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Cousins ​​finds his receivers;  Vikings find well-deserved win over Chargers

INGLEWOOD, Calif .– The Vikings had lost two in a row, traveling west after perhaps their most tumultuous week of the season, and had to play the Chargers without Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce, Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith or Patrick Peterson.

The fact that they have Justin Jefferson on their roster means that there is always an avenue available where attacking football gets a little easier. They took full advantage of it during the most important moments of their 27-20 victory at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

The last three passes Kirk Cousins ​​threw to Jefferson, one day the receiver caught nine for 143 yards, came on third downs. The former shot an 11-yard pass interference penalty on Chris Harris, keeping a practice alive that put the Vikings in front for good. The second helped them avoid a three-and-out on a TD workout that put them 10. And the last – a 27-yard grab on Tevaughn Campbell who withstood a challenge from the Chargers – meant the Vikings would extend a practice that started with their third detention penalty of the day, to finish with Cousins ​​in victory formation after finding Adam Thielen for 18 yards on third and 20 and Dalvin Cook gained 4 yards on a fourth toss .

Yes, things can be simpler than the Vikings have been in recent weeks, when their two Pro Bowl receivers combined for 13 catches in a straight loss to the Cowboys and Ravens. Coach Mike Zimmer said he knew Jefferson “was very frustrated” with his lack of targets, adding that he dismissed the receiver this week and promised to get him involved.

“I said to him, ‘You have to do something for me, and that’s come here and train really hard and do the things that you’re supposed to do, and study and be precise in your routes, and we’re going to t ‘have the ball,’ Zimmer said.

It would seem like an obvious part of the Vikings’ game plan each week (although Zimmer criticized offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak for admitting it at his press conference on Thursday), but on Sunday the Vikings launched their attack on the third in the league. -better pass defense just by trusting Jefferson and Thielen.

The cousins ​​found both receivers with midfield strikes against the Chargers’ split safety looks, and trusted Jefferson in particular to make contested catches along the sideline. He landed two 27-yard jumping catches against Campbell, screaming and pumping his fists after the fourth quarter catch. Replays showed he kept his hand under the ball as it fell to the ground, which cost Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley a time-out when his challenge failed.

“I didn’t think they were going to cancel it,” Jefferson said. “I knew I had caught it.”

Jefferson said the Vikings made a “big adjustment” this week by focusing on handing the ball over to their best players, adding that Cousins ​​knew he could throw the ball at him anytime the ball was thrown. Chargers’ defense gave them a certain look.

If it’s confusing that it took the Vikings so long to get there, they couldn’t have afforded to wait any longer.

The victory – the Vikings’ first since their week off and the second on the road this season – moved them to 4-5, held them tied for last place in the NFC playoffs, and changed the tenor of the game. ‘a week that could have involved some troubling questions. they entered a home game with the Packers at 3-6.

The Vikings beat the Chargers 194-98 total in yards in the first half, but were flagged eight times for 93 yards, including a Christian Darrisaw penalty that erased a Cousins ​​touchdown pass to CJ Ham and turned the drive into a field goal.

BOXSCORE: Vikings 27, LA Chargers 20

They gave up on a Chargers touchdown with 1.5 hours left in the half, bringing the points they allowed in the final two minutes of the first half to 52, the worst in the NFL. After burning their three timeouts in an effort to reclaim the ball, the Vikings ran Cook for a 3-yard loss on the first down. The cousins ​​threw incomplete shots under pressure on the second and third downs, and the Vikings punted after holding the ball for just 19 seconds.

Only a Xavier Woods break in Justin Herbert’s third shot against Jared Cook prevented the Chargers from getting a second goal in the dying minutes, and the Vikings led 13-10 at halftime.

Herbert led a 75-yard touchdown to give the Chargers the lead early in the second half, and Los Angeles forced a three-and-out on the Vikings’ next drive. By the time she had to stand up, the Vikings’ defense was at its best.

Rookie security Camryn Bynum, walking away with Harrison Smith on the COVID-19 roster, sacked Herbert in a third-down blitz to force a punt. This led to the Vikings touchdown, when a pressurized Cousins ​​passed to Tyler Conklin on the fourth and the 1 goal – the tight end’s second TD of the day, doubling his career tally to four.

The Vikings affected Herbert with two-fail pressure on the next drive, then went up 10 on Cook’s 1-yard touchdown run with 9:29 left in the game.

Herbert’s 195 passing yards were his low this season; The Chargers’ 253 offensive yards were their second shortest of the season.

“I really think the corners did a good job challenging these guys. They are two very good receivers. [Keenan Allen and Mike Williams], and the tight end [Jared Cook]He’s a good player too, “Zimmer said.” So I think we did a good job. “

He also called Eric Kendricks ‘interception a “big time” in the second quarter and saluted his sack on the Chargers’ first pass attempt.

When the time came to close the game, Zimmer said he didn’t want the Chargers to get the ball with a chance for Herbert to tie the game. Ahead of 27-20 with 2:32 to go, they chose to go (a day they also tried a false punt for the second week in a row before officials blew the game up).

Cook arrived in the right corner in the toss, and the Vikings’ offense – who spent so many weeks frantically trying to come back, or nervously watching the defense attempt to stop a late rally – were able to end their game. day in victory training.

“It’s the best formation in football,” said Conklin, who also had a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter. “Every week you have your Saturday visit and you’re training for victory, and that’s what you want to be at the end of the day on Sunday.”

It’s so much simpler that way.

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