The Minnesota Vikings were battered all over FedEx Field on Christmas Eve against the Washington Redskins. On consecutive plays in the third quarter, they lost running back Adrian Peterson to a horrific leg injury, and then lost Christian Ponder to a concussion. However, as they have done for most of the season, they fought all the way through to the end, and managed to come away with a 33-26 victory behind the arm (and legs) of Joe Webb and the running of Toby Gerhart.
The Vikings got off to an early ten-point lead in this one, thanks to a 36-yard Ryan Longwell field goal that came after a strip-sack of Rex Grossman by defensive end Brian Robison and a 1-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson on the first play of the second quarter.
However, following the Peterson touchdown run, Ryan Longwell put the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, and the Redskins took advantage of the good field position to score a touchdown, putting together a 60-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard pass from Grossman to Donte Stallworth. The Redskins tied it up just before halftime with a 26-yard field goal from Graham Gano, sending the teams into the locker room tied at ten.
The Vikings got the ball first in the second half, and that's when all hell broke loose for the Vikings. On Minnesota's first offensive play, Peterson took a handoff, ran up the middle, and was tackled by Washington's DeJon Gomes. Peterson did not get up, and was writhing in pain on the field. He eventually needed to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight at all on his left leg. It looked like a pretty horrific knee injury, but we don't know the extent of it yet. Once we have word on the injury, we will bring you word of it. Peterson is set to have an MRI on his injured knee this evening, according to Vikings' head coach Leslie Frazier.
Then, on the next play, quarterback Christian Ponder dropped back to pass and absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit from Redskins' defensive lineman Barry Cofield. Ponder managed to stay in for one more play, but was then taken to the locker room for a concussion, and did not return to the game. He absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first quarter from safety Reed Doughty as well, but did not miss any action as a result of that one.
That meant that it was up to Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart to rally the troops, and that's exactly what they did. After a 53-yard field goal from Gano that gave the Redskins a 13-10 lead, Gerhart took a handoff from Webb and streaked 67 yards down the left sideline, finally being pushed out of bounds at the Washington 8. Two plays later, Webb took a snap on an option play and kept it himself for a 9-yard touchdown run to give Minnesota a 17-13 lead.
The action really picked up from there, as the Redskins responded with another touchdown of their own, as Grossman led Washington down the field again and ended a drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Grossman to Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney beat Benny Sapp and made an outstanding one-handed catch on the play, despite Sapp having pretty good coverage. That play gave the Redskins the lead back at 20-17.
Toby Gerhart wasn't having any of that, however, as he rumbled for 22 yards on two carries to start Minnesota's next drive, including a 14-yard blast on 3rd-and-1 to get the Vikings to midfield. A 31-yard end-around from Percy Harvin followed, and two plays later Webb found rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown catch. Unfortunately, Longwell's rough day continued as he missed the extra point wide to the right, and the Vikings' lead stayed at 23-20.
The Redskins then followed up with another Gano field goal to tie the score at 23, and Joe Webb went to work again, leading the Vikings on a 72-yard scoring drive. He made a huge throw to Percy Harvin to gain 36 yards on 3rd-and-10, and then hit Devin Aromashodu for 19 yards to follow that up. Two plays later, Webb found Harvin again for an 8-yard touchdown pass, and the Vikings were back on top by a count of 30-23.
And then. . .the unthinkable happened.
On a 2nd-and-10 play from the Washington 32, Grossman dropped back to pass, and overthrew Santana Moss, landing the ball right into the breadbasket of Vikings' rookie safety Mistral Raymond for an interception. It was the first pass intercepted by a Minnesota Vikings' player in over thirty-nine quarters of football. If you add up all of the game time that elapsed between those two occurrences, it would total nine hours, fifty-two minutes, and thirty seconds of football between interceptions for the Vikings.
The Vikings converted the turnover into a 23-yard Ryan Longwell field goal to take a 33-23 lead. The Redskins got a 47-yard field goal from Gano to cut the lead to 33-26, and the Redskins got themselves into position for a Hail Mary at the end, but Raymond batted the pass down, and the Vikings escaped with the victory.
The victory for the Vikings officially eliminates them from consideration for the top overall pick in the National Football League draft. They can still finish 3-13 and tie with the Indianapolis Colts, but the Colts would "win" any strength of schedule tiebreaker with the Vikings, so the best the Vikings can do is the second overall selection.
In happier news, Jared Allen collected a sack of Rex Grossman this afternoon, giving him a total of 18.5 on the season. While it appears that Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 is out of reach, Chris Doleman's Vikings' record of 21 (the third-highest single-season total in NFL history) might be attainable in the season finale against the Chicago Bears.
Gerhart put together the first 100-yard performance of his career, carrying the ball 11 times for 109 yards on the afternoon. Webb finished the afternoon with four completions in five attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to five carries for 34 yards and another score. The Vikings were +2 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio in this one, as they did not turn the ball over this afternoon, and the six points they turned those turnovers into played a big role in Minnesota's victory.
The Vikings will finish the season on New Year's Day at the Metrodome against the Chicago Bears and, in the process, attempt to avoid finishing in a tie with the 1984 Minnesota Vikings for the worst record in franchise history. The 1984 team went 3-13, and a victory on January 1 would help the Vikings to avoid that fate.