another first down with a 4-yard sneak. But once again, the best Jackson connection came on a well-executed screen that Mewelde Moore took 46 yards to the 2-yard line. After a loss, Jackson hit Travis Taylor for a 3-yard touchdown pass to get to the 41-21 final.

The loss dropped the Vikings to 6-10 (and into better draft position) and a season of frustration and discontent for many players and fans and signaled an offseason ripe with changes.

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