The Minnesota Vikings might not have the personnel to make a stunning turnaround and make the postseason again. But you can't say they're going for draft positioning, either.
After a mostly lame defensive first half, the Vikings rallied with a blitz-at-all-costs approach and found a way to earn their first victory on American soil this season, beating the Redskins, 34-27, on Thursday night.
Adrian Peterson scored two touchdowns, and Christian Ponder — after a bad first-possession interception — threw for two more before getting knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. The Vikings found new sources of offensive production, with tight end John Carlson and Cordarrelle Patterson both catching TD passes after doing little offensively entering this game.
Coach Leslie Frazier will be asked about his two timeouts he called inside the final minute of the game, as the Redskins drove to try to force overtime, down seven points. But it likely was the result of Frazier not having a full team on hand. He dressed a mere 44 players, with so many hurt on a short week, and the defensive blitzkrieg in the second half likely left his defenders gassed.
Still, it was enough. The pressure (four second-half sacks) built up, and the repeated hits on Robert Griffin III had a cumulative effect. Kevin Williams had three sacks (his first multiple-sack game since 2009) and tossed around the middle of the line, namely guard Chris Chester. The Redskins lost their offensive chemistry at times after a first half in which they ran simple plays and let the Vikings hurt themselves with a litany of ridiculous missed tackles, leading to a 24-14 halftime lead.
Frazier decided to go for broke. At 1-7, why not? He called for the dogs to be sent on almost every defensive play, with five or more rushers every time Griffin dropped back to pass.The strategy largely worked: The Redskins got away from Alfred Morris, who had been pulverizing the Vikings, and the passing game wasn't nearly as effective.
The loss leaves the Redskins in the same spot they were a year ago — 3-6 and on the outside looking in, as far as the playoffs are concerned. Of course, we know how that one worked out. Griffin got hot, Morris ran hard and the defense relied on key turnovers and field position to help win games.
Can it happen again? Yes, but the mental mistakes and poor pass protection must change dramatically. Plus, the team's offensive and defensive identities must crystallize a bit more closer to the 2012 forms — those proven molds for success could work again.
The Vikings have almost no chance at the playoffs at 2-7, not in a loaded NFC North. But they at least showed some spine.