It could have been a great homecoming for D.C.-area native Stefon Diggs and his large contingent of friends and family. Sunday, the Vikings receiver was playing against the Redskins about 30 miles from where he grew up.
He caught 13 of the 15 passes thrown his way for 164 yards. When the Vikings took over on their own 25-yard line after Washington kicked a field goal to take a 26-20 lead, Diggs was the target of six consecutive passes for 47 yards, and Adam Thielen caught a 7-yard pass, to bring the Vikings to the Washington 21-yard line. But it wasn’t to be as back-to-back sacks prevented the Vikings from even getting a final pass off and into the end zone in their 26-20 loss.
Diggs became the first player in NFL history to have at least 13 receptions in back-to-back games. Last week against the Lions, he caught 13 passes for 80 yards. But the Vikings wasted his effort both times, having now lost four games in a row.
Yes, there were many Vikings players who had strong performances Sunday, when they overcame an early 14-point deficit by scoring 20 unanswered points to end the first half, missing one point on Blair Walsh’s fourth missed point-after attempt of the season.
Quarterback Sam Bradford, who seven times in his career has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, threw for a season-high 307 yards and two scores, although he did have a tough moment with less than five minutes to go when he threw only his second interception of the season. That was another opportunity where the Vikings could have gotten a go-ahead touchdown.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph also had a productive day, catching five passes for 69 yards and a score.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Danielle Hunter sacked Kirk Cousins on third down following Bradford’s interception, forcing the Redskins to settle for a field goal instead of what would have been a game-clinching touchdown.
But none of those positives matters now for a Vikings team that hasn’t won since Oct. 9.
Too many mistakes
Yes, the Vikings’ losing streak continued because the team again made too many of the mistakes they weren’t making during their 5-0 start.
The offensive line might have had its best performance of the season, at least in pass protection. But on the final drive, Jake Long blew out his left Achilles’ tendon on Trent Murphy’s third-down sack of Bradford, and on the fourth-down play, substitute left tackle Jeremiah Sirles was beaten by Preston Smith for the clinching sack.
Furthermore, Bradford was handicapped by the lack of a running game, which had one of its worst performances in a miserable season of running the ball. Already the worst rushing team in the league, they gained only 47 yards on 21 carries, or 2.2 yards per attempt.
The Vikings defense, meanwhile, has been slipping over the past month after starting out as the best defense in the league. Coming into the game it was third in the NFL in total defense at 289.9 yards per game and first in scoring defense at 15.8 points per game.
But on Sunday they gave up 388 yards, and their pass defense continued to be porous, giving up a season-high 260 yards to Cousins and company.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game that he saw negatives as well as positives.
“They did some better things than we did today,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t finish in the second half. Again we started out slow on the road, came back and did some good things offensively there in the second quarter, and then we moved the ball pretty well in the second half but didn’t convert some third downs — third-and-1, short-yardage situations. Got a lot of things we need to clean up and a lot of things we need to get better at.
“Defensively, they did a good job of keeping us off-balance with play-action and got after us a little bit on the outside today. Just keep going and keep fighting, all we can do. Not going to stick our head in the sand. This team still continues to fight.”
Fortunately for the Vikings, Green Bay continues to falter. The Packers got beat at Tennessee 47-25 on Sunday, with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing for 371 yards but with two interceptions before being removed late to allow backup Brett Hundley a chance.
Despite the losing streak, the Vikings are still in a tie for first in the NFC North with Detroit, which had a bye this weekend, and continue to control their own destiny for the playoffs.
Now the Vikings face Arizona (4-4-1) and another quarterback who can really throw the ball in Carson Palmer.
You can criticize the Gophers football team for losing 24-17 at Nebraska on Saturday, but it’s important to remember the Cornhuskers have one of the best home-field advantages in college football.
Trailing by seven, the Gophers had the ball with 2:58 to go at their own 27-yard line and drove to the Nebraska 17-yard line with 1:29 to go. The Gophers had it first-and-10 when Mitch Leidner looked for Drew Wolitarsky, who had eight receptions for 90 yards. But the pass was tipped by Aaron Williams to Cornhuskers teammate Kieron Williams, who intercepted it at the 2. The Cornhuskers were then able to kneel on the ball and end the game.
So now the Gophers have lost three games, and all by one possession. They lost at Penn State 29-26 in overtime, after giving up the tying score with 11 seconds to play. They lost to Iowa 14-7 when they gave up a long touchdown run with less than six minutes to play, before their final drive stalled in the red zone. And now they have lost at Nebraska on a late interception.
“It’s one of those things where we didn’t play our best in the second half, but our kids kept battling,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. “Mitch took us down and gave us a chance at the end, but the defensive back made a good play. He cut under Drew and got the ball tipped in the air and had a safety over the top that intercepted it.
“So yeah, those are tough, all three of [the losses] have been. To have a chance at the end and lose three ballgames this year by one possession, they make it tough. But at the same time, it was on the road in a great atmosphere again — I think they had over 90,000 people there — and we fought and had our chances, we just came up short.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org