A review of the final postgame statistics in the Vikings' 38-10 win over the St. Louis Rams reveals a much different game than the scoreboard displayed. One stat made all the difference, as the Rams turned the ball over four times.
The first fumble by quarterback Kyle Boller resulted in a 52-yard touchdown for defensive end Jared Allen. The next three turnovers – two fumbles and an interception – all thwarted St. Louis threats as they sniffed the end zone before each of those mistakes, eliminating potential touchdowns inside the 5-yard line.
It was that kind of day for the Rams, who melted down time and again and allowed the opportunistic Vikings to build and increase a comfortable lead throughout the bulk of the game. When it was done, the Rams had denied themselves as much as the Vikings had.
The formula for the Vikings was much the same as it had been against the Green Bay Packers six days earlier. St. Louis committed to stopping the run (Adrian Peterson had 69 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries) and quarterback Brett Favre took full advantage, completing 18 of 24 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Once again, he showed no favorites, with Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor and Bernard Berrian all catching three or four passes apiece for anywhere between 39 and 66 yards.
However, turnovers were the story of the day, especially for the Vikings defense, which avoided surrendering more than a field goal with the starters still in the game because of those Rams miscues.
Minnesota's offense was impressive early, with Favre missing on only one pass, a bullet that Rice could have had. Rice started the drive with an 11-yard slant and Peterson followed with a 9-yard reception on a screen. After Peterson picked up a first down with two runs, Favre went deep for Percy Harvin, once on a 22-yard slant in the middle of the field and once deep down the right sideline for 22 yards to the 5-yard line. It took only one more Peterson carry for 5 yards around left end and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The defense was even more explosive. After allowing a 35-yard pass to TE Randy McMichael to open the Rams' first drive and one more first down, Boller panicked with Kevin Williams bearing down. He gathered to pass and the ball came out of his hand before his arm went forward. Jared Allen scooped up the ball and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 9:47 to play in the first quarter.
One drive later, the Rams were on the move again. Boller was sharp with quick-hitting passes, the biggest play being a 23-yard strike to Donnie Avery. Following a 13-yard run by Jackson, St. Louis was set up on the 1-yard line, but a botched handoff exchange between Boller and Jackson ended with Allen jumping on the loose ball at the 4-yard line.
Four plays later, the Vikings were giving the ball right back to the Rams when Favre misfired and threw right to Minnesota native James Laurinaitis, who returned it to the 25-yard line. Boller got one first down with a 14-yard pass to Daniel Fells on third down, but eventually the Vikings defense stiffened and forced a 29-yard Josh Brown field goal with 7:38 to play in the second quarter.
The Vikings responded with their own field goal drive, thanks to solid field position after a 27-yard kick return by Harvin that ended with a horse-collar tackle. Starting at the 44-yard line, Favre moved the ball across midfield with a 19-yard pass to Harvin to open the drive. On third-and-12, a completion to Taylor came up 2 yards short but moved the Vikings into field goal position. Ryan Longwell capped the drive with a 47-yard field to give Minnesota a 17-3 lead with 5:34 to play in the first half.
Once again, the Rams were on the move when Boller completed passes of 11 yards to TE Daniel Fells and 25 yards to Jackson. After rushes of 10 and 11 yards, the Rams were in the red zone and looking to score again. And, once again, the Rams self-destructed when Fells caught a pass and tried to back into the end zone. Instead, Chad Greenway made the tackle and popped the ball loose and into the arms of E.J. Henderson. Another Rams threat was thwarted and the Vikings were able to hold onto a 17-3 lead at halftime.
Just like they started the game, the Vikings offense started the second half with a scoring drive. Peterson started with a 13-yard run and Favre picked up another first down with a 12-yard slant pass to Berrian. But it was Sidney Rice who hit on the big play. Favre faked a quick pass to the left, faked a handoff up the middle and then unleashed a bomb for Rice down the right sideline. Despite contact, Rice kept his concentration on the ball and came down with a 42-yard reception. One play later, Favre found Shiancoe in a seam down the middle of the field for a 13-yard touchdown and a 24-3 Vikings lead with 9:15 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts, the Rams fired up their offense again. They got their initial first down on a third-down sack by Kevin Williams when he twisted Boller's head around for a personal foul and automatic first down. Boller went to work from there, hitting Donnie Avery for 14 yards and Danny Amendola for 14 more, completions that sandwiched a 15-yard Jackson run. But with the ball in the red zone, the self-destructing Rams struck again. On fourth-and-6, it appeared the Rams had too many receivers in one area, leading safety Tyrell Johnson to the pass for an interception in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Vikings were looking to seal the win and did that with another touchdown drive. It started with a 34-yard pass interference penalty when Rice was cut off while going for a deep pass. That moved the ball across midfield, and the Vikings went to Peterson for another first down. Favre then found Shiancoe for completions of 11 and 8 yards before hitting Berrian for 8 more. Peterson took care of the final 7 yards with a touchdown run to extend the lead to 31-3.
The Rams didn't give up and drove for their first touchdown of the game with Marc Bulger replacing Boller. The Vikings also substituted backups liberally on defense. The Rams picked up the initial first down of the drive with another unnecessary roughness penalty tacked on and moved across midfield with an 11-yard pass. Three plays later, Bulger found Avery for a 27-yard touchdown with 6:45 to play.
However, the Vikings' backups wouldn't just lie down. With Tarvaris Jackson in the game, he hit Naufahu Tahi on a screen and the fullback found blocking in front of him for a 32-yard gain. Three plays later, Jackson hit Taylor for another screen and this one went 33 yards. On the ninth play of the drive, Taylor plowed into the end zone for a 38-10 lead that held up in the final two minutes.
The Vikings entered Sunday with fans talking about a "trap" game. Instead, the Rams trapped themselves with four turnovers – all four resulting in lost points and helping the Vikings to a 5-0 record.
Vikings use turnovers to spark 38-10 win
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