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Updated: December 24th, 2011 6:00pm
Notebook: Vikings will 'take a real hard look' at starting Joe Webb

Notebook: Vikings will 'take a real hard look' at starting Joe Webb

by Tom Pelissero
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Two appearances. Two rallies.

That was enough for coach Leslie Frazier to open the door on Saturday afternoon for the possibility of Joe Webb as the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback of the future.

"Some of the things he does, man, and what it does to the rest of our team -- you can't ignore it," Frazier said after Webb led three touchdown drives in relief of injured Christian Ponder and the Vikings beat the Washington Redskins 33-26.

"It's something we're going to take a real hard look at as we go forward. He definitely lifts our team. He's done it. He did it a season ago as well."

Webb threw only five passes, completing four of them for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran five times for 34 yards and another score after taking over with the Vikings trailing 13-10 and 10:40 left in the third quarter.

This, 13 days after Webb relieved Ponder at Detroit, sliced a 17-point deficit to six and had the Vikings only 1 yard from what could have been the winning touchdown.

"Magic. He's gifted, man," receiver Percy Harvin said. "He's one of the gifted players that you can't describe. You can't practice it. Not too many teams got quarterbacks that can do what he does."

Toby Gerhart's 67-yard run on Saturday sparked Webb's first touchdown drive, which ended with the second-year pro from UAB scoring a 9-yard touchdown on an option play.

The Redskins drove for a touchdown on their ensuing possession to regain a 20-17 lead. Back came the Vikings and Webb, who hit Kyle Rudolph for a 17-yard touchdown on a corner route against Redskins linebacker Perry Riley.

"I always had confidence and try to have great leadership so I can rally the guys around me," Webb said. "The guys see me come in and step in the huddle with great confidence and knowing that, if we can go down and score from there, they're going to have confidence."

Webb's best throw came after the Redskins drove for a tying field goal -- Ryan Longwell's missed extra point after Rudolph's touchdown had kept the Vikings' lead at three -- in a tough spot on third-and-10.

The Redskins sent a zero blitz, leaving no safety help over the top. Harvin ran the seam against cornerback Josh Wilson, Webb heaved the ball before the rush arrived and Harvin leapt to pull down a 36-yard completion.

"Those are the big plays I've kind of been talking about all year, plays we were just kind of missing," Harvin said. "One thing about Joe is he's known for being the gunslinger. If it's a deep ball, he's going to throw the deep ball. If it's a run, he wants to run for the 80 yards. Once we knew it was zero blitz, it was no doubt in my mind that Joe was going to let it hang out."

Webb's next pass was underthrown for Devin Aromashodu, who skidded to make the catch for a 23-yard pickup. Two plays later, Webb hit Harvin in the flat for an 8-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings the lead for good.

"In clutch situations," Frazier said, "he finds ways to make plays."

The connection with Harvin was reminiscent of Webb's start last December at Philadelphia, where he threw for 195 yards -- including seven completions for 100 yards to Harvin -- in a win over the Eagles.

"I just told him, 'Man, keep making plays and leave that up to the front office,'" Harvin said. "He came in and even back to last year, beating the Eagles on the road, he's done a lot of good things. All he does is make plays."

Ponder's rough day

Webb may get another start in next week's season finale against Chicago if doctors don't clear Ponder, who took a beating on Saturday.

The No. 12 overall draft pick had his nose bloodied on a hit by Washington safety Reed Doughty that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter, then left the game with a concussion early in the third quarter.

"We'll have to weigh it when we get back," Frazier said. "I'll follow these doctors' lead, (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman and our medical staff's lead, on what they recommend."

Ponder stayed in for one play after likely suffering the concussion on a hit by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who hit him in the head area while Adam Carriker was in the process of throwing him down for a sack. Fletcher wasn't flagged.

Based on NFL guidelines for dealing with concussions, Ponder wasn't made available to reporters.

Out of gas

Gerhart's long run would have gone for a touchdown if Wilson hadn't chased him down from behind.

"It was a predetermined cutback, broke through and just air in my face," Gerhart said. "I was running, I was looking at the screen, I saw the guys coming and I think I hit about that 25-yard line going in to score and the field might have tilted a little bit."

Gerhart finished with a career-high 109 yards on 11 carries (9.9 average) -- most of them after the departure of Adrian Peterson, who suffered a left knee injury on the opening play of the third quarter.

Peterson had 38 yards on 12 carries (3.2 average) and the Vikings finished with 241 rushing yards on 38 carries (6.3 average) as a team.

"It felt good," Gerhart said. "It's a team win. Adrian goes down. Ponder goes down. Our whole motto this week has been, 'Keep fighting.' It's a team effort to get this win. It's huge for us."

Finally, an interception

Rookie safety Mistral Raymond's interception midway through the fourth quarter snapped the Vikings' record streak of nine consecutive games without an interception.

Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman badly overthrew receiver Santana Moss on the play and hit Raymond between the numbers.

"I told the coaches on the headset, 'Hey, thank you. I don't have to deal with the interception questions going forward,'" Frazier said. "That was good. Happy for Mistral. It's his first interception. He had a nice fumble recovery (last week against New Orleans), so he's got a little streak going."

Fellow safety Jamarca Sanford almost ended the drought on the game's second play, when Grossman overthrew a deep slant for Moss. But the ball glanced off the hands of Sanford, who couldn't hold on, landed awkwardly and aggravated an existing injury to the AC joint in his left shoulder.

"Oh my gosh," Sanford said. "Just a play -- we don't get many picks, but when the opportunity comes to you, you have to capitalize."

Jarrad Page played the rest of the series in place of Sanford, who briefly went to the locker room and then returned for the second series.

End Everson Griffen also had a potential interception bounce off his hands. Raymond probably could have intercepted Grossman's final pass, a Hail Mary as time expired, but he smartly batted it down instead.

Inching forward

Jared Allen took a small step towards matching the NFL's single-season sack record, but he'll need a big day against the Bears to do it.

The Vikings' star pass-rusher whipped rookie left tackle Willie Smith inside for his lone sack on a five-man rush in the second quarter. That gave Allen 18½ sacks for the season -- four short of Michael Strahan's decade-old standard of 22½.

Coaches moved Allen around from the opening snap, running a bunch of T-E games in an effort to prevent the Redskins from chipping and doubling off the edge. He hit Grossman at least two other times but didn't get another sack.

"We are getting more and more chips," Frazier said. "We thought that they were going to do some of the same things. So, we came in with that in mind -- that we were going to try to move him around and not let him always be in the same place."

Allen also drew the holding penalty on Redskins fullback Darrel Young that wiped out a 59-yard touchdown run for Brandon Banks with 7:52 to go -- one play before Raymond's interception.

Taking advantage

The Vikings did generate one turnover in the first half.

Left end Brian Robison beat fullback Mike Sellers' block, stripped Grossman and recovered the ball at the Washington 20-yard line.

The offense stalled and the Vikings settled for a 36-yard Ryan Longwell field goal to open the scoring.

Kicking it

This wasn't Longwell's best day.

After the Vikings took a 10-0 lead on Peterson's 1-yard touchdown run with 14:56 left in the second quarter, Longwell's kickoff drifted out of bounds, giving the Redskins a short field for their seven-play, 60-yard touchdown drive.

The Vikings' next drive was short-circuited by two penalties -- a holding call on right tackle Phil Loadholt that wiped out a 20-yard Peterson run and a false start by Peterson on fourth-and-1 that forced a 49-yard field goal try.

Kicking into a slight wind, Longwell missed short and right. The Redskins took over at their 39-yard line and went 53 yards in 11 plays for a tying field goal with 1:02 left in the half.

Longwell also missed wide right on an extra point after Webb's 17-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph put the Vikings ahead 23-20 late in the third quarter.

Health watch

Harvin went to the locker room briefly after getting caught in a pileup midway through the first quarter and landing on the shoulder that gave him trouble earlier in the season. He returned on the next series, though.

"They kind of got me, just kind of turned me the wrong way and then rammed me into the ground," Harvin said. "I was going to get up, but everybody said, 'Stay down, stay down.'"

Raymond suffered an apparent left shoulder injury while trying to tackle Donte Stallworth on his 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Page replaced him, too.

Right guard Anthony Herrera departed with a lower-back injury in the second quarter and was temporarily replaced by rookie Brandon Fusco.

Another streak ends

Longtime Vikings athletic trainer and consultant Fred Zamberletti did not make the trip for Saturday's game -- the first he has missed in the franchise's 51-year history.

Zamberletti, 79, had attended the Vikings' first 1,049 games, including preseason and playoff contests. He has been battling health problems recently but held out hope about joining the team until Saturday morning.

He called Frazier on Saturday with a message to the team to "keep on fighting and just find a way to get a win. That was said with his voice breaking, and it got really emotional for me, and I shared that with our players.

"As you guys know, Fred's just extremely loyal, man, all the way through. For our guys to win this game -- I told them we're going to make sure he has a game ball from this, for sure."

Quick hits

• CB Cedric Griffin returned to the Vikings' starting lineup, 13 days after he was benched in the first quarter of a loss at Detroit. Griffin, who didn't play on defense at all last weekend against New Orleans, started at right cornerback opposite Benny Sapp. Marcus Sherels started as the nickel cornerback.

• DT Letroy Guion once again lined up at fullback to lead the way on Peterson's first-half touchdown run.

• Allen, Longwell and Peterson were the Vikings' captains. The Redskins won the toss and chose to receive.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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