The Vikings saved their best for last on Sunday, coming back from a 10-0 deficit to score 22 points in the second half and author a spine-tingling win in front of the home crowd to win their second consecutive game and move to 4-5 as they head into the bye week.
Why did the Vikings win Sunday's game? Let's take a look.
1. The Finish Was Better than the StartA lot of good things can happen to a football team when they play a full 60 minutes and don't turn the ball over. That was the case for the Vikings on Sunday. The Redskins jumped out to a 10-0 lead and looked to be in control of the game as Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater was missing wide open receivers and Washington was controlling the line of scrimmage. Eventually, though, the Vikings fought their way back into the game and didn't stop fighting until they had a lead and the clock read 00:00.
The Vikings took their first lead of the game with 10:44 to go in the 3rd quarter when Matt Asiata plunged in for a one-yard touchdown to cap six-play, 65-yard drive that didn't face a 3rd down. The lead would change hands three more times after that, with the Redskins holding onto a 26-21 advantage at the 9:05 mark of the 4th quarter. That's where Bridgewater, nicknamed G.U.M.P. (Greatest Under Major Pressure), did his best work. Starting at his own 27, Bridgewater led the Vikings on a 12-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 5:34 and culminated in a one-yard Asiata score and subsequent two-point conversion to give the Vikings a 29-26 lead they would not relinquish. On the drive, Bridgewater was five of seven for 64 yards, hitting five different receivers and converting two 3rd downs through the air – a connection of 21 yards on 3rd and 10 to Jarius Wright and a gain of six yards to Greg Jennings on 3rd and 5. The game-winning play also came on 3rd down, with Asiata finding the end zone on a second effort.
The Vikings defense finished off the win, getting a sack on 2nd and 16 and then forcing Robert Griffin III to throw incomplete while on the run on 4th and 6.
2. Won the Turnover BattleIt was all good news on the turnover front for the Vikings. There weren't many turnovers in the game – just one, in fact. And that one turnover was created by the Vikings and resulted in a touchdown. Trailing 10-0, the Vikings offense stalled late in the 2nd quarter when a 4th-and-2 from the Washington 39 wasn't converted. The Redskins, with an opportunity to put the game far out of reach, went to the air on the first play of the ensuing drive. That's when CB Captain Munnerlyn stepped in front of a Griffin III pass and intercepted it, giving the Vikings possession at the Washington 46 with just under a minute to go in the half. Bridgewater marched the Vikings toward the end zone and eventually found TE Chase Ford for a 20-yard touchdown on 3rd and 6 to get the Vikings on the board and create momentum heading into the locker room at halftime.
3. Offensive Line Paved the Way for Second-Half ComebackThey may not get much credit for it because they've been much-maligned of late and you don't see their names in the box scores, but the Vikings offensive line was pivotal in Sunday's win, particularly in the second half. Bridgewater was not sacked on 14 second-half pass attempts and the time provided by the line (plus the running backs and tight ends) allowed him to complete nine of 14 passes for 120 yards over the final two quarters. In addition, the Vikings collected 86 of their 100 rushing yards in the second half. It all added up to scores on three of five second-half drives and a total of 22 points, enough to secure a come-from-behind win in front of a raucous home crowd.
4. Pass Rush Stayed HotThe Vikings came into Week 9 tied for second in the NFL in sacks, and they'll leave Week 9 leading the NFL in sacks. With 15 sacks over the past three games and 25 for the season already to their credit, the Vikings pass rush stayed hot against Griffin III. The dynamic Redskins passer was sacked five times and was hit at least a handful of others on Sunday. The pressure came from all over, with no Vikings defender tallying multiple sacks and with two of them coming from LBs Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway. DTs Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson both added to their season total and single-season career highs by sharing a sack, while Everson Griffen collected another one and now has 9.0 for the season, including at least 1.0 in each of the last five games.
View images from the week 9 matchup at TCF Bank Stadium between the Vikings and Redskins.
5. Backups Stepped UpJust as many other NFL teams are experiencing, the Vikings have dealt with a number of missing starters during the 2014 season. Two players who were key parts of the offense coming into the season – RB Adrian Peterson and TE Kyle Rudolph – have missed a combined 14 games. On Sunday, though, backups at each position stepped up to help carry the day. Asiata scored three times, the third time in his three-year career he's tallied a three-touchdown game, and he also ran in what could've been a key two-point conversion. Ford hauled in five catches for 66 yards and also tallied his first career touchdown. Also important in the offensive attack as both a blocker and a pass catcher was TE Rhett Ellison, who brought in four receptions of his own for 30 yards.