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Key Plays - Vikings vs. Redskins

Posted Dec 27, 2011

Every week, Christian Peterson will take a look back at the game and pick out a handful of plays that affected the outcome one way or another. It might be something obvious like a touchdown that completely changed the outcome, or it might be something more subtle that led to a change in momentum and ultimately affected whether the Vikings won or lost. The Week 16 edition of Key Plays focuses on the losing streak-breaking win over the Redskins in Washington.

Key Play # 1: (Q3 10:33) 32-T.Gerhart left guard to WAS 8 for 67 yards (26-J.Wilson). FUMBLES (26-J.Wilson), ball out of bounds at WAS 8.

What happened:
With Joe Webb under center and backup RB Toby Gerhart in the “I” formation behind RB Ryan D’Imperio, Webb handed off to Gerhart, who followed D’Imperio through a gaping hole created by LT Charlie Johnson, who blocked Redskins’ LB Stephen Bowen to the inside right as Gerhart was cutting back to his left. Meanwhile, Joe Berger got to the second level and blocked another Redskins linebacker, while D’Imperio sealed off a Redskins defensive lineman on the outside. After getting another nice block from TE Kyle Rudolph downfield, Gerhart raced past Redskins LB London Fletcher down the sidelines. He was finally caught at about the 10-yard line by S Josh Wilson, who knocked the ball out of Gerhart’s hands and out of bounds at the 8.

Why it was important:
After a stunning turn of events that resulted in the Vikings losing Adrian Peterson to a serious knee injury and Christian Ponder to a concussion on the previous offensive possession, few would have blamed the Vikings for closing up shop and with backups at arguably their two most critical offensive positions. Instead, Gerhart showed surprising speed on a play that was perfectly executed by at least four blockers and ripped off a career-long run that set the Vikings up for a nine-yard Webb touchdown run two plays later. The score put the Vikings in front 17-13 and was a clear signal that the team wasn’t going to just roll over and play dead despite losing two of their three franchise offensive players to injury.

Key Play No. 2: (Q3 2:48) 14-J.Webb pass deep right to 82-K.Rudolph for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

What happened:
On 2nd and 8 at the Redskins 17, Webb lined up under center with Gerhart seven yards deep behind him as the only running back. WR Devin Aromoshodu came in motion from Webb’s right to left, leaving Rudolph as the lone pass-catcher on the right side of the formation. Rudolph released from the line of scrimmage and simply ran past LB Perry Riley on an out route towards the back corner of the end zone. With a safety arriving too late to make a play, Webb lobbed a perfect pass to Rudolph, who got two feet in bounds before being shoved out the back of the end zone.

Why it was important:
The big knock on Webb as an NFL quarterback is his ability to make all the right reads and to execute all types of throws – including those that require more touch than arm strength. On this play, Webb made an excellent throw, putting it over Rudolph’s right shoulder – away from the safety help coming from Rudolph’s left – and in a perfect spot for Rudolph to pull it in for the score. The Vikings have also drawn criticism this year for not finding ways to use the impressive rookie tight end, especially in the red zone. On this play, everything came together for Webb and Rudolph, and the Vikings took a 23-20 lead in what had become a wild, back-and-forth 2nd half.

Key Play No. 3: (Q4 11:55) 14-J.Webb pass deep middle to 12-P.Harvin to WAS 36 for 36 yards (26-J.Wilson).

What happened:
On 3rd and 10 from their own 28, the Vikings lined up in the shotgun with two backs by Webb’s side. Webb had two receivers split wide right and left, with Percy Harvin lined up in the slot on the right. On the snap, the Redskins sent FS Ashiomogho Atogwe on a blitz, who was essentially unblocked as he pressured Webb up the middle. With almost no time to get a throw off, Webb chucked it down the middle of the field towards Harvin, who had beaten CB Josh Wilson down the seam. Harvin leaped to grab a pass that nearly sailed over his head and came down with it for a 36-yard gain.

Why it was important:
Again, Webb showed both composure in the pocket under extreme pressure, and accuracy on a nice touch pass towards Harvin. This 36-yard gain, followed by a 23-yarder to WR Devin Aromashodu on the next play, ultimately set up a Webb-to-Harvin eight-yard touchdown (on another excellent touch pass) that gave the Vikings a seven-point lead that they would never relinquish. Webb threw just five passes all afternoon, but all four of his completions were crucial to the Vikings 2nd-half surge that what was otherwise a disastrous, injury-ravaged day into a victorious one.