EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — With play-action pass after play-action pass, Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams just kept picking Minnesota's proud and proven defense apart.
Opportunities for the Vikings to disrupt Goff's rhythm with a well-timed sack or a hurried incompletion were scant, as the high-octane Rams never let up in that 38-31 victory last week over the suddenly sputtering Vikings.
"They don't give you too many drop-back passes where you can rush the quarterback," coach Mike Zimmer said after that humbling performance when Goff went 26 for 33 for 465 yards and five touchdowns.
The pressure is on the Vikings (1-2-1) to rebound from this rough first quarter of the season and climb back toward the top of the NFC where they've been expected to be. Speaking of pressure, well, the Vikings haven't been producing enough of it.
"Just get him off his spot, you know? Be effective," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "Put a lot of pressure in his face and around his legs."
Goff was only sacked once and hit twice in 35 passing plays. With Todd Gurley's dangerous presence in the backfield, the Vikings simply weren't able to prioritize rushing Goff over stopping the ground game.
With Rams coach Sean McVay cleverly calling a variety of rollout and misdirection plays, the Vikings simply weren't able to get to Goff in time. That's one reason why their linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks were out of sorts in coverage all night.
"We've just got to get in the classroom, fix our mistakes, see what we did wrong and just try to get better," said defensive end Danielle Hunter, who has four of the team's 11 sacks.
The Vikings actually rank seventh in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt at 8.4 percent. As in their loss to Buffalo the week before, though, they didn't deliver that drive-ending or touchdown-saving takedown of the quarter against the Rams when they needed it most.
Richardson pointed to the myriad ways the Rams were able to stay a step ahead with their scheme and, essentially, use the strengths of the Vikings against them.
"It might look like we're not pass rushing, but that's what we're doing. We're doing our job," Richardson said. "I think it can get better."
The Vikings not only led the league last season in fewest points and yards allowed, but they denied opponents on third downs more often than any other team. So far this year, their foes have displayed a desire to call more aggressive plays on second down so as to avoid those difficult scenarios.
"It's harder to get sacks. Guys are scheming so you won't be able to get sacks. Quarterbacks are aware of that too," Richardson said, not even mentioning the increased emphasis on roughing-the-passer penalties. "In the schemes, it's two-seconds-it's-gone."
Still indefinitely missing defensive end Everson Griffen , while he gets treatment for mental health issues, the Vikings won't have much easier of a time this week at Philadelphia. The Eagles, of course, won the last meeting 38-7 in the NFC championship game last season with the same type of multi-faceted attack the Rams employed to keep the Vikings from digging in and unleashing their pass rush.
"The past makes you who you are," Richardson said, adding: "We have things we need to work on. Now we've got to get to it. We've got to change those. Otherwise we're going to get beat again."
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