Toby Gerhart wasn't flashy, but he was effective after Adrian Peterson went down with an ankle injury. Gerhart provided valuable first downs late in the game and had personal bests in carries and yards. See what Leslie Frazier and Brett Favre had to say about Gerhart, and get more than two dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
Vikings fans gave a collective gasp when they saw running back Adrian Peterson
limp off the field with 10 minutes to play in the first half of Sunday's 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins. Peterson was off to strong start, rushing six times for 36 yards and a touchdown, but despite getting his ankle taped on the sidelines and looking as if he might return to the lineup, he remained out – turning the rush offense over to rookie Toby Gerhart
Gerhart, whose role with the team has been increasing in baby steps as the season has progressed, was asked to become the featured back for the first time in his pro career. While he wasn't a game-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, he took advantage of his first chance to be a major contributor to the cause.
"Toby Gerhart, man, I take my hat off to him and the offensive line, just understanding the situation," interim coach Leslie Frazier said. "We came in at halftime and we had an idea that Adrian might not be able to go back in the second half and we really wanted to emphasize that it wouldn't change our game plan. We were going to trust our offensive line to do what we talked about all week long. They didn't flinch. Toby did a great job of stepping up. We always talk about next man up and that was Toby today."
Through the first 10 games of the season, Gerhart had a total of 24 carries for 86 yards. He didn't have a rushing attempt Sunday prior to Peterson's injury in the second quarter, but finished the game with 22 carries for 76 yards. It wasn't an artistic success – his longest rush was only six yards – but in a tightly contested game his ability to consistently gain yardage and keep the clock rolling was critical to the Vikings' win.
A workhorse at Stanford
, Gerhart told Viking Update earlier this week that he has been adjusting to being a role player who comes in for a play here or there in a similar way to how Chester Taylor
filled that role in previous years. While he didn't break any game-changing plays, his ability to keep the clock rolling allowed the Vikings to dominate time of possession in the second half and keep the Redskins offense on the sidelines.
In the first half, the Vikings held the ball for just 12:05 of the 30 minutes. Thanks to Gerhart grinding out runs in the second half, the Vikings held the ball for 21:00 of the final 30 minutes. On the first drive of the second half, he scored his first NFL touchdown to cap a 74-yard drive to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead that would prove to be the game-winning points. But his biggest value in the game came late.
Ahead 17-13 with 6:13 to play, Gerhart ran seven times – each run essentially took 40 seconds off the game clock, allowing the Vikings to grind down the remaining clock time and come away with a victory.
"Plugging guys in and out is always difficult," quarterback Brett Favre
said. "… Is Toby an explosive player like Adrian? I don't think anyone is. I think he's pretty darn good. He's reliable, consistent. I don't know how bad Adrian's injury is, but he'll get more reps. I thought he did a very good job for us."
Gerhart's performance won't have anyone asking "Adrian who?" following Sunday's win, but Gerhart proved what he can bring to the table and earned his rookie paycheck Sunday as the featured back in an old-school Vikings offense that would make Bill Brown and Dave Osborn proud.
Before getting injured, Peterson topped the 1,000-yard mark rushing for the season – the fourth straight year in which he has hit that milestone.
Statistically, Favre didn't have a monster passing day, but made perhaps his best play of the year, scrambling for 10 yards on a third-and-8 play right before the 2-minute warning that allowed the Vikings to get a first down and kneel down to kill the clock.
The Vikings dominated the stat sheet, outgaining the Redskins 299-216 and the difference was in the running game. The Vikings ran 38 times for 137 yards, while the Redskins rushed 13 times for just 29 yards.
The Vikings registered four sacks Sunday, including one from team leader Jared Allen to give him 7.5 on the season and 6.5 sacks in his last four games. The other sacks were recorded by E.J. Henderson, Letroy Guion and Brian Robison.
Robison replaced Ray Edwards, who suffered a leg injury in the second quarter.
Chris Cook had to be demoralized Sunday. He bussed in 30 family and friends and got them tickets for Sunday's game, which was to be his homecoming from his home in nearby Virginia. He said earlier in the week that he circled Sunday on his personal calendar because he wanted to play in front of his family for the Redskins game. But, Cook was added to the injury report Friday with a knee injury and was inactive Sunday.
The other Vikings' inactives were safeties Jamarca Sanford and Eric Frampton, RB Albert Young, DT Fred Evans, OL Pat Brown and QB Joe Webb (third QB).
The Vikings had no turnovers Sunday, the first time all season they have been turnover-free.
The Vikings had just three penalties the entire game – none until 3:15 remained in the third quarter and two of the three coming in the span of two plays in the fourth quarter. The Redskins had six penalties for 35 yards, but they were critical, including taking a punt return touchdown off the board on an unnecessary block in the back by rookie linebacker Perry Riley.
In their first drive of the game, the Redskins converted all four of their third-down attempts and midway through the second quarter, they had converted six of eight third downs. From that point on, the Vikings allowed them to convert on just one of seven third downs.
Favre completed 15 of 23 passes for 172 yards with no TDs or interceptions and a passer rating of 87.6 – his third-highest single-game passer rating of the season.
Sunday was just the second time in 11 games that Favre hasn't thrown at least one interception. The other game was the win over Dallas at the Metrodome.
The Vikings are now 2-0 vs. the NFC East this season.
The loss was Donovan McNabb's first in his career against the Vikings. He was 3-0 vs. the Vikings in his career with the Eagles, with two of those three wins coming in the playoffs.
McNabb completed 21 of 35 passes for 211 yards with one TD, one interception and a passer rating of 74.8.
Led by 22 carries from Gerhart, the Vikings ran 38 times. The Redskins as a team ran just 13 times for 29 yards with a long run of four yards – clearly showing how much they missed Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain. Running backs Keiland Williams and James Davis combined to rush nine times for just 16 yards.
No receiver had a big day. Percy Harvin led the Vikings with five receptions and Visanthe Shiancoe was the only receiver with more than 50 yards, catching three passes for 54 yards.
The Redskins' leading receivers – Santana Moss and Chris Cooley – were kept in check. Each caught five passes, but Cooley's gained just 49 yards and Moss had just 40 receiving yards.
The Vikings dominated the second half. Not only did they hold the ball for 21 minutes, they outgained the Redskins 164-66.
The Vikings ran 63 offensive plays – 38 runs and 25 passes. At one point in the third quarter, they had run 40 plays – 20 passes and 20 runs. In the final quarter-and-a-half, the Vikings ran 18 times and passed just five times – all without Peterson.
Ryan Longwell made his only field goal attempt of the game, improving his make percentage to 92.3 percent (12 of 13).
Longwell came into the game averaging just five points a game (50 points) and was on his way to his lowest scoring game of the season. He added five more Sunday to stay on his season average.
E.J. Henderson had a critical interception deep in Redskins territory that helped the Vikings increase their lead to 17-7. Henderson now leads the Vikings with three interceptions.
Chad Greenway played with a visor because of his damaged right eye and led the Vikings with nine tackles (six solo).
Sidney Rice started the game with Bernard Berrian deactivated, but Rice didn't catch a pass until four minutes remained in the third quarter.
The Vikings held the ball for just 12:05 of the first half and had little in the way of offense – Favre completed seven of 11 passes for 80 yards and the Vikings had just 12 rushes for 57 yards.
With the win, the Vikings snapped a nine-game road losing streak.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.