The Vikings travelled to Washington in what was stacked up to be a defensive battle and an offensive explosion broke out. The Vikings held on to grab the win 38-30 on the arm of quarterback Case Keenum and a defense that bent a lot but ultimately didn’t break.
The Vikings started slow, but Keenum caught fire in the second quarter with three touchdown passes, but two picks in the second half make the game much closer and concerning than it should have been.
“It was a good win today,” head coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN radio. “We played great offensively until made a couple mistakes in the third quarter. I thought we played excellent offensively. They’re a very good offensive team and they hit a couple big plays on us against our defense. Then we kind of let them back in it, so it made it a little tight, but those are the things we can learn from.”
But in the end, the defense rose to the occasion to make play after play and the Vikings held to take their record to 7-2 and hold onto their two-game in the NFC North Division. Next week, a very tough Los Angeles Rams team comes to town and will battle the Purple in a battle of divisional leaders.
For the past two weeks, everyone was talking about the Vikings quarterbacks—although little of that was about the starter Case Keenum. So, Keenum, who probably experienced the longest bye week of any Vikings on the team, came out and made a huge statement that the job should remain his. In the first half, Keenum was 11 for 14 for 188 yards and three touchdown passes (one to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and David Morgan—his first as a pro. The 1st half performance earned Keenum a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. But then the second half happened. Keenum started out by tacking up a fourth touchdown pass (to Jarius Wright), but followed that up with two picks on consecutive passes that brought Washington back into the game. He finished the game with a much more down-to-earth quarterback rating of 117.0 (21 of 29 for 304 yards and four touchdown passes). As a result, the questions regarding the starting quarterback will continue to be asked.
Keenum had plenty of help from an offensive line that continues to exceed expectations after last season’s troubling performance. Once again, the line gave Keenum plenty of time to operate (allowing no sacks) and opened holes to the tune of 103 rushing yards by the offense. As much as last year the offensive line was the reason for the season, the same can be said about this one. The Vikings have a very physical and mobile line and it was on great display in this game.
Coming into the game, the Vikings defense was considered to be the key to winning for Minnesota, and they started out a little shaky, as Kirk Cousins led his offense on a methodical drive downfield for an early touchdown. But the Vikings defense kicked it into high gear and started affecting play. They gave up a lot of points by theirs (or any defense’s) standard, but some of those points came because of the turnover by the offense. In the numbers were not good, but the defense still made play after play to help the Vikings win the game. Stand out players included Anthony Barr, who was all over the field and three tackles and a blocked pass in a crucial situation, MacKenzie Alexander (three tackles, two passes defended and one pick that set up a first-half touchdown), and the return of Andrew Sendejo, who was hitting hard as usual and broke up a sure touchdown at the last second in the endzone. In the end, the defense did what was needed to secure the victory, but they gave up a lot more points than they usually do.
Adam Thielen had another huge game for the Vikings, making the tough catches and the big ones. Thielen racked up eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, but no grab was bigger than the one he made late in the game for a first down, when he caught the ball well behind the line to gain.
“I think a great example is we had a third and one and we ran a boot and threw it to Thielen two yards short of the first down, two guys trying to tackle him and converted the first down,” Zimmer said. “It was a huge first down at the end of the ball game where we kicked a field goal to make it a 10-point game. Those are the kinds of seasons that show up for Adam Thielen. When it’s time to make a play, he makes a play when.”
Kai Forbth’s 53-yard field yard field goal was a huge kick, giving the Vikings a two-score lead late in the game. It was his 15th field goal in a row on the season (and he made all of his extra points in the game), as Forbath is becoming the very solid and dependable kicker that the Vikings need. Forbath was going against his former team in Washington, so it appeared that he focused intently on the 53-yard kick. Hopefully he can keep that focus, intensity and aim the rest of the season.
Latavius Murray (who scored on a 1-yard run) handled the tough yards and Jerick McKinnon handled the scat yards, and together they made for a decent running attack that helped set up a very effective power game. Neither back is Dalvin Cook, but together they have a great power/slash combination that can keep a defense on their heels—and they did that in Washington today.
Should be Ending
Know the rules. NFL players can now celebrate to the heart’s content (sigh), but they can only use the football as a prop. Diggs used the goalpost as a prop on his tou1st-half touchdown reception. Save for a minute that his use of the poll was dubious at best for how it could have affected his body, but the fact that he earned the Vikings a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff is just not using your head (Washington took the kickoff back to the 40-yard and great field position). Love Diggs’ emotion; don’t like it costing the Vikings 15 yards. C’mon man.
“Not my best decision; you definitely won’t see me doing that going forward,” Diggs told KFAN after the game.
The defense was not able to stop Washington on two 4th down play in the game. They were 8-12 on third downs (and I would say they stopped Cousins on his quarterback sneak in which he was awarded a touchdown even though his forward progress was stopped) but the team needs to come up bigger in fourth down situations. And of course they did in the final minutes of the game when Tom Johnson busted through the line to tackle the running back for a loss on fourth down—a huge play that helped seal the win.
Turnovers are killers. They put the Vikings back in the game in the first half and Washington back in it in the second. The coaching staff will definitely be talking about them this week at Winter Park.