MINNEAPOLIS — The yardage was short, but three touchdown runs by Matt Asiata stood tall for the Vikings Sunday in a 29-26 victory over the Redskins at TCF Bank Stadium.
Asiata had 10 carries for 26 yards, but scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner that he followed with a two-point conversion run with 3:27 remaining.
Asiata recorded his third three TD game of his career and second this season with a determined effort. He was first contacted shy of the goal line by LB Will Compton on the third-down play but kept his legs moving and stretched the ball across the goal line.
"Just being a hammer and not the nail, just stay hungry," Asiata said. "We needed the points, and our team needed the win."
Asiata's second effort made breaking the tackle attempt look less like going through oak and more like going through balsa wood. He also added 31 receiving yards on four catches.
Minnesota's defense was able to stop Washington's ensuing possession when a pass from Robert Griffin III was low and not caught by Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-6. The Vikings (4-5) ran clock and left the Redskins (3-6) with one more play with six seconds remaining, but Griffin's desperation heave sailed out of bounds as time expired.
"It's great. It lets us know where we're at and where we stand as a team when it's time to get down and crunch time," cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "It lets us know we can face adversity and come out on top of it."
It was the second straight come-from-behind win orchestrated by Teddy Bridgewater and third of the rookie's NFL career. Bridgewater was 4-for-7 for 64 passing yards on the game-winning drive that spanned a total of 73 yards on 12 plays in 5:34. He converted third-and-10 with a 21-yard gain to Jarius Wright, followed by a 21-yard throw to TE Chase Ford, who deftly tapped his heels in bounds before going backward out of bounds, and converted third-and-5 with a 6-yard pass to Greg Jennings.
"All 11 guys and even the guys that came off that sideline were able to play in that drive," Wright said. "Everybody made plays. It wasn't just one guy making plays. The whole team made plays. Teddy did a good job of spreading the ball around. When you don't know where the ball is going, it's definitely harder to defend."
Ford, who had 66 yards on five catches, said, "I felt like I was going to be in (bounds). He didn't push me too terribly hard to where I couldn't get my heels down in time."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer had legendary wrestler Dan Gable speak to the team Saturday, and saw his team endure five lead changes in the second half before wrestling away the lead for good.
"It's about building momentum. When you can win the close games, the sky's the limit for you," Captain Munnerlyn said. "If you've ever been in that situation before and you're winning, you know how to win, but you've got to learn how to win. That's what the problem was last year here, they didn't know how to win, and earlier in my career, when I was in Carolina we didn't know how to win either. We were giving games up in the fourth quarter. This team right here, we're fighters, warriors. We pick each other up on the sideline when the offense is not doing great, and if the defense is not doing great, they say 'We've got y'all. We're going to put some points up.' "
Zimmer had set a goal with offensive coordinator Norv Turner of scoring 28 points and didn't mind getting one more even though one less would have been enough. It was the third-highest point production for the Vikings this season.
View images from the week 9 matchup at TCF Bank Stadium between the Vikings and Redskins.
3 TDs KEY: The Vikings improved to 18-0 in franchise history when a running back scores three touchdowns in one game.
Asiata's first 1-yard TD gave the Vikings a 14-10 lead with 10:44 left in the third quarter. He added a 7-yarder — the longest scoring run of his career — to put Minnesota up 21-20 with 13:00 left in the game, and his second 1-yard score counteracted a two-yard TD by Alfred Morris that put Washington up 26-21 (the Redskins two-point conversion attempt failed) with 9:01 to go.
"We got some movement up front, but he also ran some guys over and made some big plays on the goal line," right tackle Phil Loadholt said. "He's definitely a good back when you get down there close."
Asiata moved out of a tie with Chuck Foreman's two games with three TDs for second place in franchise history and is behind the five games with three rushing TDs by Adrian Peterson.
SACKS APLENTY AGAIN: Vikings pass rushers continued their hot streak of sacking opposing quarterbacks, despite Griffin being a speedy runner. Minnesota tallied 5.0 on the day, boosting its season total to 30.
NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October Everson Griffen set a new career high by recording his ninth sack of the season, Tom Johnson boosted his career best to 5.5 on the year after splitting one with Sharrif Floyd, rookie Anthony Barr recorded his fourth of the year, Brian Robison upped his season tally to 2.5, and Chad Greenway notched his first of the season.
"I think our front four is doing a much better job of working off each other, all four guys rushing together," Robison said. "If we can do that, we're just going to keep getting better. It's about going throughout the week and knowing where each person is going to be and not allowing quarterbacks to be able to look downfield. If we can get in their face and keep them in the pocket and get them down on the ground a few times, that helps us on defense."
INT STARTS SURGE: Munnerlyn recorded his second interception in as many weeks and erased a failed fourth-down attempt by Minnesota at the Washington 39. The diving catch became a catalyst for the Vikings who trailed by 10 with 59 seconds remaining in the first half.
Bridgewater hit Jennings, who had team highs of six catches and 76 receiving yards, for a gain of 22 on first down, then converted a third-and-6 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ford, for the tight end's first career TD.
"I was really surprised I was that open," Ford said. "I didn't think it was going to be that easy, but I'll take it. I really was thinking catch it and prepare to get hit because I really thought something was going to happen. It was just kind of too easy. I'll take it, and it was a great win."
Bridgewater bounced back from missing deep attempts to Jennings and an even more open Cordarrelle Patterson early to finish 26-of-42 passing for 268 yards and no turnovers for a passer rating of 88.2.
"Sometimes you're going to have some slow starts but it's all about how you finish the game," Bridgewater said. "Today, it was a great team win. The guys, they hung their hats high and continued to just fight throughout the course of the game."
Minnesota had 252 net yards, compared to 184 for Washington after the interception, helping the Vikings outscore the Redskins 29-16.
"It was big. That's why they brought me here, to make plays and get everybody going," Munnerlyn said. "I'm just happy I was able to catch the ball and get the offense field position so they can go in and score. At the same time, I've got to make plays all the time. It's the NFL, and they're going to make sure."
DEFENDING THE DEEP ONES: Washington boosted its league-leading season total of pass plays of more than 40 yards to 14. DeSean Jackson padded his league-best total of such plays to nine with catches of 45 and 56 yards, and each was part of a touchdown drive for the Redskins, but the Vikings allowed just one other pass play of more than 20 yards for the game.
"He's tough to cover. I think he's one of the best downfield receivers in the game," Munnerlyn said. "If you look at the way he plays and how fast this guy is, if you can't get your hands on him, you can have trouble.
Munnerlyn said the 56-yarder occurred on a double move by Jackson, who sold the cornerback into thinking it was a hitch route.
"I tried to grab him and look and he ran by me," Munnerlyn said. "I was like, 'Ohhh!' Robert made the tackle for me, but I know he's going to make his plays. It's the NFL, but I try to win my share."
Rhodes, who left the game to be evaluated for a concussion after the 45-yard pass to Jackson, returned to action with 4:19 left in the first half and was tested on his third play back when Griffin targeted Garcon. Rhodes, however, stayed with Garcon and was able to cleanly knock away the ball.
"They wanted to see if they could get on top and see if the injury was crucial or was I forcing myself out there," said Rhodes, who added the key to a play like that is, "locate the ball when you're on top of the receiver. Once you feel like you're in a great position on the receiver, that's when you look back."