Vikings’ versatile offensive line one of team’s greatest assets
Mike Remmers’ move on Sunday was just the latest along a Vikings offensive line proving, yes, the big guys can be flexible, too.
Until the Vikings’ 23-10 win against the Bears on Sunday, Remmers had not played guard in a football game since before he became an NFL starter. Remmers shifted inside from his usual spot as the Vikings right tackle to play right guard, vacated by Joe Berger moving to center for the injured Pat Elflein.
“Five years ago in the preseason,” Remmers recalled. “Tampa played in New England.”
So, is moving from tackle to guard like riding a bike?
“A bike that I’ve never really ridden, maybe,” Remmers said.
There were some speedbumps, but nothing to derail the Vikings offense from their fifth victory in the NFC North this season. Running back Latavius Murray churned out his second 100-yard game of the season behind what was Minnesota’s seventh different offensive line combination.
The Vikings ran for 147 yards, the fourth-best rushing day of the season.
“I think it shows how tough they are,” Murray said of the line. “How they’ve been able to come in and step up again and not miss a beat. You have to give them a lot of credit.”
Remmers’ week heading into Sunday required a little more time in the playbook, he said, freshening up on the right guard’s responsibilities. While Elflein is expected to be ready for the Vikings’ playoff opener in a couple weeks, Minnesota won’t be short on options if injuries strike in the postseason.
“I think this group is probably special,” Berger said. “Any good O-line needs to be able to do that, especially in a pinch like this. I thought Mike did a great job today.”
A defense for record books
The Vikings’ defense set the NFL record by allowing just 25.2 percent [51 of 202] of third downs to be converted throughout the season. The league began tracking the stat in 1991.
The Bears went 1-for-12 on third downs on Sunday.
“We’ve got good players,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “When corners can cover and safeties can blitz and pressure, linebackers can blitz and cover, defensive line can rush — it’s important. We spend an awful lot of time at it. I don’t think we do anything fancy, we’ve just got good players.”
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes joked he started to have a “flashback” Sunday after a couple flags flew his way for illegal defensive contact against the Bears. Chicago’s offense, which couldn’t cross midfield on the Vikings until the fourth quarter, benefitted from some grabby play by Rhodes on Bears receiver Dontrelle Inman.
“I had a flashback this game with the penalties,” Rhodes said. “I need to up my game.”
Receiver Adam Thielen finished the season with 91 catches for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns. His six grabs against the Bears moved Thielen above the 90-catch threshold, meaning he unlocked an additional $250,000 salary escalator for next season. In total, Thielen increased next year’s salary by $1 million by reaching 90 receptions.
“Honestly it’s really not a personal goal,” Thielen said. “A lot of that is team. We have a great defense that gives us a lot of opportunities on offense. We have a quarterback finding open receivers.”
Vikings fullback C.J. Ham exited in the game in the first half after suffering a neck injury. Ham said he doesn’t expect the injury to hold him back from the playoffs.
“I’m feeling good now,” Ham said afterward. “Pretty much hit somebody and my arm went numb.”
2018 opponents finalized
The Vikings’ non-NFC North 2018 opponents were finalized Sunday with the end of the regular season.
Minnesota will host the Saints, 49ers, Dolphins, Bills and Cardinals outside of the NFC North. The Vikings’ 2018 road opponents will be the Eagles, Rams, Patriots, Jets and Seahawks.