As the first half kind of dragged on, and the Vikings seemed to shoot themselves in their feet so much they were running out of toes, I sort of took on a gallows humor towards the whole game. It seemed like the Vikings were on their way to getting their rear ends kicked; they had given up scores on the first two Washington drives, the offense was doing nothing, and the team seemed listless.
Yet, through almost two full quarters they were only down 10 points, which seemed nearly miraculous, all things considered. Then a turnover, a score, and a second half offensive explosion later, the Vikings find themselves one game within .500. How? I'm not sure I really know, but we'll start with Teddy Bridgewater and go from there. And maybe, just maybe...that old line of thinking that says when things don't go Minnesota's way means they're going to fold and mail it in don't apply anymore. Still, with the way this team can be schizophrenic sometimes, I find myself wondering...who are you?
I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said "You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away"
I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin' punches around
And preachin' from my chair
Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Your SMR that just got flagged for something but will still persevere follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: It's hard to be be rational and dispassionate with this guy, as I love how he handles himself at the QB position. As frustrating as the first half was for us as fans, Bridgewater's emotions and demeanor didn't change. And when the defense presented the offense with a short field at the end of the half, Bridgewater made some plays and got the Vikings in the end zone, narrowing the gap to 10-7. In the second half, Bridgewater took another step in the maturation process, throwing for 268 yards and leading two fourth quarter TD drives, both with the Vikings behind, giving him another fourth quarter come from behind victory. As ineffective/inconsistent as the Vikings running game was for most of the afternoon, I think it's safe to say that without Bridgewater throwing the ball as well as he did, the Vikings would not have won the game.
Everson Griffen, DE: There are two pure athletes on the Vikings defense, Anthony Barr and Griffen. They both make me shake my head in amazement at least once a week, and Griffen had three big plays Sunday. He had a sack, but that wasn't his best play. It was either a third and short stop of Roy Helu where he ran him down from across the field for a loss, or his open field stop of Robert Griffin III on third down down of a designed RG III run, again on a third and short. Both were huge plays that lifted the defense, and made me shake my head and chuckle. Chuckle in a 'I can't believe I just saw that' kind of way.
Chase Ford, TE: In a season where the tight end has been a forgotten weapon, Ford helped everyone remember what an athletic TE in this offense can do. His TD reception at the end of the first help was a huge momentum shift, and although his numbers weren't eye popping (5 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) they were all timely, and when Kyle Rudolph returns, Ford will be another sure handed weapon available to a young quarterback still learning the game.
Shariff Floyd, DT: Maybe it's me, but Floyd seems to be getting better each week, and he had another half sack on Sunday, giving him more in nine games than he had all of last season. He's disruptive in the middle and has improves leaps and bounds over his start and stop rookie season.
Greg Jennings, WR: Jennings had another solid game Sunday, giving the Vikings some big catches at critical times. When Bridgewater has time, and he needs to complete a pass, he's looking more and more in the direction of Jennings, who's delivering. And had Teddy hit an open Jennings early in the first quarter, the Vikes would've had an early 7-0
Jeratt McAsiata, RB hybrid: For the first half, the Vikings running game was non-existent. The Vikes only had 100 yards total rushing on the day...but a measley 14 yards at half time, and neither back had double digits in yards. But in the second half, McKinnon made some money off tackle to get the offense in favorable down and distance situations, and Asiata became a battering ram on the goal line. I would argue that the second half was about as effective as Asiata and McKinnon have been used together this year, as Norv Turner focused on the strengths of the two runners. And it paid big dividends.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: On the third play of the game, the Redskins had a broken coverage, and Patterson was so wide open it was seemingly impossible for the Vikings not to score. Bridgewater overthrew Patterson, but it also looked like Patterson gave up on the route. Did he give up on it because it was overthrown, or was it overthrown because he gave up on the route? I would argue it was more Bridgewater overthrowing the ball than Patterson giving up on the ball, BUT...Bridgewater was 1-7 throwing the ball to Patterson, and 25-35 throwing it to everyone else. Patterson and Teddy not only aren't on the same page right now, they're not even reading the same book. And if he's that accurate with everyone else, but way off with Patterson...I'm thinking there's an issue with Patterson.
Chad Greenway, LB: Chad Greenway had a sack in the third quarter that forced a Washington punt, but for a good part of the rest of the game, he looked slow and a step behind. On the first two Washington drives, each which ended in points, Greenway miscues either kept a drive alive or lead to a TD. On the first drive he whiffed on a third down sack that ended up being a 24 yard gain, which ultimately lead to a field goal. On the second drive, he was unable to fill a gap that allowed Alfred Morris to scamper 14 yards untouched for a score. I like Chad, he's been a hell of a player for the Vikings for a decade, but I wouldn't be disappointed if Gerald Hodges saw more and more snaps.
Buy: That 2 minute drive to close the first half. It was set up by a Captain Munnerlyn interception, but how often had we seen a turnover with great field position end up with no points? But a big completion to Jennings, and a Bridgewater 'point to Ford to go deep and then hit him for a score' semi-improv play got the Vikings within three points, and gave them hope heading into the second half.
Sell: The first 28 minutes of the first half. Why did they have hope? Because for 28 minutes in the first half, the offense looked utterly hopeless and hapless. The offensive line wasn't blocking or pass protecting, Bridgewater wasn't in sync with the receivers, and the Vikings couldn't run the ball. Until that score, those 10 Redskins points felt like 50.
Buy: The offensive line in the second half. Seriously, they were pretty good. The Vikes had 85 yards rushing, gave Bridgewater a pretty clean pocket to operate in, for the most part, and were the main reason the Vikings were able to put 29 points on the board against a pretty good defense.
Sell: The offensive line in the first half. But I was ready to cut everyone at halftime, seriously. Matt Kalil and Charlie Johnson couldn't block Stephen Hawking, there was absolutely nowhere for McKinnon or Asiata to run, and the Redskins defensive line was playing on the Vikings line of scrimmage the entire half.
Buy: Brian Robison's sack dance. Maybe it's because I'm a fisherman, but Robison's 'FISH ON' sack dance is pretty awesome.
Sell: Everson Griffen's sack dance. Griff's sack dance seems like a mashup of the Electric Slide, the Ray Lewis introduction, and a discount double check. Don't tear your ACL doing it, Ev. Okay?
Egregious Bullshit Penalty Of The Week:
This is a new category I'm introducing, because it seems that at least once a week, there's such an egregious call made by the referees, that it needs to be mentioned, so we can vent. Now that said, it doesn't matter who the call goes against, and if it happens to help the Vikings, I'm going to call it as well. Why? Because someone, somewhere, has to start the groundswell to get the NFL to do something to make referees better/more accountable/ less terrible. Because no matter what game I watch in the NFL, week in and week out I see awful, awful calls. Simply put, horrid officiating is ruining football.
Situation: Third quarter, Redskins have the ball third and one from the Vikes 24, and the Vikings have taken a 14-10 lead.
Play: RG III takes off to the right on a designed run, and Harrison Smith is there to stop him cold. RG III goes into a slide for a two yard loss, and Smith, who had been going in for the hit, missed Griffin completely. But the referee felt that it was an unecessary roughness penalty, because maybe the breeze produced from Smith kicked up some dust and got something in RG III's eyes, or something.
Result: Redskins get a first down, half the distance to the goal. RG III hit DeSean Jackson on the next play for a TD, and the Redskins regained the lead on a TD that should've never happened.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
At one point in the flagfest we watched, the referees actually called a penalty on Washington. I want to say it was somewhere early in the fourth quarter. My Dad and I looked at each other in a kind of amazement, because the rate of penalties called had been against Minnesota by what felt like a 10/1 ratio.
Dad: "Wait, they called that on Washington? Huh, Dan Snyder's check must have bounced."
So the Vikings, bad first half and a ton of flags against them, still managed to pull out a win. That mental toughness Mike Zimmer talks about seems to be taking hold, at least if this game is any indication. Hopefully they turned a corner, but we'll see moving forward.