1:00 PM ET, December 11, 2005
St Louis (5-7) at Minnesota (7-5) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
The Vikings look for their sixth straight win with Johnson at the controls when they host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Minnesota's season hit rock bottom on October 30, when the team lost Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the rest of the season after he suffered torn knee ligaments in a 38-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
With a record of just 2-5, the franchise was also reeling from an off-the-field incident earlier that month which disgraced the organization.
Members of the Vikings allegedly chartered two cruise boats during their bye week and turned it into a wild sex party. At least 17 members of the team were among 90 passengers on the two boats in Lake Minnetonka, and crew members reportedly described players allegedly having sex, drinking heavily and propositioning female crew members to perform sex acts.
Pending an investigation by local authorities, no charges have been filed.
With their season on the ropes and with coach Mike Tice in danger of losing his job, the Vikings needed a spark. Enter Johnson, a 12-year veteran who started his career in Minnesota.
The journeyman has been remarkably efficient in leading the Vikings to five straight victories, completing nearly 65 percent (87-for-134) of his passes over that stretch.
Johnson completed 17-of-23 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday in Minnesota's 21-16 triumph over the Detroit Lions.
Koren Robinson had four receptions for 148 yards and Michael Bennett added 79 rushing yards and a TD in the contest for the Vikings, who moved into a virtual tie with the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons for the sixth and final postseason berth in the NFC.
Tice hopes that Johnson continues his effective play this week against the Rams, who - unlike the Vikings - have not been able to fight through a rash of injuries this season.
St. Louis dropped a 24-9 decision to the Washington Redskins on Sunday to fall to 1-3 since its bye week.
Rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-36 attempts for 163 yards and ran for a touchdown, but the Rams committed two costly turnovers and allowed the Redskins to run for 257 yards in the contest.
Fitzpatrick is expected to start for the second straight week in place of injured starter Mark Bulger, who has battled a right shoulder injury all season and has appeared in just eight games.
Series: Vikings lead, 21-15-2.
Next week: Minnesota hosts Pittsburgh, December 18 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia, December 18
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Rams must run to protect Fitzpatrick
St. Louis' lack of offensive balance has put too much pressure on rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Rams really need to show a greater commitment to the run. Getting RB Steven Jackson more carries should give the Rams their best opportunity to extend drives and keep the Minnesota front four on its heels. However, consistently handing the ball off to Jackson will prove difficult if St. Louis' offensive line doesn't play better or the Vikings build an early lead.
Keeping that in mind, Minnesota will look to generate big plays both on the ground and in the passing game. The Vikings will look to get RB Michael Bennett outside against a Rams' run defense that has done a poor job of tackling and has been hurt by players not taking sound pursuit angles. If St. Louis doesn't play with better technique and discipline, the always-dangerous Bennett should have some success getting into the open field. With the Rams' focused on shoring up their weak run defense, Minnesota also should look to throw deep off play-action. QB Brad Johnson is doing a good job of taking his time and selling the handoff before getting set, so the Rams' secondary will have a difficult time ignoring his play fakes.
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|Avg Points Allowed||29.1||22.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
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|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||STL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||STL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 1-1|
|Nov 30, 2003||STL 48, MIN 17|