Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' win over the Redskins
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
The Vikings handed Brett Favre a Football 101 game plan, and he executed it about as well as they could have hoped. An astounding 12 of 28 pass plays (42.9%) were non-dropback calls, including eight bootlegs -- seven of them after halftime -- on which Favre was 5-of-6 passing for 86 yards and scrambled twice for 12. Three others were screens, including HB Adrian Peterson's cutback for 34 early. When Favre did drop back, Redskins DC Jim Haslett sent an extra rusher six times (37.5%), and Favre completed only 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards against the blitz while taking three hits. Keeping it simple -- and keeping Favre out of harm's way -- was the surest path to his first turnover-free game all season. Washington's first sack was on Favre for holding the ball 3.9 seconds. He took a delay of game penalty. Only two of his 15 completions (13.3%) traveled at least 10 yards in the air. But with the game on the line, Favre made the smart decision, beat S Reed Doughty to the first-down marker and sealed the Vikings' first road win in nearly 13 months. Not a bad for a guy with a fractured foot, a sore ankle and virus that had him in bed for hours on Saturday.
Running backs (3½)
Peterson (13 snaps) appeared to be on his way to a huge day before his ankle gave out. He made two Redskins overrun the big screen. He shook three tackle attempts on a 12-yard run and another on his 5-yard touchdown, carrying DL Kedric Golston the final 3 yards across the goal line. Toss in a 14-yard burst for a first down on the second series, and Peterson accounted for three of the Vikings' five "explosive" gains despite missing two-thirds of the game. There's not much explosive about rookie HB Toby Gerhart (47), who carried 22 times without gaining more than 6 yards. But 13 of those carries (59.1%) went for at least 4 yards, including the 5-yard touchdown ILB Rocky McIntosh couldn't stop at the 2. That's moving the chains. Gerhart's playing stronger in protection, too, although he gave up one hit by failing to finish. FB Naufahu Tahi (22) led well and took his only catch upfield for 7.
The Vikings made a clear effort to get Percy Harvin (52 snaps) touches all over the field. He lined up as a halfback four times, carried three times for 14 yards and got three of his team-high five catches on a bubble screen and a pair of one-step option routes. They'd like to see that effort translate into more than 46 combined yards, though. Harvin also had an illegal-shift penalty. It's obvious Sidney Rice (55) still isn't in sync with Favre, who completed a cross to Rice for 20 yards and wasn't close on a couple other throws. At times, Rice seems to be pussyfooting around out of concern for his surgically repaired hip -- once cutting short a post because Buchanon rerouted him downfield. Rice did throw a couple of big blocks, though. With interim coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell calling the shots, Greg Camarillo (25) replaced Brad Childress' guy Greg Lewis (16) in three-wide packages. Each had a catch for a first down.
Tight ends (3)
Visanthe Shiancoe (37 snaps) benefits as much as anyone when the offense incorporates more designed motion. All three of Shiancoe's catches, including a corner for 29 yards against CB Carlos Rogers on third-and-1, came off bootlegs. Favre probably could have put a little more on a throw up the seam Fletcher knocked away, and Shiancoe could have adjusted better on a red-zone throw that bounced off his hands. Shiancoe's biggest mistake was letting DE Phillip Daniels beat him inside on the dive Jeff Dugan (15) couldn't convert. That happens too much to Shiancoe in short yardage. Dugan made the most of his other third-and-1 chance, falling forward off McIntosh's hit for the first down. Jimmy Kleinsasser (38) blocked well all day.
Offensive linemen (3½)
Quality of the opponent notwithstanding, this was one of the line's best days. C John Sullivan owned NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu, keying the inside-zone running game with the most physical effort he's shown this season. RG Ryan Cook held up surprisingly well in his first start in place of Anthony Herrera (torn ACL). Favre was hit seven times, but only two of them -- one against LT Bryant McKinnie, the other a sack in 3.0 seconds on which RT Phil Loadholt and LG Steve Hutchinson both were beaten -- could be put mostly on the line. Hutchinson led the way on both touchdown runs but struggled to get movement in the fourth quarter, after he'd sprained a thumb. NT Albert Haynesworth also beat Hutchinson inside to stop a third-and-1 dive early. Cook had the unit's only penalty, a false start that helped lead to a punt. The Vikings can live with one. Loadholt needs to finish a lot better in the run game -- it proved costly when LOLB Lorenzo Alexander got off his block before landing on Peterson's ankle. McKinnie's push was remarkably consistent. His clothesline takedown of Rogers was a nice touch.
Defensive linemen (3½)
UT Kevin Williams (51 snaps) was as good as he's been all season. He benched RG Artis Hicks with one of his seven quarterback pressures, two of which set up sacks for RE Jared Allen (47) and DE Brian Robison (25). Another Williams rush drew a double team that freed up DT Letroy Guion (18) to strip QB Donovan McNabb. Williams also batted down two passes, contributed to McNabb's deep underthrow for wide-open WR Anthony Armstrong with a hit, disturbed multiple run plays in the backfield and nearly completed a terrific day with a tough interception. The Vikings need more of that inside. Allen faced a bunch of chips and finished with three total pressures. None of his six tackles (three for loss) was more impressive than his in-space takedown of TE Chris Cooley on a screen. NT Pat Williams (23) set the tone on the opening play by beating Hicks inside and muddling a run to RB Keiland Williams that went nowhere. He always times up enough snaps to wreak some havoc but is giving up more and more snaps to Guion and Robison, who took over at left end after Ray Edwards (28) injured an ankle. Edwards had one pressure and looked lost in coverage behind a couple of zone blitzes. Robison had three pressures. If Edwards is sidelined, DE Everson Griffen (seven) probably deserves more time. He didn't get any rush opportunities this time but torched LT Trent Williams to stop RB James Davis on a zone run. Jimmy Kennedy (six) was a nonfactor.
De facto DC Fred Pagac sent an extra rusher on 10 of McNabb's 34 dropbacks (29.4%) -- mostly zone blitzes with linebackers cross-dogging inside -- and the results were mixed. MLB E.J. Henderson (52 snaps) had a free run for a sack before halftime, and four other rushes got home. But the Redskins' protection unit bought enough time for McNabb to complete 6 of 8 passes against the blitz for 82 yards. Henderson also sliced down Davis to save a big play and took advantage when WR Santana Moss gifted an interception off his chest. SLB Chad Greenway (52) had a team-high nine tackles (six solo) and absolutely lit up Armstrong, who somehow held onto a shallow cross for an 8-yard gain. WLB Ben Leber (26) played strictly in the base defense, missed a tackle on Moss off a pivot route, got pumped on a check to Cooley for 14 and hit McNabb once.
Defensive backs (2)
FS Madieu Williams let Armstrong run past him for what could have been a tying 69-yard touchdown late. Instead, McNabb threw about 10 yards short, Armstrong made a sprawling grab for 45 and the Redskins settled for a field goal that capped the scoring. Those are the mistakes that can prove fatal against better teams. SS Husain Abdullah (48 snaps) looked overmatched on the opening series as Cooley caught a third-down in for 13, four plays before TE Fred Davis took Abdullah to the corner for a 10-yard touchdown. After that, Abdullah was OK, returning from an ankle tweak to get a rare pressure on a zone blitz that forced a late punt. SS Tyrell Johnson (four) played in Abdullah's brief absence. CB Antoine Winfield made more mistakes than usual, whiffing on WR Roydell Williams' 19-yard screen-and-run and allowing a 15-yard in to Moss with a slip. But Winfield atoned late by taking down Keiland Wiliams in the open field. Six of the seven passes thrown in CB Asher Allen's direction came on third downs, with three complete for 29 yards. He could have wrapped better against Keiland Williams at the sticks but overall did a good job muscling up on the perimeter. He might get flagged the next time he mugs someone like he did WR Brandon Banks on a bubble screen, though. CB Lito Sheppard (14) and CB Frank Walker (13) split nickel duties and basically were invisible.
If not for Redskins rookie LB Perry Riley's two illegal blocks on Griffen, the Vikings' coverage units might have been the culprit in another devastating defeat. Banks had a 65-yard kick return that stood and a pair of long punt returns that didn't, including the 77-yarder that would reached the end zone even without Riley's block. P Chris Kluwe's fine boot hung 4.4 seconds to the hashes, but MLB Jasper Brinkley got juked at the point. On the kick return, PK Ryan Longwell got only 3.5 seconds of hang time to outside the hashes, Asher Allen ran wide, LB Erin Henderson dived and missed and Abdullah got caught in traffic. Credit Walker for keeping it from going to the distance. S Jamarca Sanford and S Eric Frampton can't come back soon enough. Kluwe ended up with averages of 43.7 gross, 40.9 net and 4.47 hang. Longwell converted a 31-yard field goal and both extra-point attempts. Harvin (19.5 average on four kick returns) and Camarillo (7.0 on three punt returns) were unremarkable. LB Kenny Onatolu should have been flagged and might get fined for his post-whistle cheap shot on Roydell Williams.