The Vikings’ defense knew Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert would be looking for Keenan Allen on Sunday. He has five 1,000-yard receiving seasons under his belt, and the 11th-year pro hasn’t slowed down yet.
That’s what makes Allen’s success in the Chargers’ 28-24 victory Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium so galling for Vikings safety Camryn Bynum.
“He’s a future hall of famer, really. He’s Keenan Allen,” Bynum said. “We have to know … where the premium receivers are on the field. At the end of the day, we didn’t do our job of knowing where he was at all times.”
Maybe it would not have mattered. That’s Allen’s take, anyway, after he caught 18 passes for 215 yards.
“Everybody on the field can know where the ball is going, but somebody’s got to make the play,” Allen said. “You can point at it. You can say, ‘He’s going here.’ You can do all this, but you’ve still got to go stop it.”
None of the Vikings could stop Allen on Sunday. He didn’t catch a touchdown pass, but he did throw one, a 49-yard pass to teammate Mike Williams on a trick play that fooled just about every player wearing purple. Set up wide right, Allen stepped back and caught a pass from Herbert before turning and throwing.
Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. was charging across the line of scrimmage when Allen let loose his pass. Murphy turned around to see Williams catching the pass — without a Vikings player between him and the end zone.
That, Murphy said, “is a terrible feeling.”
“When you see one of their biggest players catch the ball, you kinda want to make the tackle,” he added. “But right there, I’ve got to stay patient and play better for the team.”
The pass was a little low and short, but Williams had ample time to wait and pull it in before trotting untouched into the end zone for a 21-10 lead 5 minutes and 53 seconds into the third quarter.
“I kind of messed (that play) up two years ago, as well,” Allen said. “We played the Chiefs, same play, and I kind of threw it short at his feet. He couldn’t make the play on it. So, I had to get him back.”
Allen caught five passes for 53 yards on the Chargers’ first scoring drive, and caught a 25-yard pass on the play before he threw his touchdown pass. The Chargers moved him around the field, but he and Murphy were often fighting for space, and often jawing.
“He’s definitely vocal,” Murphy said. “It’s definitely fun, because we’re out there competing, you know? At the end of the day, we love this game and we’re going to go compete. It’s the best on the best, so, when he talks, I’m gonna give it back, though. I’ve gotta chat.”
In the Chargers’ first two games, Allen, 31, averaged 93.5 receiving yards and caught two touchdown passes. Being 1-2 instead of 0-3, he said, is “huge.”
“I don’t even know if a team’s made the playoffs at 0-3,” he said. “So, it’s definitely not something you want to be the first team to do. If it would have happened, that would have been the goal. Definitely just wanted to get the win by any means.”
For the record, since expansion in 1979, six teams have recovered from 0-3 to make the postseason, including division-winning San Diego in 2018 and Houston in 2018.