MINNEAPOLIS — WHO: Minnesota Vikings vs. Los Angeles Chargers
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 14 at 3:05 p.m. CT
WHERE: Sofi Stadium, Inglewood, CA.
The 3-5 Minnesota Vikings head west to play the Los Angeles Chargers in their second straight road game, after disappointing back-to-back losses. The 5-3 Chargers bounced back in Week 9 after two straight losses with a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Vikings are coming off a loss against the Ravens where they had two interceptions, zero turnovers and, at one point, a 14-point lead. They also gave up 247 rushing yards and lost the time of possession battle by nearly 23 minutes. Things have gone from bad to worse this week. An unidentified Vikings player landed in the hospital with COVID pneumonia Tuesday, after having trouble breathing. On Thursday, Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak confirmed the player hospitalized is guard Dakota Dozier. Harrison Smith, who went on the COVID-19 list just 90 minutes before kickoff in Baltimore, has been ruled out for this Sunday's game as well. Then Dalvin Cook was hit with a lawsuit by his ex-girlfriend Tuesday night, alleging domestic violence. Cook will play Sunday and the offense will be relying on his production, after a big game against the Ravens.
Here are three keys to the game:
Convert on 3rd down. How many times have we seen the Vikings running off the field to make room for the punt team this season? Minnesota is 25th in the league, only converting on 35.7% of third downs this season. They are only 30% in that category in the last three games and 1-2 in that stretch. The Vikings went 5-14 on third downs against the Ravens (after going 1-14 on third downs in the loss to the Cowboys), and you could feel the game slip from their grasp when they couldn't sustain drives in the second half. This offense is at a crossroads, and their ability to find success will determine if the team can push for a playoff berth down the stretch. It also will determine the game against L.A.
Slow down Austin Ekeler and Chargers run game. Ekeler is averaging nearly 126 yards in Chargers home games this season and he's the only player in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns in 2021. The Vikings are 30th in the league in run defense, giving up 137 rushing yards a game this season. They also allowed two receiving touchdowns to running backs last week against Baltimore. The defense will also have to beware of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. He can make every throw on the field, but he's also a terrific athlete who can take off at any time and pick up yardage on the ground. After chasing Lamar Jackson all over the field last week, the Vikings defense will have their legs churning in overdrive again Sunday.
Finish. With the exception of the game against Seattle, each Vikings game has come down to the last play, and five of those games have resulted in losses. Whether it's missed field goals or just not making enough plays late, the Vikings have to start coming out on the winning end if they want to salvage this season. It's not how you start. It's how you finish. The Vikings usually start well, but the finishing part leaves much to be desired for fans. The team knows the faithful is weary. Time to put it all together again.
The City of Angels is the place to be this Sunday. Kickoff is at 3:05 pm and I'll be live tweeting (@ReggieWilsonTV) from Sofi Stadium. We'll have all of your game day coverage throughout the evening on KARE and make sure to stay up for Vikings Extra after Sunday Night Football.