After a strong start to the season, the Minnesota Vikings lost some momentum with a 38-26 loss to the Washington Redskins. As always, a team loss is a result of a poor team effort, but there were nevertheless some individually striking performances for the Vikings.
The Vikings found themselves marching to the red zone, but were continuously kept out of the endzone, turning a dominant first quarter performance into a meek 9-0 lead. From there, the wheels came off and the Redskins offense turned on, scoring 24 unanswered points before getting another three points on the board.
A penalty-filled performance with three turnovers capped an anemic performance by the offense and an inconsistent performance by the defense.
Despite the best efforts of some of the team's best players, the Vikings could not come away with the win.
Percy Harvin once again pulled in a superhuman performance, with 11 receptions for 133 yards. Once again breaking tackles and making defenders miss, Harvin is putting himself on the map nationwide as potentially the nation's top slot receiver, and MVP candidate.
While Harvin didn't find himself with the ball in the end zone against Washington, but he was responsible for nine of the Vikings' first downs, an extremely impressive feat.
Harvin was not just responsible for the yards he directly contributed in the passing game—he blocked well for Peterson and served as an excellent decoy to draw off coverage, enabling other receivers like Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins to get open.
Percy Harvin was a key player for the Vikings against the Redskins and will continue to be well into the future.
Former first-round draft pick Christian Ponder slung the ball 52 times against the Redskins and came away with 352 yards.
Despite the second-highest yardage total of his career, Ponder had perhaps his worst game of the year. He looked great in the middle of the field, but could not get the job done in the red zone. His 83.2 rating does him a few favors, not getting on the board with a touchdown pass until forced to in the fourth quarter when the game looked lost to most.
To put that into perspective, Christian Ponder's only touchdown drive came so late it moved their likelihood of winning from four percent to six percent.
His low 6.8 yards per attempt is a result of his typically short passing game more than anything else, as his completion rate of 67 percent was typically high again.
Early on, Ponder was comfortable finding receivers running intermediate or even deep routes, but from there restrained his game.
His two interceptions and four sacks highlight a poor performance that Ponder could have done without.
It wasn't long ago that Michael Jenkins was at risk of being cut from the team and had to renegotiate his contract in order to maintain that spot.
Fans and pundits have criticized his poor burst off the line, as well as his dropoff in speed, but Jenkins has made himself known for positive performances more than anything else.
While fans await the return of Jerome Simpson from injury, Michael Jenkins has been performing steadily in his absence.
In this game, he finished with six receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, proving consistent not just in the end zone but on third down as well, contributing more in "clutch" situations, as measured by Win Probability Added.
He's been able to use his veteran experience to create separation, despite missing explosiveness. He was a critical member of the Vikings.
Guion's five combined tackles (one for a loss) may speak to a good performance by a defensive tackle, but it actually highlighted his inconsistency more than anything else.
Nearly every tackle came after Alfred Morris gained a good amount of yardage—usually about four yards, considered a "success" by many metrics—and getting pushed out of plays otherwise.
While Guion has clearly improved over last year by regularly drawing double teams, he hasn't shown consistency within or across games. He was pushed around in the run game and couldn't create the type of pressure a front four needs to do against this offense.
Guion's game hasn't been horrible, but he plays such a critical position that any subpar performance will allow the team to get torched.
Jared Allen wasn't let go on every play like he might be used to, but he had a good performance nevertheless.
When working contain, Allen was able to maintain gap discipline until a decision was made in the backfield and then make a play on the running back.
He had two tackles for loss and a sack, which is just evidence in his performance on every aspect of the game. He was only pushed out of the running game on occasion and played his assignments well.
There are a couple of plays where it looks like Allen lost contain, but those plays he was often assigned to be an upfield rusher while a linebacker played contain. It was generally a successful exchange, until later in the game when Washington changed its option plays.
Beyond the sacks, Allen generated good pressure. Despite being partially responsible for the delayed run/scramble by Griffin at the end, he was one of the more impactful players on defense.
It might be difficult to call Cook a "loser" after he had an impressive pass deflection, four tackles and two assisted tackles, but his performance in helping the team was worse than what it may look like at first glance.
Cook played a yard or two behind his spots in zone coverage, and allowed too many yards after the catch.
Cornerbacks in the Vikings system are expected to help play contain and perform in run support duties, but Cook could not provide that sort of help—all of his tackles were of receivers he allowed to make a catch and he missed a few in the run game when he wasn't being blocked out.
While Cook remains perhaps the most intriguing corner on the Vikings roster, he will need to step up his game in order to make good on his potential.
Antoine Winfield remains one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, and it was hard to disagree with the broadcast announcers when they suggested he may be the best tackling cornerback in history.
He showcased that tonight, despite his relatively old age.
He had five solo tackles, all successful defensive stops, and contributed to Alfred Morris' abysmally low 36.8 percent run success rate.
He had an excellent nose for the ball and was the best on the field at reading Washington's complicated-yet-simple offense. Besides blowing up plays in the backfield on three separate occasions, he added five assisted tackles to his support against runners on the field.
In the passing game, he had great coverage—particularly in zones—and deflected a pass. More impressive, however, was his interception in the first quarter that looked like it was going to set the tone of the game.
While the Vikings didn't finish the job Winfield started, the cornerback is still clearly one of the best players on the roster.
Charlie Johnson has had a poor run of games at left guard for Minnesota. Having originally been signed to play guard for the Vikings, Johnson found himself pressed into left tackle duty after the Vikings cut Bryant McKinnie.
He was a catastrophe at left tackle for the Vikings, and many hoped he would play acceptably as a guard with a smaller space and different players to line up against.
For the most part, that has been the case. Unfortunately, he still finds himself in a run of bad games, particularly against defenses willing to stunt or twist their lines often.
Johnson gave up at least two sacks and several other interior pressures. It's safe to say a lot of the disruption in the passing game had to with the type of pressure Johnson regularly gave up.
He was better in the run game, but not by much. Adrian Peterson's average carry was 4.6 yards, but his yardage came in chunks. Peterson was still more successful on a per-play basis than he usually has been, but many of the stuffs and negative yardage plays were due to poor line movement, an issue that Johnson contributed to as well.
The Vikings may want to look at guards come next offseason.
Adrian Peterson proved once again why he places among the top running backs in the league.
He did a much better job manufacturing yards when the line blocking was subpar, avoiding tackles and pushing defenders back.
All told, he was responsible for 129 yards, caught seven of eight passes thrown his way and averaged 4.6 yards a carry for 79 rush yards.
His cuts have reminded fans of the Peterson they remembered from a year ago, seemingly unaffected by his season-ending injury he suffered from in the same stadium nearly a year ago.
He caught screen passes that looked to be designed for Harvin, while also generating yards on shovel passes and dump offs, making sure that the Vikings were always in the game. His long gains excited fans, but people are still looking for him to break out for a longer gain and grab his first touchdown since the first week of the season.
Not only did he contribute both as a receiver and runner, he blocked well for Harvin on at least one screen and commits his body to every play. He's an all-star player that makes sure to do as much for the team as possible, glory or not.
Again, a member of the Vikings had a stat line that exceeded their performance, this time on the offense. Kyle Rudolph may have had a touchdown and another 56 yards as a receiver, but he also dropped at least two passes, couldn't find ways to create separation and provided more disappointment than relief for fans.
While he started strong with a number of good receptions—particularly on third down—Rudolph couldn't help Christian Ponder complete the game and could not reel in five of his 11 targets.
Ponder looks to Rudolph in tight spaces and during the clutch. It's a fantastic level of faith and underscores the chemistry the two have developed over the past two years.
Unfortunately, Rudolph couldn't pay that back, dropping a ball on third down and another for the two point conversion.
He was inconsistent as a receiver and also returned to his old, poor form as a blocker. Not only could he not protect the backside of plays as a run defender, he couldn't maintain or hold his block to prevent lateral movement by defenders.
His false start to negate a touchdown capped a performance that Rudolph would do best to forget. The Vikings didn't find the end zone again, and the game ended with an interception two plays later.
Rudolph is a better player than this, but is slowly losing his reputation for having great hands.