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Vikings dominate in second half to wear down Rams

In a battle of NFC powers, the Minnesota Vikings wore down the Los Angeles Rams with a dominant second-half performance to win 24-7. Here's what we learned:

  1. This is Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's dream team. The Vikings are tougher than their opponents on a weekly basis on both sides of the ball, a fact that showed up dramatically in the second half Sunday. Minnesota's offensive line wore down the Rams' front, opening up huge holes for their running backs on their way to 171 rushing yards, while Rams running back Todd Gurley was repeatedly stymied by the heavyweight Vikings defensive line.

Before a meaningless garbage time drive, the Vikings had out-gained the Rams 288-57 in the second half.

  1. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen continues to be the MVP of this team and an early favorite for postseason All-Pro honors. He made a handful of difficult grabs throughout the day to keep drives going, then took a short pass 65 yards for a backbreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter. That big play came against Rams cornerback Dominique Hatfield, who was only on the field because of injuries to two Rams cornerbacks: Nickell Robey-Coleman and Kayvon Webster. The Rams have enjoyed exceptional injury luck all season, but it bit them Sunday.
  1. Rams receiver Cooper Kupp has enjoyed a terrific rookie season, but he's had some costly plays in the team's biggest games. His fumble on the goal line in the first half took points off the board and was the turning point in the game after a very evenly played first half. Kupp later had a brutal third-down drop that could have put the Rams into the red zone when the game was still in doubt. Los Angeles had few chances in this game, so each one of those mistakes were killers.
  1. Case Keenum doesn't have to look over his shoulder after this 280-yard performance. He consistently made smart decisions, escaping pressure with his trademark improvisational skills early in the game. Keenum recognized an all-out blitz was coming on his touchdown throw to Thielen. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has done a great job scheming guys open all season and was on a roll in the second half of this game.
  1. After a touchdown drive to open the game, the Rams were stopped on nine straight drives by the Vikings' defense. Without any schemed-up big plays this week, the team's season-long struggles in short yardage stuck out. While the Vikings ran the ball up the gut in the red zone twice for scores, the Rams couldn't pick up a yard on two shots on a second-and-one with Gurley, allowing too much penetration in the backfield.
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