*Brett Favre hadn’t run that hard since his wife found those private pictures on his cell phone two months ago. On a critical 3rd and 8 late in the game and his Minnesota Vikings nursing a four-point lead, the 41-year old Minnesota Viking quarterback scrambled for a season-long ten yards, sealing the Vikings’ 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins (5-6). The win snapped an eight-game road losing streak, the second longest in the NFL. The usually mistake-prone Vikings (4-7), who had a league-worst -13 turnover ratio coming into FedEx Field, played error-free ball under interim head coach Leslie Frazier.
As I mentioned in the preview, the change in Minnesota head coaches this week represented a real danger to the Skins. The Vikings had quit on the descension-riddled Brad Childress. The Vikings genuinely like Frazier and rallied around him. Although the game didn’t start off that way for Minnesota. In the most impressive opening drive of the season for the home team, the Redskins covered 83 yards, consumed nearly eight minutes, converted all four third-down conversions and jumped out on top 7-0 when Donovan McNabb (21 of 33 for 211 yards) hit tight end Fred Davis with a ten-yard touchdown strike. If Childress had been in charge, the game likely would have been over. But Frazier’s run-first philosophy paid immediate dividends. Behind the power running of Adrian “All Day” Peterson, the NFC’s premier tailback, Minnesota drove 71 yards in just seven plays. Peterson’s five-yard scoring surge up the middle tied the game at seven.
But “All Day” turned into “One Quarter” after he hobbled off with a game-ending ankle injury early in the second period. The Redskins had to be feeling confident with Peterson out of the Vikes’ offensive mix. But his back-up, Toby Gerhart (22 rushes for 76 yards) had his best game as a second-year pro. It was the Stanford grad’s five-yard touchdown gallop with five minutes left in the third quarter that put the Vikings up for good, 14-7. Minnesota turned a McNabb interception near his own goal line into a Ryan Longwell 31-yard field goal and a 17-7 advantage. The pick was not McNabb’s fault. The ball bounced right off the chest of Skins’ wide receiver Santana Moss and into the arms of Vikings’ linebacker and University of Maryland product, E.J. Henderson.
The Redskins will remember the fourth quarter as wasted opportunities that cost them this game. Washington’s mighty mite return man Brandon Banks broke off an electrifying 65-yard kickoff return, but the Skins’ offense promptly stalled. The home team had to settle for a 40-yard Graham Gano field goal, narrowing the Viking’ advantage to 17-10. On the next possession, Skins’ wideout Anthony Armstrong was racing down the sideline all alone, but McNabb was under a furious rush. His pass was badly underthrown and Armstrong came back to make a nifty 45-yard grab. The Skins’ drive once again sputtered. Washington would draw to within four on Gano’s 42-yard field goal with ten minutes left. The Skins’ defense stepped up and forced a Minnesota punt. Banks grabbed the punt and appeared to give the home team the lead, but backup linebacker Perry Riley nullified the dazzling 77-yard touchdown return with a costly push-in-the-back penalty. It was the turning point in the game. The Vikings controlled the ball and the clock behind the power running of Gerhart, the precision short passing game of Favre (15 of 23 for 172 yards) and his clutch scramble with just over two-minutes left to make Frazier a winner in his head-coaching debut.
The loss ends what slim playoff hopes existed for the Washington Redskins. And with the first-place New York Giants (7-4), coming off a stirring come-from-behind win over Jacksonsville, looming for Mike Shanahan’s crew in the Meadowlands, it could get ugly in your nations’ capitol. The defense did their job today. They held the explosive Vikings to under 300 yards. But you won’t win many NFL contestsÂ with a ground game that produces just 29 yards! After that opening touchdown drive, the Skins had five punts and McNabb’s critical interception. #5′s play-action passes have little effect when your leading rusher has just eleven yards. The lack of respect for the Skins’ ground attack allowed Minnesota to take away DC’s bread-and-butter long-passing game. Washington tailbacks James Davis and Keiland Williams combined for an embarrasing sixteen yards and averaged less than two yards a carry. HTTR Nation will be bemoaning the plays in today’s fourth quarter that were not made. Great teams make these plays. And while the Skins are much improved over a year ago, their talent base simply can’t allow such late scoring chances to slip through their grasp. It cost them today’s game. Will they rebound against the hated Giants on the road? My preview will be out by mid-week.