Vikings at Chargers final score: Minnesota defense forces seven turnovers in blowout road victory

The Minnesota Vikings are in hot pursuit of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, entering Sunday with seven wins in their last nine games before claiming another W -- their biggest of the stretch -- on the road, riding a whopping seven turnovers in a 39-10 blowout of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Vikings wasted no time getting on the scoreboard early in the cross-conference showdown, with Cousins finding Irv Smith Jr. on a first-quarter touchdown to cap a 75-yard opening drive, though Dan Bailey hit the upright on a missed extra point. L.A., meanwhile, relied on a couple of big Mike Williams plays to pull within three points entering the second quarter of action.

Turnovers were the story of the second quarter, with Rivers chucking up an inexcusable third-down pass that fell into the hands of Harrison Smith, Melvin Ingram coming up with an athletic pick of Cousins and then Rivers coughing it up again -- this time on a strip-sack by Danielle Hunter with only a few seconds remaining in the first half. A scoop-and-score recovery gave Minnesota a 19-10 lead entering the break.

Things were all Vikings from there, with Rivers and Co. piling up the turnovers and Mike Zimmer's squad simply enjoying the ride.

Let's take a deeper dive into how the Vikings cruised past the Chargers on the road:

Why the Vikings won

They seized every opportunity. On a day when neither Kirk Cousins nor Dalvin Cook (who left early due to injury) -- nor anyone on the Vikings offense, to be fair -- put up monster numbers, none of them had to. Not even close. Instead, Minnesota let (and helped) the Chargers fumble around for pretty much the entire game. Not only that, but they went above and beyond in terms of capitalizing, with Ifeadi Odenigbo returning a strip-sack fumble 56 yards for a touchdown, forcing a fumble on the first play of the second half to set up a two-score lead, taking a deep shot up 15 points in the fourth, and so on and so forth. A week after their defense dominated the Detroit Lions for a divisional win, that unit was once again the star, even though Stefon Diggs and Co. helped put some flair into an ultimately high-scoring performance late in the contest.

Why the Chargers lost

To put it simply, they were the same old Chargers. It's gotten to the point now where L.A. is essentially a parody of itself. Philip Rivers had no trouble moving the ball up and down the field at the start of the game, feeding both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams early and often, but he also had a handful of inexcusable decisions, from chucking a third-down ball off his back foot and into crowded coverage for an easy Harrison Smith pick to lollygagging around the pocket to set up a Danielle Hunter strip-sack and Vikings score. Melvin Gordon also coughed up a ball, as per usual, but the even more ridiculous thing might've been Anthony Lynn and Co. continuing to trust Gordon to hold onto it. By the time Hunter Henry took his turn fumbling, L.A. had already turned it over four times. And that was before Rivers' second pick of the day. It wasn't that L.A. didn't take advantage of Minnesota's vulnerable secondary in Sunday's game; it's that L.A. couldn't also help but extend its streak of untimely giveaways and penalties and hand the Vikings an irrecoverable lead.

Turning point

The Chargers were down just two points late in the first half, with Rivers and the offense driving inside the Vikings' 40-yard line with a chance to retake a lead before the break. But that's when Hunter followed Rivers around the pocket, sacked him 10 yards behind the line and popped the ball out in the process, not only guaranteeing a wasted Chargers possession but allowing Odenigbo to scoop it and extend the Vikings' lead after a 56-yard return. From that point forward, it was all Minnesota, with the Chargers stuck in their ugly but unsurprising rut.

Play of the game

Mike Williams had a few impressive catches early on, but Odenigbo's game-changing score was also the afternoon's most notable feat of athleticism. The defensive lineman was at a near-standstill when he finally got a hold on the ball, then proceeded to outrace everyone on his way to the end zone.

Quotable

"Chargers getting blown out. Gonna be a long flight back to London."

Courtesy of TV showrunner Eric Stangel, those words were echoed by countless other social-media laughs at the expense of the Chargers. Was the Vikings' win impressive? Absolutely. But this game was arguably more about L.A. continuing to collapse in front of our eyes -- and apparently in front of not many Chargers fans, who once again appeared to be outnumbered in their own stadium. It's a sad state of affairs for Rivers and the team right now, and we've still got two games to go in 2019.

What's next

The Vikings (10-4) will have the biggest game of their season in Week 16, when they host the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers (11-3) on Monday night. The Chargers (5-9), meanwhile, will stay at home for their second-to-last game of the year, a Sunday, Dec. 22, matchup with the rival Oakland Raiders (6-8) at 4:05 p.m. ET.

Relive all the action from Sunday's game below.

0
0
SUN 4:05 P
LAC +1.5, o45
LAC 1.5, O/U 45

Season Leaders

passing
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K. Cousins758 YD, 5 TDS, 3 INTS
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K. Cousins758 YD, 5 TDS, 3 INTS
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J. Herbert910 YD, 7 TDS, 2 INTS
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J. Herbert910 YD, 7 TDS, 2 INTS
rushing
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D. Cook43 ATT, 203 YD, 1 TD
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D. Cook43 ATT, 203 YD, 1 TD
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A. Ekeler32 ATT, 80 YD
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A. Ekeler32 ATT, 80 YD
receiving
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J. Jefferson18 REC, 246 YD, 2 TDS
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J. Jefferson18 REC, 246 YD, 2 TDS
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D. Carter9 REC, 150 YD, 1 TD
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D. Carter9 REC, 150 YD, 1 TD
Live updates
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That'll do it, folks. No contest here, really. Vikings improve to 10-4. Chargers fall to 5-9. Thanks for sticking with us, and keep it locked here for even more analysis!

December 16, 2019, 12:09 AM
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Vikings just kneeling this thing out. Up 39-10. If you haven't figured it out by now, they're going to win.

December 16, 2019, 12:05 AM
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That's Rivers' third pick of the day and the Chargers' seventh turnover of the day. Y-I-K-E-S.

December 16, 2019, 12:04 AM
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What a way to showcase your team in front of L.A.!

December 16, 2019, 12:04 AM
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Ha! ANOTHER turnover!

December 16, 2019, 12:04 AM
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Rivers and Co. playing for pride (?) down 29 points here with about three minutes left.

December 15, 2019, 11:59 PM
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@Vikings via Twitter
December 15, 2019, 11:47 PM
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There's turnover No. 6. Vikings taking candy from a baby.

December 15, 2019, 11:46 PM
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Insurance score officially makes this scoreboard ugly. Vikings rolling on all cylinders, and they have barely even needed Kirk Cousins and Co. to do anything today.

December 15, 2019, 11:41 PM
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@Vikings via Twitter
December 15, 2019, 11:40 PM
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Refs say the call stands. So that makes five turnovers for Los Angeles. And the Vikings have the ball at the 10.

December 15, 2019, 11:37 PM
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At this point, they might as well just uphold it as a turnover to keep the Chargers' streak of ugly play alive.

December 15, 2019, 11:37 PM
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Hunter Henry called for a catch and fumble, with Minnesota's Trae Waynes recovering. But this one's under review.

December 15, 2019, 11:36 PM
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Vikings just having their way now. There might be 10 minutes left, but this game is a wrap.

December 15, 2019, 11:33 PM
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@Vikings via Twitter
December 15, 2019, 11:31 PM
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Rivers pleading for some kind of penalty after the play, perhaps a roughing-the-passer. Doesn't get anything. So Vikings will take over in their own territory, but with a 15-point lead intact.

December 15, 2019, 11:23 PM
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And then Rivers overthrows Mike Williams. Turnover on downs.

December 15, 2019, 11:23 PM
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Fourth-and-9, and the Chargers false start. Anyone surprised?

December 15, 2019, 11:22 PM
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Rivers goes down on third down. Sacked to end the quarter. So Chargers will have a big decision on their hands when we return. It'll be fourth-and-9.

December 15, 2019, 11:18 PM
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