By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Washington Redskins 29-26 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. The two teams went back-and-forth throughout the second half before the Vikings got a big defensive stop in the final minute.
The Vikings (4-5) fell behind by 10 points before taking a small lead early in the third quarter. Chase Ford caught a 20 yard touchdown pass just before halftime and Matt Asiata dove in from the one-yard line right out of the break.
The Redskins (3-6) countered with 10 points of their own to take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Asiata erased two deficits in the fourth quarter with runs of seven yards and one yard for this second and third touchdowns, respectively, on the day. He added a two-point conversion with three minutes and 27 seconds remaining to give the Vikings the three-point lead.
Offense Grade: B-
It was slow going to get going for the Vikings offense. It wasn’t until their first scoring drive of the first half that they were able to develop in sustained attack. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got into a rhythm on that drive after badly missing a few throws earlier in the game.
The Vikings offense will be as good as their offensive line. They may have had their best game of the season against the Redskins. A lot of people were asking how the Vikings were going to stop the Redskins defensive front after they dominated the Dallas Cowboys last Monday night. Early on Bridgewater was under duress, but, beginning late in the first half, every came together. The offensive line blocked better and Bridgewater was getting rid of the ball quicker.
The receivers were open all game. Eight different receivers caught passes, including Greg Jennings’ game-high six grabs. Ford was right behind him with five. With all the praises handed out to the receivers, Cordarrelle Patterson still seems to be having trouble building chemistry with Bridgewater. He was targeted seven times, but was only able to catch one of them.
Defense Grade: C+
Just like the offense, the Vikings defense started really slowly. The Redskins had no problem moving the ball on their first two drives to claim a 10-0 lead early. The Vikings had opportunities to stop the Redskins, but could not.
Then the light switch went off and the Vikings played much better. They forced a punt or interception on four consecutive drives that bought time for the offense to get into rhythm and catch up.
The defense was a little shaky while the team’s traded leads, but they got two stops — one on an 80-yard Hail Mary attempt — in the final two minutes of the game.
Statistically, the Vikings defense had five sacks (fourth straight game with at least four), nine quarterback hits and seven tackles for a loss.
Quarterback Grade: C+
The signs are there that Bridgewater will be the Vikings starter for a long time. He made the plays when the game was on the line. While he was good in the two-minute drill and the fourth quarter, he made some really bad throws and a really bad decision.
He overthrew Jennings and Patterson — although the Patterson throw looked more like a problem with the receiver losing the ball in the sun — and under threw a pass to Patterson. Each one came on deep pass attempts.
The bad decision he made was really puzzling. On fourth-and-two from the Redskins 39-yard line, Bridgewater had plenty of running room to convert. However, before getting back to the line of scrimmage, Bridgewater lofted a pass several yards out of bounds. Jarius Wright was the closest receiver, but he was heavily covered. Luckily, Captain Munnerlyn intercepted Griffin on the next play, which set up the Vikings first scoring drive.
Special Teams Grade: D
The Vikings’ special teams units really struggled once again. They had just one kick return over 22 yards and one punt return for eight yards. The one punt return would have been for longer, except Robert Blanton committed a block in the back penalty. Punter Jeff Locke was not very good once again. He averaged 40.5 yards per punt in six tries, but each of his last three punts in the game went less than 40 yards, including a 36-yarder that landed in the end zone on the fly in the final seconds. Had he landed it anywhere but the end zone, the Vikings may have been able to run the clock out as they waited for it to stop rolling.
Marcus Sherels was bit of a bright spot for the special teams. He made two open field tackles that kept Andre Roberts from returning those punts.
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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.