Winning on the road is seldom easy against decent teams in the NFL. But up 35-17 in the third quarter, with Case Keenum and the Vikings offense on fire, it looked like a road rout was at hand for the Vikings.
But then Keenum, who had a perfect passer rating going, tossed a couple of lazy and ill-advised throws that had INT written all over them, and the Redskins were back in it. That took what might have been a late appearance by Teddy Bridgewater in garbage time into a closer finish.
But fortunately for the Vikings, Keenum and especially the Vikings defense were able to put things right and finish out the game for a big road win to open a crucial stretch in the Vikings schedule.
CASE KEENUM: GREAT GAME MARRED BY TWO POOR DECISIONS
Perhaps Keenum was feeling he could do no wrong after having put up 21 points in less than five minutes early into the third quarter, posting a perfect passer rating, along with a career-high 4 TDs.
But he proceeded to make two wrongs, marring an otherwise very right performance, tossing a floater off his back foot to a double-covered Kyle Rudolph that led to an easy interception for the Redskins. It was effectively a short punt on 3rd down as the Redskins got the ball on their own 20, but it gave the Redskins some momentum when not much was going right for them, especially on defense. The Redskins managed to move the ball on their next possession, but the drive stalled on a failed 4th down conversion.
And on Keenum’s next play, Pat Shurmur dialed up a pass to Kyle Rudolph that had been good for 5+ yards the previous two first downs it had been run. But this time Keenum failed to identify DJ Swearinger jumping the route, resulting in Keenum’s second straight completion to the Redskins’ CB.
But following Keenum’s uncharacteristic carelessness with the ball, he was able to put things right the next drive, making a couple key scrambles and throws to get the Vikings into field goal position, and 3 key points thanks to a big field goal by Kai Forbath.
At the end of the afternoon, Keenum finished 21/29 for 304 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 119 passer rating, and the 2nd highest single-game QBR rating - 98.7 - by any quarterback this season. He also finished with an ANY/A or average net yards per attempt of 10.13 by my calculation (passing yards + 20 per TD pass, minus 45 per INT, minus sack yards, divided by attempts).
PAT SHURMUR: MAKING A BETTER CASE
A big part of Case Keenum’s success in this game may be attributed to Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur called an excellent game overall against the Redskins defense, mixing deep balls, runs and intermediate throws well to keep the Redskins off-balance.
But more than that, the Vikings were only 25th in the league in converting TDs in the red zone at mid-season, so Shurmur focused on improving that area during the bye-week, according to Mike Zimmer in his post-game press conference. That focus paid dividends, as the Vikings went 5/5 in converting red zone TDs against the Redskins- a big reason for their outsized point production, and ultimate win on the road.
If Shurmur can continue to mix things up in play-calling, along with calling plays that Keenum can execute well, the Vikings offense could continue to build on their average point production per game. The key is doing so without also becoming too predictable, as Keenum’s last INT was the third time that play was called on first down in that part of the field, shows can have negative results.
But 38 points, 406 yards of total offense, and 6.8 yards per play will improve the Vikings offensive rankings heading into the Rams game next week.
JOSH NORMAN OR JOSH ROBINSON?
Not sure if you noticed, but pretty much every big passing play the Vikings had against the Redskins at Fedex Field came at the expense of Josh Norman. He gave up Diggs’ 51-yard grab early, and got eaten alive by Adam Thielen the rest of the game, being targeted on just about every one of Thielen’s big receptions as well, reminding Vikings fans of the one-time Vikings’ CB Josh Robinson, who often had games like that with the Vikings. In fairness to Norman, he had been suffering from a hamstring injury, and may not have been fully recovered, despite starting today against the Vikings.
Case Keenum may have finished with a less-than perfect passer rating for the day, but I’m pretty sure it was at or very near a perfect 158.3 when targeting Norman.
TOP PFF RATED VIKINGS
The Vikings had a couple familiar faces earning top ratings today, including Adam Thielen (93.6) and Harrison Smith (87.0). But the other three came from guys not often on the list: Andrew Sendejo (82.4), Pat Elflein (82.1), and Tom Johnson (81.4).
Sendejo had a key pass breakup in the end zone, while not yielding the occasional big reception, which has been the case in previous games. Good to see a better performance from Sendejo, which the Vikings will need to see more off down the stretch.
Pat Elflein has gradually been improving over the course of the season, but is still a bit hot and cold depending on the level of competition he faces. The Redskins are a bit weak in their interior line, and Elflein was able to assert himself there today, which will help his confidence moving forward.
Pretty rare to see Tom Johnson rated ahead of Linval Joseph, but such was the case today. I thought Joseph was pretty dominant early, but TJ had the big sack late that pretty much sealed the game for the Vikings. It’s not the first time TJ has been fairly quiet only to step up on a critical play late for a key sack or TFL.
FINISHING OFF THE REDSKINS
With the Eagles in control of the NFC East at 8-1, the 4-4 Redskins needed a win at home today against the Vikings to keep any realistic hope of a wildcard spot alive. Coming off a big win last week at Seattle, and getting most of their injured players back, the Redskins looked in position to play the Vikings tough at home, as they’ve done in the recent past. Certainly they had the incentive and motivation.
But apart from Keenum letting them back into the game in the third quarter, the Vikings played the Redskins tough, and particularly earlier in the game were more physical than the Redskins, even if the score was close at the time. The Vikings were able to match the Redskins first TD with one of their own, breaking the Redskins momentum, picked up a key interception by MacKensie Alexander on an errant Kirk Cousins throw, and were also able to close out the Redskins at home- getting a late field goal along with a late stop to put the game out of reach, effectively eliminating the Redskins from any real hope of a playoff birth.
Finishing off teams late is the mark of a good team in just about any sport, and the Vikings have shown they were up to the challenge again today on the road, against better competition, and without key defensive end and team sack leader Everson Griffen.
VIKINGS SCHEDULE DOESN’T GET EASIER
The Vikings largely impressed during this first game of a crucial five game stretch, and perhaps even more crucial three-game stretch, which could make or break their play-off situation. But the next two games don’t get any easier, facing the surging Rams at home next week, and troublesome division rival Lions on the road on Thanksgiving.
The Vikings will need a strong performance from their defense against the Rams’ top offense, while the offensive line will have perhaps it’s toughest challenge against the Rams’ stout defensive front led by Aaron Donald. Playing at home for the first time in a month will help, but getting a win against the 7-2 and playoff caliber Rams will be no easy task, not to mention turning around on a short week and beating the Lions on the road in their annual Thanksgiving game.
These two games could be the toughest remaining on the Vikings schedule, and perhaps also the most important. Stay tuned.
Who was the player of the game for the Vikings against the Redskins?
This poll is closed