The Vikings snapped their four-game losing streak on Thursday night by taking center stage on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football and utilizing a second-half surge to upend the Washington Redskins by a score of 34-27. Poor tackling and an inability to close on the quarterback put the Vikings in a 24-14 halftime hole, but all three phases picked up the pace in the second half and the defense authored a goal line stand in the final moments to seal the victory.
So what went right for the Vikings in the win? Here are a few ideas…
Ponder was sharp before exiting; Cassel carried the momentum
Once Ponder left the game, backup
With the Vikings banged up and not even dressing the full allotment of players, a couple of veterans assumed new roles and performed in big-time fashion. John Carlson stepped into an increased offensive role with Pro Bowl tight end
As for Kevin Williams, he slid over and played nose tackle for most of the game with
Defense awoke in the second half
It looked like more of the same for the Vikings defense in the first half. They gave up 3rd down conversions on seven of eight attempts, they surrendered 18 total 1st downs, they allowed 288 net yards of offense and they gave up 24 points. A host of problems plagued the defense, including poor tackling, coverage breakdowns and an inability to close on the quarterback, and at intermission it was fair to wonder if Washington was going to run away with an easy victory in the second half.
But the second half was a completely different story for the Vikings defense. They came alive and began pressuring and sacking Robert Griffin III – Williams finished with 2.5 sacks and
Griffin III, who was sharp and efficient in the first half while going 16 of 21 for 179 yards with three touchdowns, was quite the opposite in the second half and was clearly impacted by the Vikings increased pass rush. In the second half, Griffin III was eight of 16 for 102 yards with no touchdowns.
Vikings dominated on special teams
The Vikings have had a few gaffes on special teams this season, but generally they’ve been one of better overall groups in the NFL and on Thursday night they were downright dominant against the Redskins.
-- From a return perspective, the Vikings up-men on kickoff return handled very well Washington’s barrage of short, pooch and squib kicks –
-- Conversely, the Vikings kickoff coverage group surrendered an average of just 24.7 yards on three returns, and Walsh booted four touchbacks on the night, as well.
-- The Vikings average drive start after a kickoff was the Minnesota 28, while Washington’s average drive start following a kickoff was their own 22.
Offense was perfect in red zone, efficient on 3rd down
Two areas where the Vikings offense had been uneven through the first eight games of the season were strongpoints of the offense’s performance on Thursday night – 3rd downs and the red zone. The Vikings were six of 10 on 3rd downs and, as a result, the offense was able to sustain drives to put up points on give the defense some much-needed rest. The Vikings put together five drives of six-plus plays, and on those five drives they scored 27 of their 34 points.
In the red zone, the Vikings were a perfect three of three in scoring touchdowns. Peterson scored twice on runs inside the red zone and then Ponder rolled right and found a sprinting