By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings showcased what they can actually do when they get the right momentum, as Adrian Peterson ran for 75 yards and two scores and the Vikes upset Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins at Mall of America Field on Thursday night.
The Vikings defense has been criticized for allowing game-winning touchdowns in the final minute of the game, but they got the stop they needed inside the five-yard line: Marcus Sherels shoved Santana Moss as the receiver was trying to get his second foot down in bounds on a fourth-and-goal play with 24 seconds remaining to seal the Vikings second victory of the season.
The Vikings (2-7) trailed by 13 points after the first possession of the second half, but scored 20 straight unanswered points as the defense started to heat up.
Kevin Williams recorded 2.5 sacks as the Redskins (3-6) were forced to punt three times. The Vikings defense had not forced an opponent to punt at Mall of America Field in six quarters.
Offense Grade: A
The offense really hasn’t been a problem of late. They just haven’t been on the field enough to show it. Once the defense got rolling, the offense was able to get into a rhythm. The unit then rattled off 20 straight points.
After falling behind by 13 points, the Vikings offense converted five of seven third down opportunities. The only two failed conversions came in field goal range, which were converted.
John Carlson had his breakout game as a member of the Vikings with seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in his first touchdown catch, but continues to be lost in the offensive shuffle. He was targeted just four times and caught two of them for 22 yards.
Defense Grade: B+
The Vikings defense recorded four sacks and got eight additional hits on Skins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The secondary has been maligned all season, but it starts up front. When the front four get pressure, the secondary will hold up.
Williams led the way with his best game in some time. Jared Allen and Everson Griffen also got to RG3.
The unit nearly allowed the Redskins to tie the game in the final 30 seconds. Both wins this season by the Vikings came with the opposition driving inside the 20-yard line with the chance to tie the game. The Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by the same 34-27 score in Week 4 with the Steelers just six-yards away from the goal line.
Quarterback Grade: B+
Christian Ponder played pretty well. He made two mistakes, both of his first two times dropping back. On the second play from scrimmage, he held onto the ball too long and was sacked. On the next play, he threw a lofting deep pass into double coverage for an interception.
He was terrific from there. He used his arm and legs to make plays and help the Vikings offense move the ball. Until he was injured late in the third quarter. He dislocated his left shoulder and did not return.
Matt Cassel entered and managed the game very well. He did not make mistakes, but didn’t make a lot of plays either.
As long as he is healthy, Ponder should remain the starting quarterback.
Special Teams Grade: B
The Vikings did not get many opportunities to do much in the special teams department.
Marcus Sherels averaged 17 yards per punt return and made a big tackle on Jeff Locke’s 50-yard punt. Blair Walsh was a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.
The Redskins did all they could to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands on kickoffs. They pooched a few and squibbed a few punts. Patterson was able to get his hands on just two kickoffs and got just 37 yards. The team as a whole averaged just 16.3 yards per return.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.