The Vikings won just their third game of the season with their 33-26 win over the Washington Redskins, but it wasn't how they did it, but who they did it with that made the victory impressive.
The Vikings entered the game without the majority of their starting secondary to start the season (Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson) in uniform and another starter (CB Cedric Griffin) that had temporarily fallen out of the starting lineup. On the offensive side, the Vikings were without Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson and, for the better part of the first half, had Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco playing at the guard spots. At wide receiver, two of the three starters to start the year – Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins – were both gone, Berrian having been cut and Jenkins on injured reserve.
When Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder went down in the span of two plays on the first drive of the second half, the Vikings were with a quarterback (Joe Webb) who was the No. 3 QB for the first half of the season and backup running back Toby Gerhart taking over the running duties.
As bad as things had been for the Vikings this year, the term rag-tag may have applied as they moved forward in the second half, thanks to the loss of their franchise player (Peterson) and the future face of the franchise (Ponder).
Instead, the Vikings got a load of contributions from players that entered the season as understudies and were forced into the spotlight. Webb threw only five passes, but completed four of them for 84 yards and two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He also rushed five times for 34 yards and another touchdown.
"Some guys just have that (winning ability) and he's one of those guys that just has that because of his personality," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "People expect something positive to happen."
Gerhart carried the ball just 11 times, but averaged almost 10 yards a carry, gaining 109 yards – his first career 100-yard game and had a career-best 67-yard run – which was the longest run of the season for the Vikings.
"He ran with great authority (when replacing Peterson), particularly in that first start," Frazier said of Gerhart. "You could see the momentum really began to come for him and he's just continued that. His confidence is there. He's getting the carries, so he's getting the opportunities and he's making the most of it."
Even without Hutchinson, the Vikings ran 38 times for 241 yards, a 6.3-yard average.
Mistral Raymond, who was inactive the first six games of the season, snapped the Vikings' 10-game streak of not having an interception with a fourth-quarter pick that helped seal the deal for the Vikings win.
It wasn't a perfect game, but, given the number of players that weren't factors early in the season, what they were able to accomplish might have been their own version of a Christmas (Eve) miracle.
"We've had some tough losses this year and they have continued to show up and fight and play to win," Frazier said. "I don't think they ever come into a game with an attitude we're not going to find a way. They continued to compete.
"I think we had three losses that were really hard losses, lopsided losses. They have not let that affect their psyche, which tells me a lot about their character. The character of our guys, it's something that we can build on. We've got to add some pieces to our team to do certain things. I think the foundation is laid, so when we do get the right people we'll handle success the right way because we've handled adversity, for the most part, pretty well."
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.
Vikings' backups make their case
Viking Update Top Stories
Pass protection fails Bradford, VikingsThe Minnesota Vikings still haven’t been able to solve their offensive line issues, a theme going back to last year, but Mike Zimmer and the players aren’t denying it. They have to…
Viking Update5:23 PM
Notebook: Bradford-Wentz duel fizzlesSunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles was supposed to be a marquee battle of quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz. Instead, it was a long day…
Viking Update3:39 PM
Vikings record-seekers vs. EaglesThe Minnesota Vikings’ loss was littered with mistakes, but a few players worked their way up in the franchise record book.
Viking Update3:14 PM
WATCH: Vikings vs. Eagles highlightsHighlights, or really lowlights for Minnesota Vikings fans, as they drop their first game of the season, 21-10, to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Viking Update2:57 PM