No post bye week letdown for the Vikings this season. Fresh off several days rest, the Vikings hit the road to take on the Washington Redskins and left FedEx Field with a 38-30 win to improve to 7-2 on the season. Here are 10 takeaways from the Vikings fifth consecutive win.
1. Offensive explosion paces winning effort
More times than not, it's the Vikings defense that bears much of the burden in victories. It was the Vikings offense that led the way this week, though. Quarterback Case Keenum threw three of his career-high four touchdowns in the first half to help the Vikings build a 28-17 lead by intermission and he finished the game with 304 passing yards and a passer rating of 117.0. The Vikings four touchdown drives were all of 70+ yards and the offense averaged 6.8 yards per play. The offense was also sharp in critical areas, going eight of 12 (67%) on 3rd downs, five of five in the red zone and four of four in goal-to-go situations.
2. Forbath came up clutch
At one point in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings led 35-17 and the Redskins were in danger of getting blown out. But Washington was able to make a few plays and then completely swing momentum into their favor with a two-yard Kirk Cousins plunge that pulled them to within eight points. The ever-resilient Vikings responded, though, driving 40 yards in 12 plays on the ensuing drive to setup Kai Forbath with a field goal attempt of 53 yards. A miss would've given Washington good field position and a shot to tie the game. A make and the Vikings would be up two scores with under eight minutes to play. Forbath flushed it. He split the uprights and had distance to spare, connecting on his fifth field goal of 50+ yards in as many tries this season. Forbath was also true on all five of his extra point tries.
3. Offensive line keeps Keenum clean
One of the brightest spots of the entire season for the Vikings has been the improvement and play of the offensive line. Case Keenum was not sacked on Sunday, the fifth time already this season he's been kept completely clean in a game; the Vikings have allowed only 10 sacks on the year. The Vikings ran for a modest 3.3 yards per carry, but were able to gain yardage on the ground when needed and the offensive line is to be credited for their part in the offense being perfect in five red zone possessions and in four goal-to-go situations.
4. Thielen had a big day, again
It was just another 166 yards for Adam Thielen on Sunday. The Minnesota native and fan favorite is doing nothing but increasing his stock in 2017 and found the end zone for the second consecutive game on Sunday. By halftime, Thielen had four catches for 100 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown, and he tacked on another four receptions and 66 yards in the second half. Thielen had four of the Vikings five longest plays from scrimmage, hauling in Keenum passes for gains of 49, 38, 38 and 17 yards; Stefon Diggs had the team's longest play from scrimmage on a 51-yard reception early in the game to setup a Latavius Murray touchdown two plays later.
5. Alexander, Sendejo step up in the secondary
Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are the stars in the secondary, but they aren't the only ones making plays. In fact, it was two others who made the big plays in Washington on Sunday. Safety Andrew Sendejo prevented two touchdowns on plays in which he jarred the ball loose from receivers who had both hands on the football; Sendejo finished the game with four tackles. Mackensie Alexander also had two pass breakups, one of which was an interception late in the first half which led to a Vikings touchdown right before halftime; the other was in the end zone with under two minutes to go on the first play of a drive that resulted in a Redskins field goal.
6. Barr helps neutralize another dual threat running back
Running back Chris Thompson can do so many things for the Redskins that his nickname is the Chris Army Knife. His production was cut on Sunday, though, and it was thanks in large part to Anthony Barr. The Vikings have faced several versatile running backs similar to Thompson this season – Alvin Kamara, Le'Veon Bell, Theo Riddick and Tarik Cohen – and none of them have been very productive with Barr among the defenders in charge of containing them. Thompson endured the same outcome on Sunday. He was held to just 26 yards rushing on nine carries and three receptions for 41 yards on seven targets. Barr finished the game with three tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss and a pass defensed, continuing what has been perhaps his best season as a pro.
7. Griffen's presence was missed, especially late in the game
The Vikings defense bowed up at the right times on Sunday and held its end of the bargain in what was a solid all-around team win. It's notable that the defense was able to do that without one of its best players on the field, as Everson Griffen missed the contest due to injury. While others stepped up in Griffen's place, the Vikings pass rush did lack some punch, especially late in the game when the Vikings were protecting a lead and the Redskins were dropping back to pass on nearly every snap. Griffen had a sack in every game coming into Week 10 and he had 10.0 sacks on the season to lead what's been a punishing pass rush in 2017, but the Vikings were able to drop Cousins just once in 45 dropbacks on the afternoon. Optimism remains that Griffen will be able to return next week when the Vikings take on the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium.
8. Diggs dazzles at home once again
Diggs is from Gaithersburgh, Maryland and played college football at the University of Maryland, so playing at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland is a legitimate homecoming for the third-year pro. Last season in the Vikings game at Washington, Diggs dazzled with 13 receptions for 164 yards. He did so again this season, hauling in fewer receptions (four) and receiving yards (78), but finding the end zone early in the 2nd quarter to give the Vikings a 14-10 lead. He also had the 51-yard reception earlier in the game that setup the Vikings first touchdown.
9 Shurmur, Keenum keep everyone involved
Offensive coordinator and play caller Pat Shurmur is on fire in 2017 and several Vikings skill position players are benefiting. Yes, Diggs and Thielen are leading the way, but others are getting involved, as well. Murray recorded his second touchdown as a Viking in the 1st quarter on Sunday, while tight end David Morgan hauled in his first career touchdown in the 2nd quarter on a crafty goal line and Jarius Wright was utilized inside the red zone on a 3rd quarter screen pass to give the Vikings a 35-17 lead. Shurmur and Keenum have done – and did do in Washington – an excellent job of leaning on their best threats – Diggs and Thielen – while also providing plenty of opportunities for ancillary players to make an impact and stress defenses enough to the point where they can't focus exclusively on neutralizing Diggs or Thielen.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday.
10. Win preserves space atop division
The Vikings win on Sunday did not increase their lead in the NFC North. But it was a huge win nonetheless because the two teams chasing the Vikings – Detroit and Green Bay – also both won. The Vikings lead remains two games with seven to play. A loss on the road against the Redskins is an excusable one, but it would've tightened things up in the NFC North. The Vikings don't have to deal with that this week, though, and now they can prepare for a tough Rams teams before they set their sights on a rematch with the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day in a game that will set the stage for the final push of the regular season.