The Minnesota Vikings don’t have what would be viewed as a natural rivalry with the Washington Redskins, but one thing they have been able to produce is eventful games with wild finishes when they meet.
Sunday will mark the fifth time in six years that the schedules have worked out that the Vikings play the Redskins. This season, all teams from the NFC North and NFC East play one another, but even if they didn’t, the Vikings and Redskins would still be meeting given that both were the defending division champions.
Here is a quick refresher course on what has taken place when Minnesota and Washington collide.
2011 – A game known more for its injury implications, it was tied 10-10 at halftime. On the first offensive play of the second half, Adrian Peterson tore his knee up – an injury many thought could be the end of the productive side of Peterson’s career. On the next play, quarterback Christian Ponder went down, leaving the Vikings offense in the hands of Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart.
What looked like a no-win situation became a winning proposition. Gerhart ran nine times for 105 yards in the second half and Webb completed four of five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns (posting a perfect 158.3 passer rating) as well as rushing five times for 34 yards and another TD. The two teams combined to score eight times in the second half as the Vikings came away with a 33-26 win.
2012 – The Vikings went on the road and had a chance to blow the game open early, driving into the red zone three times in the first quarter, only to settle for Blair Walsh field goals of 20, 27 and 27 yards. The Redskins would score 24 unanswered points to take a 24-9 lead, but the teams just kept on scoring. They combined to score 12 times in the game with the dagger for the Vikings being provided by former teammate Madieu Williams, whose 24-yard Pick-6 of Ponder would prove to the be the points that put the game out of reach in a 38-26 final.
2013 – In a Thursday night special in the final season at the Metrodome, the Redskins opened up a 27-14 lead early in the third quarter, only to have the Vikings score the game’s final 20 points in a 34-27 win. The game marked the career game as a Vikings for tight end John Carlson, who caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. It also marked one of the most efficient games that Ponder had as a Vikings, completing 17 of 21 passes for 174 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 111.1. Washington dominated just about every statistics they could – yards, turnovers, time of possession, etc. – but the Vikings came away with a “W.”
2014 – Mike Zimmer joined the fray for the first time and saw his Vikings and Washington have at it tooth and nail. Washington opened a 10-0 lead 14 seconds into the second quarter, but Teddy Bridgewater wouldn’t be denied. The lead would change hands five times in the second half, as one team would score and the other would have almost an immediate answer. With Peterson suspended, Matt Asiata scored three rushing touchdowns, including what proved to be the game-winner with 3:27 to play as the Vikings closed out the Redskins 29-26.
For two non-division teams without a natural rivalry to speak of, it would appear that when the Vikings and Redskins get together you can expect the unexpected and crazy things tend to happen as the defenses take a holiday and the two teams roll up points almost every time they have the ball.
Will the 2016 entry be written as the latest chapter in this growing rivalry to bring more of the same? That part will be written Sunday.