The Vikings-Rams game was knotted at seven in the third quarter, but Minnesota was in the process of taking control of the game because of what its offense and defense was doing on third downs.
Minnesota was 3-for-5 on offense, and its defense limited Los Angeles to 0-for-2. As a result, the Vikings gained 135 yards on 23 plays and possessed the football for 10:53 of the period, compared to the Rams totaling 22 yards on eight plays in the third quarter.
Adam Thielen has established himself as one of the NFL’s tops on third-down catches. He has 22 receptions on third downs, which ranks second in the league through Week 11.
Case Keenum connected with Thielen for a gain of 25 on third-and-2 and also found Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph for significant conversions during the third quarter. Here’s a look at all three.
Q3, 9:01 remaining — Third-and-4 at the Minnesota 20
The Vikings just had a toss to Stefon Diggs that converted a third-and-4 erased by a holding penalty on Laquon Treadwell.
Wright comes in for Diggs and lines up in a bunch formation behind Thielen and Rudolph on the right side of the formation. Thielen and Rudolph run clear outs and create space for Wright to streak across the field on a shallow cross.
Wright fluidly gains a step on Rams former-safety-turned-linebacker Mark Barron, and Keenum is able to hit Wright in stride thanks to a blitz pickup of linebacker Alec Ogletree by running back Jerick McKinnon.
Wright has enough time and space to turn up the field for a gain of 23.
Q3, 7:46 remaining — Third-and-2 at the Los Angeles 49
The Vikings again go to the shotgun formation but have Diggs on the outside left, followed by Thielen and Rudolph. Michael Floyd is at the right of the formation.
Rams backup safety Blake Countess is lined up across from Thielen and four yards off the line of scrimmage.
Los Angeles rushes five defenders, but Minnesota’s offensive line keeps the pocket tidy. Keenum can see Countess bite hard on an inside cut by Thielen, who quickly plants and heads outside with plenty of space. Keenum doesn’t hit Thielen in stride the way he did Wright, but Thielen shows his ability to track the ball with a diving catch for a gain of 25.
Q3, :26 remaining — Third-and-4 at the Los Angeles 6
The Vikings have the same personnel grouping as the play described above but line up with McKinnon wide right and Floyd out to the left. Rudolph is lined up behind Thielen, who is flanked by right tackle Rashod Hill and Diggs.
McKinnon goes in motion to his left, and Rudolph starts by acting like he’s blocking for McKinnon on a sweep before spinning and running to the right.
Rudolph catches the ball two yards behind the line of scrimmage, but he has ample running room that was created by the clever play design. The tight end fights through a hit by Trumaine Johnson and is able to extend the ball beyond the line-to-gain before heading out of bounds on the final play of the third quarter.
The Vikings took the lead for good two plays later when Latavius Murray scored his second rushing touchdown of the day.