It wasn’t pretty, but the Vikings finally got a road win in 2010. They also got Leslie Frazier his first win as a head coach. They were aided immensely in this endeavor by their opponent the Redskins, who shot themselves in the foot repeatedly on offense and killed themselves with a block-in-the-back penalty on what would’ve been a punt return touchdown to take the lead. Yes luck – and Redskins ineptitude – had a lot to do with the Vikings’ winning. But it isn’t enough to just be lucky; you have to take advantage of the breaks, and not hurt yourself with mistakes along the way. For the most part, the Vikings today avoided the kinds of gaffes that have plagued them throughout the year. They didn’t commit nearly as many costly penalties, they converted third downs when they needed to, and most important of all, they didn’t turn the ball over.
They were not great on offense, largely thanks to the loss of Adrian Peterson to an ankle injury, but they got some hard running out of Toby Gerhart, and made just enough plays through the air. Defensively they had a few breakdowns – one long pass to Anthony Armstrong after he torched Madieu Williams stands out in the mind – but they were able to completely stuff the Redskins’ ground game, holding them to only 29 yards, and they managed to dial up a pass rush at crucial times. They picked off Donovan McNabb once with an assist from Santana Moss who let a ball bounce out of his hands (just one of many drops for the Washington receiver corps). They got four sacks. New defensive coordinator Fred Pagac called some key blitzes, and seemed generally more aggressive in his approach than Frazier when he was calling the defensive plays.
Offensively, the big change over the Childress approach was an increased use of play-action, and more bootlegs for Brett Favre, who despite being very gimpy made some plays on the run. One of the day’s key offensive plays was the most unexpected of all: A 10-yard Favre first-down run to ice the game with under 2 minutes left and the Redskins out of timeouts. When you get a play like that, you kind of know it’s your day. On the whole, the team seemed much looser and happier than in previous weeks. Of course teams will always seem that way when they win, but some of it I suspect also had to do with Brad Childress and his increasingly depressing presence no longer being around. Chilly had clearly begun getting on some of his players’ nerves. Leslie Frazier seems much more direct and sincere than the eternally uptight Chilly, and at one point during the game even huddled up with the offense on the sideline for a pep talk. That’s the sort of thing I don’t remember Chilly ever doing – not that anyone would’ve listened to him anyway.