Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings: First look ahead to Washington

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion under Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings injury report, Vikings offense, Vikings quarterbacks Updated: November 4, 2013 - 10:58 AM

It's a quick turnaround this week for the Vikings following a 27-23 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. They return home to face the Redskins on Thursday in attempt to snap a four-game losing streak and avoid the first 1-8 start in franchise history. Here's your first look at the week ahead:

1) Can the secondary perform an encore?

While Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for 337 yards, he had 90 yards on the game-winning drive when the Vikings opted not to send pressure. With that said, the unit had a solid performance despite injuries to defensive back Chris Cook and starting safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford before the game. 

The secondary even dealt with the loss of defensive back Xavier Rhodes in the game with a left leg injury and finished the game with just four corners.  A.J. Jefferson made a great play on the interception with 4:35 left in the game that the offense couldn't capitalize on, leading to the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive.

The Vikings have three days to prepare and recuperate for the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III. The health status of Cook, Rhodes and Sanford will likely be the biggest storyline leading up to the game behind the season-long debate. Griffin's going through a sophomore slump with the same amount of touchdowns, nine, as fumbles and interceptions, but he’s still a duel threat quarterback that’s capable of posting 350 yards of total offense alone.

2) Who will be the starting and backup quarterbacks?

Yes, the Cowboys have the worst total defense in the NFL, and yes, quarterback Christian Ponder didn’t move the chains on a 3-and-out with 2:51 left in the game that could’ve sealed the win, but he played well enough to start again Thursday. In a short week, it’s difficult to make a quarterback change when there aren’t as many days to prepare for the opponent.

It seems as if quarterback Matt Cassel isn’t an option to start now given how he won’t be a potential future quarterback for the organization. The other option, quarterback Josh Freeman, was inactive Sunday as he returned to the field last week following concussion-like symptoms in his first start against the Giants on Oct. 21. Do you make Freeman the starter, or even the backup, on a short week or go with the same look for the third consecutive week (Ponder starting, Cassel as the backup)?

3) Is the offensive line streak all but over?

The Vikings offensive line will likely see a starting lineup change for the first time in two seasons.  Right tackle Phil Loadholt left Sunday’s game because of a concussion, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he doesn’t expect him to play Thursday.

That would snap 25 consecutive games (including playoffs) without a lineup change for the offensive line that dates back to the start of last season. J’Marcus Webb replaced Loadholt in the third quarter and was beaten by Cowboys defensive end George Selvie, who stripped the ball out of Ponder’s hand in the end zone resulting in a defensive touchdown. Webb will be one of two options, along with backup center Joe Berger, to fill Loadholt’s void and end an impressive feat.

Best Quote From The Game

“I didn’t know it was a flag. The play was over with and I didn’t know it was a flag.” - Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on his 15-yard penalty for removing his helmet on the field.

It’s known as “The Emmitt Rule” because former Cowboys running back and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith constantly ripped off his helmet after scoring a touchdown. The rule was introduced in 1997.

Worth Noting:

  • Romo was the 17th quarterback this season to throw 50 or more passes this season but just the third to win the game.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh was 57-for-57 on extra point attempts in his two-year career before his first miss in the fourth quarter.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson tied his season-high 140 rushing yards Sunday on 25 carries. It’s the third time he’s had over 100 rushing yards this season (100 – Week 2 at Chicago; 140 – Week 4 vs. Pittsburgh in London). He nearly equaled his total rushing yards over the last three games (150) with 11 fewer carries

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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