In an entertaining game that totaled 61 points (despite just six in the final quarter), the Vikings pulled off an impressive comeback, scoring the last 20 points during the team’s first win in the United States this season (a fact Brad Nessler really wanted us to know). The two playoff teams from last season now have a combined record of 5-13 on the year. Washington entered having allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs while Minnesota came in ceding the third most, so it wasn’t exactly surprising to see a shootout.
After struggling for most of the season, Robert Griffin played well Thursday night (albeit against a favorable opponent). He posted a 3:0 TD:INT ratio and a 114.8 QB Rating and has now gotten 8.3 YPA over the past two weeks while also gaining 44 yards on seven carries Thursday. But he took numerous hard hits and was relentlessly hurried. He hasn’t in any way changed his style of play coming off knee surgery, and while that makes him so fun to watch, Griffin remains a pretty big injury risk, although I hope I’m wrong…Alfred Morris was highly impressive, running for 139 yards on 26 carries (5.3 YPC), although he continues to frustrate fantasy owners when it comes to reaching the end zone. Of course, that seems silly since he’s on pace to score nine times, but he had 13 TDs last year, and his five this season are two fewer than teammates Roy Helu and Darrel Young combined despite him getting 111 more rushing attempts and being very successful at the goal line last year. Still, it’s hard to complain about Morris, who leads all running backs with a 5.2 YPC mark in 2013.
Pierre Garcon had another big game, getting 119 yards on 10 targets while scoring a touchdown for the first time since Week 4. The TDs have been disappointing, but Garcon is on pace to finish with 108 catches and 1,428 receiving yards and remains one of the most targeted receivers in all of football. And he continues to have highlight worthy plays every week, with the latest being this one. What a combination of speed and power…Jordan Reed had 62 yards receiving and a touchdown and has seen 37 targets over the past four games. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas are the only tight ends I’d rather own than Reed moving forward, and just the first two are clear cut.
While there’s an argument to be made questioning why Minnesota isn’t playing Josh Freeman right now, Christian Ponder completed 81.0 percent of his passes and got 8.3 YPA before departing with an injury after narrowly falling short of a touchdown on a rushing attempt (he was also lucky his fumble didn’t result in a touchback). And even then, Matt Cassel entered the game instead of Freeman. It’s unclear why the team took a flier in the first place. Cassel was also competent, so it’s hard to underestimate just how vulnerable this Washington secondary is…John Carlson hauled in all seven of his targets for 98 yards and a score. For those who were calling him a nice sleeper this week (I unfortunately, wasn’t one of them), well played.
It’s clear now Adrian Peterson had previously been dealing with a debilitating (and underreported) hamstring injury he’s now recovered from. After totaling 150 rushing yards and one score over his previous three contests, AD has rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games. But forget the stats, Peterson just plain looks better (and by better I mean amazing), as he followed up last week’s ridiculous TD run with a number of other highlight worthy plays Thursday night. With LeSean McCoy’s lack of touchdowns and Jamaal Charles’ worrisome workload, Peterson is back atop my fantasy RB rankings.
I saw no reason why Washington didn’t go for it on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line on its opening drive, which was only exasperated when the Vikings started their next drive on the 35-yard line (in general, 15 yards equals a point). In other words, Washington might have been better off (because a teams’ playbook shrinks badly when faced at their own one) going for it and NOT getting the touchdown than making the field goal (and that’s not even accounting for the fact that the ensuing short field resulted in a Minny TD drive). But this has been par for the course with Mike Shanahan, as he’s one of the least aggressive coaches in football these days (and no, his attempted fake punt in the third quarter doesn’t help his cause since it was such a disaster in every way)…Not to pile on, but why did Washington spike the ball with 25 seconds left on Minnesota’s eight yard line with a timeout left in the second quarter? Run a play! Sure, they scored a TD two plays later, but if they hadn’t there would have still been 10 seconds remaining! This isn’t rocket science.
Speaking of clock strategy, the Vikings did something that raised a lot of questions late in the fourth quarter, when they called a timeout up 34-27 when Washington (who were without timeouts) had 2nd-and-goal. But I actually kind of agreed with this (Greg Jennings most definitely did not), as Washington was clearly more worried about downs than time here. Moreover, with Washington terrified of Cordarrelle Patterson and constantly utilizing squib kicks that resulted in an average field position start (after kickoffs) at the 28-yard line, it made even more sense to preserve time for a possible field goal attempt should Washington have scored a touchdown.