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Meet this week's Rams opponent: Minnesota Vikings

The Orange County Register — Rich Hammond The Orange County Register

Nov. 14--Out in Minneapolis, Trojans and Bruins can coexist in peace, and enjoy winning together.

The Minnesota Vikings' success this season has been fueled by a stifling defense, one that is particularly strong against the run, and few front-seven players have been better this season than defensive end Everson Griffen, the former USC standout who is third in the NFL with 10 sacks.

Playing behind Griffen is former UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, who leads the Vikings (by a wide margin) with 71 total tackles. Together, they lead a Vikings defense that has regressed a bit against the pass this season but allows only 3.4 yards per rush attempt, second-best in the league.

Griffen's value was on display last Sunday, when he sat out the Vikings' victory over Washington with a foot injury. The Vikings allowed more than 20 points for the first time in two months but won 38-30.

"I was pretty close to playing, but the risk was not worth it," Griffen told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We got seven more weeks to go and I got to be healthy, so I'd rather miss one game than be done for four weeks."

The Vikings, like the Rams, did not practice Tuesday, but the expectation out of Minnesota seems to be that Griffen will be available for Sunday's game, and that's not great news for the Rams.

Griffen, a 2010 fourth-round pick, is in his eighth season and his fourth year as a full-time starter, and he's only two sacks away from his career high of 12 in 2014. Griffen has recorded at least one sack in each of his eight games this season. No Vikings player has ever recorded a sack in nine consecutive games.

WHO'S COACHING THE VIKINGS

It was a bumpy start to this season for Mike Zimmer, who first dealt with the loss of his star rookie running back, Dalvin Cook, to a knee injury, then lost his presumptive starting quarterback, Sam Bradford.

Zimmer has cruised over those bumps and has the Vikings at 7-2 and well on their way to the NFC North title. In 2014, Zimmer took over a Vikings team that went 5-10-1 and, in his second season, guided them to an 11-5 record and a division title. Zimmer remains in search of his first playoff victory.

He did, however, win the Super Bowl with Dallas in 1996 as the Cowboys' defensive backs coach. Zimmer went on to enjoy great success as defensive coordinator in Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 793: Receiving yards by Minnesota's Adam Thielen, the third-highest total in the NFL this season. Thielen, a former undrafted free agent, has 34.5 percent of the the Vikings' receiving yards.

* 29.0: Percentage of third-down plays converted against the Vikings' defense this season, the second-lowest total in the NFL. Minnesota has improved from 36.0 percent last season.

* 5: Field-goal attempts, from 50 yards or beyond, made by Vikings kicker Kai Forbath, the former UCLA standout who has missed only one of 23 attempts overall this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Case Keenum must have a sore neck, from having to look over his shoulder so often in his career.

This is familiar territory for Keenum, who remains (at least for another day) the Vikings' starting quarterback. Keenum has helped the Vikings to five consecutive victories, but Zimmer reportedly is pondering a move to former starter Teddy Bridgewater, who has recovered from a serious knee injury.

Bridgewater watched last week as Keenum threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Zimmer apparently has decided on his quarterback for Sunday, but won't announce until Wednesday (at the earliest) whether it will be Keenum or Bridgewater, who hasn't played since the end of the 2015 season.

Last season, Keenum started the first nine games for the Rams and then, after a victory over the New York Jets, lost his job to Jared Goff. Keenum signed with Minnesota during the offseason.

WHAT DID HE SAY?

"I was trying to keep it together, but opportunities like these (usually) don't come along twice. When you get that second opportunity, you cherish it."

-- Bridgewater, who got emotional on the sideline before last Sunday's game

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