A stellar day by the Vikings’ Case Keenum, coupled by an inability to convert on offense on 3rd and 4th down resulted in a 38-30 Washington loss, to drop to 4-5 on the season. Minnesota improved their division-best record improving to 7-2.
Redskins bounced back last week, overcoming a hostile road environment, the negativity that comes with being on the wrong side of .500, and a hospital ward’s worth of injured and walking wounded players on both side of the football. The ‘Skins defeat of the Seahawks helped to right the ship, and returned Washington to an even 4-4 record.
This week the Vikings (6-2) came to Landover in first place in the NFC North, though historically were less than stellar off bye weeks, just 1-6 in their last 7 years.
Washington was granted possession to start the ballgame, and a mix of run and pass gave saw the Redskins matriculate the ball up the field on their opening drive. Both Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson were deployed to advance to the Minnesota 36-yard line before Kirk Cousins aired it out down the sideline to Mason/Brennan darling and recent practice squad call-up, Maurice Harris who made a sparkling one-handed grab at the pylon that held up under further review to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead.
The drive spanned 75 yards over 7 plays, and saw Cousins’ go a perfect 4-4 through the air.
The Vikings responded quickly as Case Keenum went to Maryland-native and All-Met player of the year Stefon Diggs on the first two passes of the drive for eight and 51 yards, before Latavius Murray punched it in from one yard out. Former Redskin, Kai Forbath tied it up at seven apiece just 2:39 after the Redskins opening score.
Both teams traded three-and-outs, before the Redskins moved into Vikings’ territory aided by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty and a gutsy 4th-down conversion attempt at the 35-yard line, as Cousins connected with Thompson on a wheel route for 27-yards to the eight-yard line.
Thompson wheel route, with two outside receivers running in-breaking routes to create traffic. Shot play on 4th and 2, could have been a TD, got the first down. pic.twitter.com/iK83szde2I— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 12, 2017
On the ensuing play, Rob Kelley carried, fumbled, and was injured as he was hit going sideways. Mercifully, the fumble was overturned, but Kelley was removed from the ballgame with a lower body injury. Two incomplete passes later, the Redskins settled for a 28-yard field goal by Nick Rose to retake a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Adam Thielen went on a 37-yard run after the catch through the middle of the Washington secondary, and four plays later on a 3rd-and-goal, Keenum connected with Diggs capping off a nine-play, 75-yard drive to take a 14-10 advantage.
With Samaje Perine in the game filling in for the injured Kelley, Washington sought to regain control the ground game, and moved into Vikings territory on the shoulders of their rookie tailback. A 32-yard pickup by Jamison Crowder, his first catch of the game advanced Washington into the red zone. A spry hurdle to the first-down marker by Vernon Davis on a 3rd down screen play was ruled just short after review, but Perrine was sprung for a four-yard gain to the goal line on 4th down. A rugby scrum up the middle on third-and-goal by Cousins found pay dirt, and gave Washington a 17-14 lead.
With the score, the 10th of his career, Cousins passed Sonny Jurgensen for sole possession of the second-most career rushing touchdowns by a Redskins quarterback.
Thielen collected in a 38-yard pitch and catch before picking up a consecutive first down inside the red zone to get to the two minute warning. The fifth-year receiver capped off his sensational drive with a seven-yard catch on a dart from Keenum, to retake a 21-17 Vikings lead.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Cousins made his first mistake of the ballgame, and it was a costly one. An errant pass was collected in by Mackensie Alexander to give the Vikings possession in Washington territory with under two minutes remaining in the half.
Kirk Cousins bad pass checklist:— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) November 12, 2017
- Threw off backfoot
- Ball too high
- No velocity
Sigh. Pick. pic.twitter.com/p2UiULSoYD
Keenum capitalized with 22 seconds remaining in the half on a one-yard touchdown throw to David Morgan, making it 28-17 on back to back scores by the Vikings to close out the first half.
Cousins was 12/17 for 149 yards, one interception, and a pair of touchdowns each on the air and on the ground. For the Vikings, Keenum had a sensational first half, with 188 yards on 11 completions in 14 attempts and three passing scores. Adam Thielen had an even 100 yards on four receptions, while Stefon Diggs added three catches for 62 yards.
The Vikings picked up right where they left off to begin the second half. They moved 72 yards on just six plays over 2:38 for a score, highlighted by a 49-yard reception by Thielen before Keenum picked up his fourth passing score of the afternoon to Jarius Wright, making it 35-17.
On their first offensive possession of the second half the Redskins showed signs of life, responding by marching 11-plays and 69 yards, but were unable to convert on first and goal on three straight attempts, instead settling for a Rose 21-yard field goal making it 35-20 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
Minnesota threatened on their next possession, marching into Washington territory converting on consecutive third down attempts. But the Redskins defense finally made a stand, picking off Keenum on a floating ball that found its way into D.J. Swearinger’s hands to end the drive.
I'm not actually convinced that DJ Swearinger should have been ruled down by contact after that INT.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) November 12, 2017
Contact isn't what forced his knee down. pic.twitter.com/mxlkYiYZgw
The ensuing Washington drive stalled at the Vikings 34-yard line, after the Redskins were unable to convert on their third fourth-down attempt of the afternoon as Cousins’ faced pressure up the middle and threw incomplete.
On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Swearinger stepped up once again and picked off a Keenum pass to the flat, nearly taking it to the house before stepping out of bounds at the two yard-line.
Cousins took a bootleg to the left side on second down, and after a scary call that would have been a 100-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, the ruling was overturned and Cousins was granted the score, making it a one possession game, 35-27.
The Vikings re-committed to protecting the football on the next drive, going back to Murray and Jerick McKinnon on the ground six times to get to the Redskins’ 35-yard line. Kai Forbath came on for a 53-yard attempt that split the uprights and made it a two-score game, 38-27 with 7:45 remaining.
At the Vikings 33-yard line on 4th down, Tom Johnson broke through the line of scrimmage and brought down Chris Thompson in the backfield to halt the Redskins’ bid at a comeback with 4:44 remaining.
Nick Rose recorded a career long 55-yard field goal to bring the deficit to eight, 38-30, with 1:14 in the ballgame, but the onside kick did not roll the requisite 10 yards and the Vikings were able to salt away the victory.
Kirk Cousins in his 50th career start under center went 26 of 45 for 327 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, adding two rushing touchdowns on the afternoon. He joined Joe Theismann, Sonny Jurgensen, Sammy Baugh, Billy Kilmer, Mark Rypien, Eddie LeBaron and Jason Campbell as the only quarterbacks to start 50 career games with the Redskins. Additionally, he added to his team records for career 300-yard passing games (22, including 21 in regular season play) and 400-yard passing games (three).
Vernon Davis led the way in the receiving game with seven catches for 76 yards, matching Jamison Crowder’s 76 yards on four catches. In total, nine Redskins receivers caught passes on the afternoon.
On the ground, Washington’s leading rusher was Samaje Perine who recorded just 35 yards on nine carries, and Chris Thompson recorded nine rushes for 26 yards.
Defensively, the Redskins were led by DJ Swearinger’s two interceptions and five tackles. The two-INT day was the first of his career. Zach Brown had 10 total tackles and Josh Norman added nine more. Washington’s defense struggled applying pressure, and went without a sack on the afternoon.
For the Vikings, Case Keenum had a sensational first half and finished the day with 21/29 for 304 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. In the process he became the first Vikings QB with 300 pass yards and four pass TD in the same game since Brett Favre on January 3, 2010.
Adam Thielen led all receivers with 166 yards on eight catches and a score, while Stefon Diggs followed up last year’s 13-catch, 164-yard performance with four grabs for 78 yards and a touchdown.
The Redskins did not escape unscathed, as the injury bug continued to plague them. Rob Kelley, Ryan Grant, Deshazor Everett, and Will Compton all left the game due to injuries.
On offense, the Redskins struggled in key situations going just 5/14 on 3rd down, and 3/5 on 4th down attempts.
Washington, now back on the wrong side of .500, faces a red hot New Orleans Saints team on the road next Sunday. With the loss this week, their next game once again becomes a must-win in order to keep hope alive at salvaging a potential post-season berth.