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Los Angeles Chargers-Minnesota Vikings Takeaways

Week 10 of the NFL season has come to an end, and there were some surprise finishes during the weekend. The reigning champions, the 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dropped the ball against the 2-6 Washington Football Team. The 5-4 New England Patriots blew out the 5-4 Cleveland Browns in what fans expected to be a close battle. And most surprising of all, on Thursday Night Football, the 2-7 Miami Dolphins utterly dominated the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens. (All records used are the team’s records prior to Week 10)

For Los Angeles Chargers fans, however, Week 10 was not a very fun week. The 5-3 Chargers hosted the 3-5 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. In what was expected to be a fairly hard-fought win for the Chargers, the Vikings pulled out all the stops to make it a show on the road. What went well for the Chargers, and what went poorly? These are the Chargers-Vikings takeaways.

Game Summary

First Half

The match started off quite boringly, with back-to-back punts by the VIkings and Chargers. Following the Chargers punt, the Vikings were stuffed. On that drive, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked by Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa, causing a fumble that Chargers defensive tackle Justin Jones recovered. Unfortunately, the Chargers were not able to produce anything with that opportunity, leading to a quick punt. The Vikings started to drive down the field but were interrupted by the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter, compared to the snoozefest in the first, had some actual action to enjoy. The Vikings continued their drive down the field and kicked a field goal, putting the first points on the board. The Chargers responded with their own field goal in only six plays. Not wanting to be outdone, the Vikings drove back down the field and kicked yet another field goal, bringing the Vikings’ lead to 6-3. After a deep pass by Justin Herbert was intercepted well into Chargers territory, the Vikings were able to set up an easy touchdown to take the lead 13-3. Not one to be outdone, the Chargers drove 75 yards down the field to score on a 1-yard Larry Rountree run. After that Chargers touchdown, the Vikings and Chargers traded punts to end the half.

Second Half

The Chargers received the ball first in the second half, which they turned into a lengthy 4-minute drive and a touchdown on a 2-yard Herbert pass to running back Austin Ekeler. Fun fact: with this touchdown, Ekeler became the youngest running back since 1967 (referred to as the common draft era) to reach the 20-receiving-touchdown mark. Alvin Kamara, his “receiving-back rival” in New Orleans, has 19 receiving touchdowns, but is two months younger than Ekeler, so he will likely break that record in Week 11.

After that sidenote, let’s get back to the game. After that Ekeler touchdown, the Vikings receied the ball, but promptly went 3-and-out and punted back to the Chargers. The Chargers must have felt touched by their kindness and responded in kind, punting only five plays later. The Vikings decided to break the stalemate, driving 66 yards down the field in nine plays, scoring on a Kirk Cousins pass to tight end Tyler Conklin. With the score now 20-17 Vikings, the Chargers needed to rally to take the lead and shift the momentum. The Chargers proved incapable of that, going three-and-out on their next drive and giving the ball back to the Vikings. The Vikings gratefully accepted that gift, driving down the field yet again to score a touchdown, this time on a Dalvin Cook run.

With the score now 27-17, and the Vikings successfully holding the ball for over seven minutes on that drive, the Chargers’ chances were bleak. When the Chargers got the ball back, they tried to get the game back within a score by kicking a 24-yard field goal. However, the Vikings were simply too good at time management, burning out the last 4 minutes and 36 seconds to secure the 27-20 win.

What Went Well

Run Defense, Surprisingly

Justin Jones stopping Dalvin Cook for short gain

The Chargers defense managed to keep Dalvin Cook inefficient in the run game on Sunday. (Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports)

Considering how frustrating the Chargers’ run defense has been for Chargers fans this season, Sunday’s performance should be quite promising. Thanks to the return of Justin Jones and Kenneth Murray, who is now playing more of a hybrid/outside linebacker rather than a Mike (middle linebacker), the run defense felt much more composed and confident. To be able to limit Dalvin Cook, one of the league’s best running backs, to only 94 yards on 24 carries (3.9 yards per carry), is an insane bounceback from last week’s miserable performance.

Dustin Hopkins

It’s easy to tell the Chargers played poorly when the kicker gets a nod in this section. However, Hopkins did play well, going perfect on the day. With two made field goals from 46 and 24 yards, as well as two made extra points, Hopkins is making a strong introduction to Chargers faithful. Chargers fans were quite excited to find out that the Chargers signed the veteran kicker.

What Did Not

The Entire Offense

Justin Herbert tackling defender after interception
The Chargers’ offense struggled just to keep pace with the Vikings on Sunday. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports)

The Chargers’ entire offense simply looked sloppy on Sunday. Herbert was struggling to find his targets. When he did, it was a toss-up whether the receivers would catch the pass or not. The offensive line looked dazed and confused against the Vikings’ front seven. The playcalling by Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was dull and uninspired. It’s clear his playcalling routine is starting to be countered by half-decent teams who watch the film. Lastly, the Chargers need to get better with clock management. A pass-first offense is fine and all, but when the Vikings are able to hold onto the ball for 36 minutes, while the Chargers can only do it for 23, that is a major issue. The Chargers need to improve on their run game if they want to better control the clock.

The Pass Defense

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In a frustrating turn of events, the Chargers’ pass defense struggled while the run defense held their ground. Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had a field day against the Chargers, catching 9 of 11 targets for 143 yards (15.9 yards per reception). The Vikings’ other star receiver Adam Thielen also had a respectable performance, catching 5 of 7 targets for 65 yards.

It’s worrisome that the Chargers’ defense can’t seem to have a strong performance across the board. It feels like they always struggle against either the run or the pass. However, it’s hopeful to see that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is still tinkering with the defense. After all, if he’s still tinkering, then the defense will only get better from here. Chargers fans should keep in mind that this is still a rookie head coach here; fans should let them have some time to work out the kinks. Staley is smart enough to figure out an ideal scheme for the personnel available.

What Does This Mean?

Overall, the Chargers have a plethora of issues to work out. The offense needs some inspiration and fresh playcalling schemes. The defense needs to stay consistent across the board. The receivers need to be more reliable when catching the ball. There are plenty more specific issues, but these are a few of the major ones. As mentioned earlier, Chargers fans just need to stay hopeful that Staley and Co. will figure out how to solve these issues. After all, it’s much easier to identify the issues than it is to actually solve them. These are the Chargers-Vikings takeaways.

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