The Minnesota Vikings were down five starters in Week 10’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers.
No Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson or Harrison Smith.
Eric Kendricks was the heartbeat of a patchwork Vikings defense, tallying a sack on the second defensive snap and intercepting quarterback Justin Herbert in the first half that halted two drives and stunted the Chargers offense for the majority of the Vikings’ 27-20 victory in Los Angeles.
“The interception by Kendricks was big-time,” coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. “I thought that was a heck of a deal.”
Kendricks, who has been snubbed several times throughout his career, patted himself on the back after a tremendous homecoming for the former UCLA Bruin.
“I consider myself one of the best linebackers in this league,” he said in a postgame press conference. “It’s always special when I come to play in California. This is obviously my home. Shoot, I was raised — not raised in L.A., but I became a man out here, in college, at UCLA. It definitely has a special place in my heart, and every time I come back here, I’ve got to show out.”
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Kendricks Uplifts Replacements
The Vikings defense, missing arguably their top five players besides Kendricks, held the Chargers’ offense, ranked 10th in yards per game (384.9) entering Week 10, to just 253 yards on Sunday.
Missing “some real ballers” from the lineup didn’t deter the defense, Kendricks asserted.
“We have guys who were anxious for an opportunity,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to come in this league, and you’ve got to take advantage of it. Obviously, we prepare, we prepare to win. These are really smart guys that we’re bringing in, as well, and they’re ready for it. Their communication’s on-point out there. They’re not rattled at all, and they like to fight.”
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Vikings Readying for Another Playoff Chase
The Vikings, starting the season with a 4-5 record for a second consecutive year, could see a similar down-to-the-wire chase for a playoff spot as they did in 2020.
Zimmer harped to his team that he was tired of losing last week, which Kendricks found refreshing after too many close games this season.
“(Zimmer) always hates losing,” Kendricks said. “I think we should all hate losing if we’re competitors. … It’s just like, we’ve got to start winning games. They’ve all been close … We knew we had heart, we knew we’d fight, but it was about doing the right things at the end of (Sunday’s) game.”
With the win over the Chargers, the Vikings, 4-5 on the season, are a half-game out of the NFC playoffs and have a 42% chance of making the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight.
If the Vikings win two of their next three games against the Green Bay Packers (8-2), San Francisco 49ers (4-5) and Detriot Lions (0-8-1), they’ll have a 56% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.