Three takeaways from Sunday’s Vikings-washington game
1. Sam Bradford is performing admirably while carrying the Vikings offense on his back. After the Vikings’ 26-20 loss to the Redskins, Bradford still was beating himself up for throwing that fourth-quarter interception to Preston Smith, who surprised him by dropping into coverage. But for the second week in a row, Bradford played well enough to win even though the Vikings again got little going on the ground. He was excellent in the second quarter as the Vikings surged back from 14 points down and on that final drive it looked as if he was going to get it done before his offensive line let him down. Bradford finished with 307 yards on 31-for-40 passing, many of those yards coming after catches on screens and short crossing routes. But with the running game going nowhere, especially in short-yardage situations, and the line unable to consistently give him time to throw deep, Bradford can only do so much.
2. The Vikings need their defensive stars to shine again to finally halt this free fall. Just a few weeks ago, it looked as if though this defense, which has impact players at all three levels, had a chance to be one of the best in team history and despite its uneven play the past three weeks, it probably still does. But those impact players need to get back to making an impact. Anthony Barr has not produced one of his signature splash plays. Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith the past two weeks has uncharacteristically missed several tackles, including one on the walk-off winner in the loss to the Lions. Defensive end Everson Griffen just got shut out by a left tackle who a few years back played in the Arena Football League’s development league. Their lack of big plays, along with big breakdowns like that long touchdown pass Sunday to Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, have made this group look average.
3. Stefon Diggs was clearly fired up to play his first NFL game in his home state of Maryland. Yes, this sort of story line often gets overplayed. But the emotion the second-year receiver showed after the game was legitimate. Peppered by the D.C. media about being back in his old stomping grounds, Diggs mostly kept his eyes on the carpet and at a couple of points he seemed to get a little choked up when talking about playing in front of his mother and newborn daughter. In a losing effort, Diggs was arguably the best player on the field, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 13 receptions in back-to-back games. Many of those catches were short, but his 36-yarder in the second quarter finally got the offense in gear. Despite finishing with 164 yards, Diggs was downcast, partially because it was the Vikings’ fourth straight loss, but also because it hurt to lose his homecoming game.