After struggling to get back into playoff contention, the Vikings' Sunday night loss could leave their playoff fate in the hands of former teammate Brad Johnson. Their lack of control in Week 17 isn't what the Vikings were looking for. Plus, get more than 30 game-day notes that help tell the tale of the game.
The Vikings couldn't help but do some scoreboard watching Sunday, knowing that, after Philadelphia beat New Orleans earlier in the day, a home win against the
would clinch them a spot in the playoffs.
In the span of a little more than three hours, all of those hopes were dashed, as the Redskins scored 22 first-half points and beat the Vikings 32-21.
With the loss, the Vikings are at the mercy of the football Gods to make their playoff dreams come true. It's pretty simple. The Redskins have to lose to Dallas next Sunday, but that task got much more difficult Sunday when the Bears beat Green Bay. Because of that win by Chicago, Dallas locked up the first seed in the NFC playoff chase and the Packers locked down the No. 2 seed. As a result, neither team needs to put forth its best effort to win next week and, while they likely will put many of their starters out on the field, it's more likely that the injured Terrell Owens
won't see the field and players like QB Tony Romo
will see only cameo duty.
"I know that if we would have won we would have been in great position," linebacker Ben Leber
said. "I think we still have a chance next week, so that is what we have got to play for. Obviously, this hurts because this is what you want is to be in control and we lost that control."
The defeat was doubly difficult for the Vikings because, after digging themselves out of the muck at 2-5 and looking to be only the fifth team since the advent of the 16-game schedule to make the playoffs, the only team left that had a chance to prevent them from do that were the Redskins. With the win, Washington and the Vikings are now both 8-7 and head into Week 17 with each team needing a win.
The difference will be that the Vikings will be letting it all hang out against a Denver team that has been eliminated, while the Redskins will face a Cowboys team with little to nothing to play for. While Dallas clearly won't lay down for the Vikings, it's unlikely the Redskins are going to see their best effort. In the end, the Vikings may have to depend on Brad Johnson
– the quarterback they jettisoned following last season – to be the man and get a win that will let the Vikings get into the playoffs in a far less conventional fashion than originally intended or expected.
"Tonight was disappointing because we didn't show our best," linebacker Chad Greenway
said. "We can't worry about what happens (with Washington) next week. We just have to go to work and take care of our business next week and see what happens after that."
It would be a strange twist of irony to know that the Vikings' playoff hopes likely depend on Johnson's throwing arm as much as it does Adrian Peterson
, Kevin Williams
and the rest of the team
Adrian Peterson will need 217 yards against Denver to break the franchise record of 1,521 yards set by Robert Smith in 2000.
Joe Gibbs is now 9-1 against the Vikings, with the only loss coming in the season opener last year.
The Vikings had 13 first downs passing, giving the team more passing first downs than rushing first downs for the first time this season.
The Redskins outgained the Vikings 367-299, with 261 yards passing and 106 yards rushing, while the Vikings had 212 yards passing and 87 yards rushing – one of their worst rushing games of the season.
Against a weakened Bears team last week, the Vikings won despite having a minus-3 in the giveaway/takeaway table. Not against Washington. The Vikings had three turnovers Sunday, while the Redskins had none.
Tarvaris Jackson led the Vikings in rushing with 44 yards on eight rushes and two touchdowns, more than Adrian Peterson (27 yards) and Chester Taylor (14 yards) combined.
Taylor and Troy Williamson each had five receptions for the Vikings and Robert Ferguson led the team with 51 yards on four catches.
The Vikings have yet to have a 100-yard receiver this season.
Clinton Portis did a lot of damage, rushing 20 times for 76 yards and a touchdown, catching five passes for 48 yards and throwing a touchdown pass.
Nine different Redskins caught passes Sunday.
Chris Kluwe only punted three times, but averaged 50.3 yards a kick.
Washington's average starting position was its own 41-yard line. The Vikes' average start point was their own 28.
Chad Greenway led the Vikings with 11 tackles (eight solo).
The Redskins tried to take advantage of a refereeing mistake on a 23-yard pass to Moss. It appeared as though Moss caught the pass out of bounds, but it was ruled a catch. As the Vikings coaches looked for a replay on the Jumbotron, the Redskins hurried to the line in an attempt to get off a quick snap before the Vikings could challenge. Instead, Collins fumbled the snap and Kevin Williams recovered.
The Redskins made a savvy challenge on the fumble, claiming that Spencer Johnson was still on the field at the time of the fumbled snap, giving the Vikings 12 men on the field. The Redskins challenged and the refs agreed, negating the fumble and giving Washington back the ball.
Robert Ferguson summed up the change of fortunes on the reversal by the officials, saying, "Once they got ball back, it seemed like it sucked all the air out of the stadium."
After having a passer rating of just 34.5 for the first half, Jackson was an impressive 114.2 in the third quarter, completing 8 of 12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Jim Kleinsasser's 2-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter was his first touchdown since Dec. 20, 2003 against Kansas City.
The touchdown to Kleinsasser was the 10th passing TD for the Vikings this season, moving them ahead of their defense/special teams, which has nine TDs.
After not moving the ball for the entire first half, the Vikings offense finally got untracked in the third quarter for the first time all day. On their first scoring drive, Jackson completed five straight passes to close out the drive for the touchdown. On the drive, he completed 6 of 8 passes for 71 yards and a TD.
The Vikings used a little trickery midway through the third quarter in hopes of springing a big play. Faced with a third-and-1, Jackson faked a sneak, stopped and fired a backward pass to Taylor, who picked up 6 yards before being tackled. While potentially dangerous, the Vikings executed the play perfectly and gave future opponents something to scout they otherwise hadn't seen.
On a field goal drive early in the third quarter, Portis wanted to throw again – so much so that when he was tackled by Ben Leber for a loss, it was credited as a sack.
Peterson had just four rushing yards in the first half. On the first three plays of the third quarter, A.P. gained 23 yards.
On the opening kick of the second half, fullback Mike Sellers was knocked unconscious with was later diagnosed with a concussion. As expected, he didn't return to the game.
The Redskins dominated all of the first-half stats. They had a whopping 230-70 edge in total yards with 187 yards passing and 43 yards rushing. The Vikings had just 50 yards passing and 20 yards rushing. The Redskins were just three of nine on third-down conversions, but the Vikings were a dismal 0-for-3. Washington held the ball for 17:51 of the half, while the Vikings had it for just 12:09, which is why the Redskins were able to run 40 plays as opposed to just 22 for Minnesota.
Individually, Jackson completed seven of 11 passes for 50 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in the first half. Jackson was also the leading rusher for the Vikings, gaining nine yards on two scrambles. Taylor had just eight yards on three carries and Peterson managed just four yards on five rushes. Ferguson led the Vikings with 24 yards on two catches.
For the Redskins in the first half, Collins completed 15 of 21 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 128.7, and Portis had one completion for a 15-yard TD. On the ground, the Redskins ran 17 times for 43 yards, with Portis carrying 10 times for 39 yards. Portis also led all receivers with five catches for 48 yards, followed by Randle El with four catches for 46 yards, Moss with two for 37 and Cooley with one for 33 yards – all three of the latter being touchdowns.
Portis' touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half was the third TD pass of his career. He has attempted five and all three completions have gone for scores.
There was some questioning as to why the Redskins would go for a two-point conversion ahead 22-0. It was deemed that Joe Gibbs envisioned a 24-0 lead that would put the Redskins either four scores ahead or three touchdowns and three two-point conversions.
The Vikings offense did everything it could to shoot itself in the foot in the first part of the second quarter. With the ball in Washington territory after a botched field goal attempt gave the Vikings the ball on their own 41, Jackson completed a pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, who fumbled with what appeared to be minimal contact. After a defensive stop by the Vikings, Jackson threw his second interception of the game – this time leaping in the air with both feet off the ground and was picked off easily by Shawn Springs. On the next play, Collins threw a 32-yard touchdown to Moss to give the Redskins a 16-0 lead.
The special teams had its share of problems as well. At the end of a nice punt return in the first quarter, Mewelde Moore fumbled and was fortunate that Heath Farwell made a recovery. In the second quarter following the TD pass to Moss, Aundrae Allison fumbled the kickoff and had to scramble to recover the ball on the 12-yard line.
Washington dominated the first quarter stats with their 9-0 lead. They outgained the Vikings 99-28 with 12 yards rushing and 88 yards passing, while the Vikings had 20 yards passing and eight yards rushing. Washington held the ball for 9:21 of the first quarter and had four first downs to just one for the Vikings.
Individually in the first quarter, Chester Taylor had two carries for seven yards and Peterson had two carries for two yards. Jackson completed three of five passes for 20 yards and an interception. Three different receivers had catches. For the Redskins, Portis had six carries for 11 yards. Collins completed seven of nine passes for 87 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 144.0. Portis and Caldwell each had two catches – Portis for 24 yards and Caldwell for 22 yards. Cooley was the yardage leader with one catch for a 33-yard touchdown.
The Redskins converted two of five third-down opportunities in the first quarter, while the Vikings were 0-for-2.
The first-quarter touchdown to Chris Cooley was as much a burning of the Cover-2 as it was a missed assignment. Henderson had Cooley in coverage, but let him go for the secondary, where Darren Sharper wasn't in position to make the play. "He leaked out of the other side of the coverage and I was covering the rollout by Collins," Sharper said. "It was a play that we didn't have him accounted for as well as we should have."
The biggest plays of the game early came on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. Following an interception by former Viking Fred Smoot that was returned to the 8-yard line, the Redskins and a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Fullback Mike Sellers got the call and the play was ruled a touchdown until Brad Childress challenged the call. Further review showed that Sellers didn't get in and the touchdown came off the board. But on the next play, an inside handoff to Tony Richardson was stuffed for a loss and a safety. While the play hurt the Vikings, the five-point improvement had to be seen as a good thing.
Prior to the touchdown that got called back, it appeared as though Moss had scored, but a strong push at the goal line kept him out.
As it turned out, the defensive stop didn't help the Vikings as much as thought. After the safety, the Redskins drove down the field for a touchdown to take a 9-0 lead.
The announced attendance was 63,634 – the 104th straight sellout at the Metrodome dating back to the preseason of the 1998 season.