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Vikings at Redskins: Five Game-Changing Plays

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Looking back at the five most important plays from the Vikings’ win over the Redskins.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
David Morgan’s touchdown showed how well Pat Shurmur is calling plays this season.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was certainly entertaining, wasn’t it?

In a game where most anticipated a defensive battle—including myself—the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins combined for 68 points and 800 total yards on Sunday at FedExField. The teams had a total of three punts and one sack. Go figure.

Meanwhile, the muddled quarterback situation in Minnesota became crystal-clear after Case Keenum erupted for 304 yards passing and four touchdowns. Even if Teddy Bridgewater is 100% healthy and looking great in practice, there’s no way that the team can bench Keenum after that sterling performance.

Just kidding! Even at 7-2, this is still the Vikings! Quarterback controversy is practically a prerequisite!

After holding a perfect quarterback rating in the second half, Keenum threw two really awful interceptions that made the game a lot closer than it needed to be down the stretch. Somehow, Keenum’s performance gave plenty of ammunition to both sides of the Case vs. Teddy argument. As of right now, it’s an argument that seems destined to rage on in perpetuity.

But we’ll have plenty of time for that debate as the huge game against the Rams on Sunday gets closer. For now, let’s delve into our weekly recap of the five biggest plays from the victory in our nation’s capital.

Play 1: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 on the Minnesota 47. First quarter, 9:48 remaining. C.Keenum pass deep right to S.Diggs pushed ob at WAS 2 for 51 yards (J.Norman).

After the Redskins had marched straight down the field for a score on the opening drive, it was clear that Washington had brought their “A” game on offense. The Redskins hadn’t allowed a point on their opponents’ opening drive since Week 1. The Vikings needed an answer to avoid going down big early on the road.

And answer they did.

With his second pass of the game, Keenum quieted any doubters that thought having Bridgewater back might be a distraction by hitting Stefon Diggs in stride down the right sideline. Two plays later, Latavius Murray found the end zone to tie the game and the surprising shootout was on. This play was also significant because it was a preview of just how bad Josh Norman was going to get torched by the Vikings wide receivers all day.

Play 2: Redskins ball, 1st & 10 on the Washington 25. Second quarter, 1:49 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short middle intended for J.Crowder INTERCEPTED by M.Alexander at WAS 33. M.Alexander to WAS 23 for 10 yards (C.Roullier).

After the offenses had spent most of the first half marching back and forth across the field, Mackensie Alexander chose an excellent time to get his first career interception.

And we’re not talking his first professional interception either—Mack didn’t get a pick in the two years he played at Clemson. While this play was more a result of an overthrow from Kirk Cousins, it was indicative of the quietly effective sophomore season Alexander has been putting together. Outside of getting beat deep by Jamison Crowder in the third quarter, Mack had a very good game on Sunday. This deflection of a would-be touchdown pass to Josh Doctson was a four-point play in the Vikings’ favor.

Alexander’s interception couldn’t have swung the momentum heading into halftime more. Instead of Washington driving for a lead or cutting their deficit to one before the break, the Vikings had a chance to make it a two score game.

And they did, thanks to some great play calling.

Play 3: Vikings ball, 1st & goal at the Washington 1. Second quarter, 0:25 remaining. C.Keenum pass short middle to D.Morgan for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.

To understand how great of a play call this was, we first have to go back to the game in London against the Browns two weeks ago. On first and goal from the 1, the Vikings split Jerick McKinnon out wide and quickly handed to him for an easy touchdown off the jet sweep. It was a clever play design from Pat Shurmur.

On Sunday, on first and goal from the 1 against the Redskins, the Vikings showed a very similar look. But instead of handing off to McKinnon this time—something the Redskins had surely seen on film when preparing for this game—the Vikings faked the handoff and were able to find David Morgan wide open for his first career touchdown right before the half.

The Vikings have had their struggles finishing off drives this season, but they converted all five of their trips to the red zone into touchdowns on Sunday. Pat Shurmur put on a master class of play calling, constantly keeping Washington’s defense guessing with misdirection and unpredictability. Shurmur is doing an excellent job of maximizing his offense’s strengths this year.

(Pretty amazing how a solid offensive line can open up the playbook, isn’t it?)

Play 4: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 39. Third quarter, 13:44 remaining. (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Keenum pass deep middle to A.Thielen to WAS 12 for 49 yards (J.Norman). WAS-T.McClain was injured during the play.

This play made even the most ardent Bridgewater backers temporarily exclaim, “Teddy who?”

OK, probably not, but it was still pretty amazing. On the first drive of the second half, Keenum evaded the rush and tossed a rainbow right into the arms of Adam Thielen as he was getting smacked. Keenum would come back to earth later in the game, but up to this point he was playing as well as just about anyone. This play set up a touchdown from Jarius Wright and suddenly the Vikings had scored 21 straight points in just under five minutes of game time.

Thielen had another gigantic game on Sunday, amassing eight receptions for 166 yards and a score. I honestly don’t know where this team would be without his weekly contributions. Thielen has been the most consistent factor in an offense that has continued to thrive despite plenty of turmoil. AND DID YOU KNOW HE’S A LOCAL KID FROM DETROIT LAKES THAT PLAYED AT MINNESOTA STATE ON A $500 SCHOLARSHIP AND WORKED HIS WAY UP FROM THE PRACTICE SQUAD AND SPECIAL TEAMS?!?!

Play 5: Redskins ball, 4th and 1 at the Minnesota 33. Fourth quarter, 4:48 remaining. C.Thompson right end to MIN 37 for -4 yards (T.Johnson).

While the Case Keenum of the first two and a half quarters could seemingly do no wrong, two cringe-worthy interceptions on consecutive passes meant that the Redskins were still hanging around late in the game. Washington faced 4th and 1 with just under 5 minutes remaining trailing by 11.

Enter Tom Johnson.

If I’m a Washington fan, I absolutely loathe that play call. The last thing you want to do on 4th and short is call a slow-developing stretch play against a Vikings defense that excels at pursuit and shutting down the outside run. Even if Johnson hadn’t blown up the play before it started, Terence Newman and Eric Kendricks were still in position to stop Chris Thompson short of the first down. Washington was still able to get a shot at a last-ditch onside kick at the end of the game, but this stop more or less sealed the contest.


With a game this chock full of action, we could have expanded our five game-changing plays to about 50. Which do you think was the biggest play from Sunday’s win? Vote in the poll below, and let us know what we didn’t cover in the comments.

Poll

What was the most important play from the Vikings’ win over the Redskins?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Keenum to Diggs in the first quarter
    (233 votes)
  • 36%
    Alexander’s interception
    (471 votes)
  • 8%
    Play action TD to Morgan just before half
    (113 votes)
  • 9%
    Keenum to Thielen for 49 yards
    (128 votes)
  • 26%
    Johnson’s 4th and 1 stop
    (344 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (comment below)
    (15 votes)
1304 votes total Vote Now