Chargers-Vikings prediction: Passing game a big worry for L.A.'s vulnerable defense

Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Football

LOS ANGELES — Breaking down how the Chargers (0-2) and the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday at Minneapolis. The game will be shown on Fox and streamed on NFL+ .

When Chargers have the ball

Only five teams entered Week 3 with more points scored than the Chargers. Yet, the final-series struggles of quarterback Justin Herbert and the offense have emerged as an early storyline. In the last two minutes of a 36-34 loss to Miami, needing only a field goal to win, the Chargers ran five plays and went backward one yard. Then, in a 27-24 loss at Tennessee, the Chargers' lone overtime possession featured three straight Herbert incompletions. That's eight plays total and a negative one yard of offense in two game-winning situations. After Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers have done little to involve others in the passing game. No one else has more than five catches or six targets. Joshua Palmer has four receptions for 17 yards and rookie first-round pick Quentin Johnston three for 16. Other than Allen and Williams, Herbert has completed passes for gains of at least 20 yards to only three players — Austin Ekeler, Gerald Everett and Stone Smartt, each of whom has one such catch. Minnesota is coming off a game in which its defense gave up 259 rushing yards to Philadelphia, while Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts went 18 of 23 for 193 yards.

When Vikings have the ball

A week ago, the Titans' Ryan Tannehill attempted only eight passes in the first half against the Chargers. Kirk Cousins might throw the ball eight times on the Vikings' first series. Cousins is second only to Miami's Tua Tagovailoa, who lighted up the Chargers in Week 1, in yards passing with 708. He's tied for first in touchdown passes (six), second in passer rating (114.2) and third in completion percentage (72.7). With targets like wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison and tight end T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota arrives on the schedule at a time when the Chargers are searching for some sort of consistency in defending the pass. Tannehill had the second-most accurate game of his career against the Chargers, his performance including completions of 70 and 49 yards. Cousins has to be more than eager for this matchup, particularly with head coach Kevin O'Connell's familiarity with Brandon Staley's scheme. The two were coordinators with the Rams in 2020. Having said that, Minnesota at some point has to run the ball with some success in order to do anything this season. In their first two games, the Vikings rushed for 69 yards total. On Wednesday, they traded with the Rams to pick up running back Cam Akers.

When they kick


Cameron Dicker's 33-yard field goal on the final play of regulation forced overtime last weekend in Tennessee. For the season, Dicker is five for five on both field goals and extra points. He has missed only one kick during his 12 games with the Chargers, going 24 of 25 on field goals and 27 of 27 on extra points. Minnesota's Greg Joseph has attempted only one field goal — a 25-yarder he made in the season opener — and is six of six on extra points.

Jeff Miller's prediction

Until the Chargers' defense displays improvement, it will be difficult to take this team and its potential seriously. The Chargers simply haven't looked capable of limiting the opposition enough or when it really matters through two games. For all the fan/media grief he takes, Cousins could be a significant problem in this matchup, especially if he doesn't turn over the ball.


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