All 19 of the Vikings' points Sunday came on either their first drives or last full drives of each half. But there's far better analysis than that in the 35 other game notes that help tell the story of Monday night's 19-16 Vikings win.
There's something to be said about being symmetrical in the NFL. While the Vikings offense didn't light up the scoreboard Monday night in their 19-16 win over Washington, they found ways to score at the right times to keep themselves ahead or close.
The Vikings scored on the first drive of both halves and the last time they tried to move the ball in both halves to account for their 19 points – no small feat in a stadium that held 94,000 fans – the vast majority of them screaming in hopes of seeing the Vikings collapse.
The crowd fell silent early as Brad Johnson
led the team on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that took almost five minutes and ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor
. On the drive, Johnson converted two third-and-long situations – one a third-and-7 and the other a third-and-9 – and Taylor's touchdown came on a third-and-goal run in which the Redskins were looking pass and Taylor ducked in behind a block from Steve Hutchinson
After being held scoreless for the rest of the half and trailing 13-6 with 1:05 to play in the half, a 44-yard kickoff return by Troy Williamson
set the Vikings up in good position and Johnson completed passes of 15 and 7 yards to get the team in scoring position. As time ran out, Ryan Longwell
hit a 46-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 13-9 at the half.
After the Vikings defense shut down Washington on the first possession of the second half, it was déjà vu. Thanks to passes of 23 yards to Billy McMullen
and a 20-yard touchdown to Marcus Robinson
, the Vikings marched 55 yards in four minutes, 10 seconds to take a 16-13 lead on their first possession of the second half.
Once again, the Redskins held the Vikings off the scoreboard until the final minutes with the game tied 16-16. Starting at his own 33 with 5:34 to play, Chester Taylor did most of the damage on the ground, running the ball eight times in the drive to get the Vikings in field goal range. With 2:26 left, the Vikings forced the Redskins to burn all three of their timeouts and, with exactly one minute left on the clock, Longwell connected on a 31-yard field goal to give the Vikings the lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
Vikings fans have been warned to beware of games that will be in the teens instead of 35-31 shootouts. If they all end up like it did Monday, there won't be many complaints.
Vikings coach Brad Childress wasn't kidding when he said he was going to adopt a culture of responsibility with his team. He deactivated safety Dwight Smith, who was part of ESPN's pregame promo for the game. Smith wasn't injured. The benching was the result of his citation for indecent conduct with a woman at a local Twin Cities bar Aug. 26.
Chester Taylor's 31 carries were only two short of the all-time Vikings record. It has been set four times – twice by Chuck Foreman in 1975 and 1977, by Terry Allen in 1992 and by Scottie Graham in 1993.
The Vikings held the Redskins to 266 total yards (103 rushing and 163 passing), while tallying 309 yards themselves (86 rushing and 223 passing).
One of the biggest differences in the game was third-down conversions. The Vikings made good on 9 of 17 third-down attempts, while the Redskins were successful on just 4 of 13 attempts on third down.
The Vikings didn't have a sack in the game, but that was more because Mark Brunell was willing to roll out and throw the ball away rather than remain in the pocket. Brunell threw no less than five balls out of bounds to avoid sacks.
The Vikings won the individual battles Monday. Brad Johnson completed 16 of 30 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown, while Brunell was 17 of 28 for 163 yards and no TDs. Taylor ran 31 times for 88 yards, which was considerably more than Washington's Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, who combined for 18 carries and 61 yards.
Troy Williamson was the game's leading receiver, catching four passes for 77 yards, besting Santana Moss of Washington, who had three catches for 69 yards. Jermaine Wiggins led the Vikings with five receptions.
Neither team committed a turnover in the game.
The corners made their living making tackles. Cornerback Antoine Winfield tied with linebacker E.J. Henderson for the team lead with seven tackles (all solos), and cornerback Fred Smoot was right behind them with six solo tackles.
Washington linebacker Lemar Marshall was the defensive star of the night with 13 tackles.
As promised by Childress, Taylor got stronger as the game went on. He has eight runs of 4 yards or more in the final 20 minutes of the game after having six runs of 4 yards or more in the first 40 minutes.
With the Vikings' win on Monday, a whopping 10 of the NFL's 15 road teams won their games on opening weekend heading into the finale of the first week with San Diego at Oakland.
Brad Childress became just the second coach to ever earn his first head coaching victory in a debut performance at the expense of Joe Gibbs – the other being former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Ryan Longwell hit his game-winning field goal at the end of the game. In his career, he has made 11 of 13 career kicks to put his team ahead in the final two minutes or in overtime.
Washington safety Sean Taylor is known for his big hits, but he had two crucial personal-foul penalties in the second half that helped keep Vikings drives alive, including the drive for the game-winning field goal.
From the good news department for Troy Williamson: Monday he led the team in receiving yards for the first time in his career, and his 44-yard kickoff return with a little more than a minute to go in the first half led to the Vikings field goal as time expired.
From the bad news department for Williamson: He dropped three passes – one that would have been a 59-yard touchdown, another that would have given the Vikings a sure first down and a third that hit him in the face.
Gibbs likely didn't like to see that his team was opening the season on Monday Night Football. With Monday's loss, he's now 0-6 on MNF in the season's opening week.
Johnson showed some versatility in the second quarter. Trying to avoid a sack, he threw a left-handed pass to Jermaine Wiggins, but, whether in shock or because of the wobbly ball, Wiggins couldn't hold on to the pass.
Minnesota sports fans found themselves in a dilemma much of the night since the Twins were playing first-place Oakland at the Metrodome. The fans left happy on all counts, since the Twins beat the A's 9-4 to move within 1-1/2 games of idle Detroit for the A.L. Central lead and kept their lead atop the wild card standings.
Billy McMullen saw limited action, but on his first play as the third receiver, he caught a 22-yard pass from Johnson.
The Vikings' return game got a big boost from Williamson, whose 44-yard kickoff return led to the field goal to close the first half, and Mewelde Moore, whose 21-yard punt return set up the Vikings touchdown drive to start the second half.
At halftime, Washington held a solid lead in total yardage (161-139). Chester Taylor had 11 carries for 32 yards in the first half before running 20 times in the second half.
The Redskins didn't have a penalty called against them until 45 seconds remained in the first half. By that time, the Vikings had already been flagged seven times and had two penalties declined.
Matt Birk helped avert disaster in the first half when Johnson was hit from behind by Washington linebacker Marcus Washington and fumbled. While a lot of players stood around, an alert Birk pounced on the ball.
Portis, who up until Sunday wasn't supposed to play, not only led the Redskins in rushing but scored his 50th career touchdown in the first half.
The Vikings were 4-for-4 on third-down conversions in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged long drives to start the game – the Vikings going on a 10-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown and the Redskins countering with a 13-play, 75-yard drive on their first possession that ended with a field goal.
The people who claim a kicker should always have a quarterback do his holding got some ammunition Monday when Chris Kluwe bobbled a good snap on the first extra point of the game to make the score 6-0 instead of 7-0.
The Vikings have started experimenting with the stretch running play made famous by Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James in Indianapolis.
Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs missed the game. He's still suffering from the effects of abdominal surgery.
Washington safety Pierson Prioleau suffered what looked to be a serious left knee injury on the opening kickoff.
It was hard for some Vikings fans to expect that the MNF commentators would be objective, since Joe Theismann spent his career with Washington and Tony Kornheiser has been a Washington newspaper columnist for more than 20 years.
The Vikings named Johnson, Henderson and Longwell their team captains Monday – and all three came through with big plays.
The celebrity sighting list Monday included Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and Academy Award attendees Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.