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Vikings show offense, but it's not enough

LANDOVER, Md. -- Mike Zimmer's postgame speeches to his team lately haven't gone the way one might expect. The no-nonsense Vikings coach apparently hasn't had any tirades. No chalkboards have been broken. Zimmer was said to have continued to acce...

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) catches a pass as Washington Redskins safety Donte Whitner Sr. (39) defends in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) catches a pass as Washington Redskins safety Donte Whitner Sr. (39) defends in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

LANDOVER, Md. - Mike Zimmer's postgame speeches to his team lately haven't gone the way one might expect.

The no-nonsense Vikings coach apparently hasn't had any tirades. No chalkboards have been broken.

Zimmer was said to have continued to accentuate the positive after the Vikings lost 26-20 to Washington on Sunday at FedExField, their fourth straight defeat. Guard Alex Boone wondered if that message is working.

"I think after a while you kind of get tired of hearing that and you got to win a (darn) game,'' Boone said. "You can only say you played so tough for so long until it doesn't count anymore. These are games you got to win.''

The Vikings haven't been doing much winning lately. After a 5-0 start, they've stunningly dropped to 5-4.

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The Vikings, who led 20-14 at halftime and never scored again, were plagued by some usual problems Sunday. They couldn't run the ball, gaining just 47 yards on 21 carries and failing to convert on a number of short-yardage opportunities, and they had breakdowns in protecting quarterback Sam Bradford.

After Minnesota had first and 10 at the Washington 21 with 40 seconds left and trailing 26-20, Bradford threw an incompletion, was sacked for a loss of 7 yards, threw an incompletion and was sacked for a loss of 14.

The final sack came after left tackle Jake Long went down for with a torn left Achilles tendon that Zimmer said likely will end his season. He was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles, who got beat by linebacker Preston Smith for the sack.

"Obviously, it's frustrating,'' said Bradford, who was sacked three times. "I think in order for us to get back on track, we just have to go out there and execute.''

Bradford completed 31 of 40 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns. But he threw an interception in the fourth quarter to Smith, who made the two most important plays of the game.

With Redskins leading 23-20, the Vikings drove to the Washington 39 and had first and 10. Two plays later, Bradford threw the pick with 5:44 left that Smith returned 22 yards to the Minnesota 42, setting up a 28-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins for a 26-20 lead with 2:31 remaining.

"Not throwing an interception in the fourth quarter would've helped,'' Bradford said.

It also would have helped if the Vikings played defense the way they once did. For a third straight game, they had significant breakdowns.

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"We're in a slump right now, so we got to make sure we find a way to get ourselves out of it,'' said defensive end Brian Robison.

The Vikings allowed Washington (5-3-1) to roll up 388 yards of total offense, including 128 on the ground. They watched as the Redskins waltzed down the field on their first two possessions for two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead.

Kirk Cousins opened the scoring with a 4-yard TD pass to Jamison Crowder in the first quarter and then made it 14-0 on a 38-yard TD connection to Vernon Davis 42 seconds in the second quarter. Cousins completed 22 of 33 passes for 262 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.

"Football is a game of momentum, so you definitely want to capture the momentum and keep it,'' Cousins said. "If you lose it, which you're bound to do at some point, try and fight like crazy to get it back.''

That's what happened Sunday. The Vikings stormed back with 20 straight points in the second quarter to take a 20-14 lead at halftime. The Redskins then outscored Minnesota 12-0 in the second half, getting four field goals by Hopkins, including a 50-yard boot by Hopkins with 9:33 left in the game for a 23-20 lead.

Meanwhile, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh had more problems just five days after the Vikings brought in six candidates for a tryout while considering replacing him. He missed an extra point after Bradford threw a 3-yard TD pass to Adam Thielen on the final play of the first half.

"Honestly, I didn't even see the kick,'' Zimmer said.

Before that, the Vikings had tied the score 14-14 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Asiata and a 20-yard TD pass from Bradford to Kyle Rudolph.

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Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who grew up in a Maryland suburb of Washington, played a key role in the comeback. Diggs had 13 catches for 164 yards, including grabbing five passes for 102 yards in the second quarter.

Boone said Zimmer's speech after the game was similar to the one after the Nov. 6 Detroit game, when he spoke about some positives coming out of a 22-16 overtime loss at home. Zimmer also provided that message to the media.

Zimmer wasn't exactly praising the Vikings publicly for their latest effort. Then again, he certainly wasn't ripping them.

"I am concerned, obviously, but I still believe,'' Zimmer said. "I believe if we do a couple things here and a couple things there, we are going to win games. I just feel like if we can get over the hump and we can just keep fighting, until we do that, positive things will happen.''

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