Nationals

Vikes beat Cardinals 21-14, stay unbeaten at home

201210211318479031247-p2.jpeg

Vikes beat Cardinals 21-14, stay unbeaten at home

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota's turnaround season already includes a decisive victory over a Super Bowl favorite, San Francisco.

The Vikings showed they can win a close one when they beat Jacksonville in the opener in overtime. Now they've proven they can pull out an ugly game, even with a passing game rendered impotent for an entire half.

Adrian Peterson and a relentless pass rush were enough for the Vikings to defeat Arizona 21-14 on Sunday and hand the Cardinals their third straight loss.

``It's just nice to rely on other guys to take over the game for you,'' said Christian Ponder, who completed only one pass for 4 yards after halftime and finished 8 for 17 for 58 yards and two interceptions.

Peterson ran 23 times for a season-high 153 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, and the Vikings (5-2) sacked John Skelton seven times to raise Arizona's league-leading total to 35 allowed this year.

``That's the formula for success if you're in a tough situation throwing the football,'' coach Leslie Frazier said. ``Credit our guys for buying into that philosophy and finding a way to get a win.''

Ponder threw a second-quarter touchdown pass to Percy Harvin, but the Vikings punted five straight times after Harrison Smith's 31-yard interception return for a touchdown. The last four were three-and-out possessions.

``The offense, they didn't always have it today. Let's just be honest,'' said defensive end Jared Allen, who had two sacks. ``That's why it's a team game, and we were able to step up big.''

John Skelton hit Andre Roberts for a 6-yard scoring pass with 1:48 left to pull the Cardinals (4-3) within one score, but they tried an onside kick and Peterson ended the game with a tough inside run for just Minnesota's second first down of the second half.

``At times it felt like we were getting momentum. But at times we made it tough on ourselves,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Like at the end of the second quarter after Ponder was picked off for a second time. Jay Feely's gift 47-yard field goal try was wide right.

``The Vikings do a really good job once they get a lead on you,'' said Larry Fitzgerald, who was limited to four catches for 29 yards. He added: ``It's going to have to be a long sustained drive if you want to put points on the board.''

The Cardinals had only one of those until the closing minutes, and it ended when Brian Robison sacked Skelton to force a fumble. Kevin Williams recovered at the Minnesota 16-yard line.

``I can go on and on about the possessions we had,'' Fitzgerald said.

Skelton went 25 for 36 for 262 yards and two turnovers, taking the job back from Kevin Kolb, whose damaged ribs will keep him out until at least Thanksgiving. Many of the throws he missed were way off the mark, but the lack of time he had in the pocket made it difficult to judge his performance.

Antoine Winfield delivered a jarring stop on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 17 midway through the third quarter when Skelton rolled out. Then with 6:16 left on fourth-and-10, Skelton was taken down near midfield in a swarm led by Williams.

After starting 4-0, the Cardinals have scored a total of 33 points. Their brightest spot on Sunday was LaRod Stephens-Howling, who scored on a short touchdown run after Ponder's first interception and finished with 104 yards on 20 carries and 45 yards on four catches.

``The objective of coming here was to win the game. So the numbers don't feel as good,'' Stephens-Howling said.

For the third straight year, Fitzgerald's visit to his hometown was ruined. The Cardinals haven't won here since 1977, when they played in St. Louis and the Vikings played outdoors. They've been inside since 1982, and the roof and the turf have long played to the defense's advantage when the visiting team is behind and passing becomes more important.

Against a leaky offensive line, Allen, Williams and Robison were even more dangerous. And there's no place they're more effective than here.

``If you win all of them at home, you've got eight wins. Then if you can split on the road, that's 12. I think that's what everybody around the league talks about,'' Williams said. ``To accomplish that is huge. So if we keep doing what we're doing, we're on the right track.''

NOTES: In the history of the NFL only Emmitt Smith (78), Jim Brown (76) and LaDainian Tomlinson (73) had more touchdowns than Peterson (67) in the first 80 games of their careers. ... The 5-foot-7, 185-pound Stephens-Howling had the first 100-yard game for the Cardinals since last November. Almost 82 percent of his season total came in this game, and Stephens-Howling is already the team's second-leading rusher. ... Cardinals RG Adam Snyder suffered a bruised quadriceps in the third quarter and didn't return. For the Vikings, TE John Carlson, their biggest free-agent signing who has only three catches for 8 yards this season, left the game with a concussion. ... Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but Marvin Mitchell was called for an illegal block in the back to wipe it out. ... Cardinals LB Daryl Washington had two sacks, two additional hits on Ponder and nine tackles.

---

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

usatsi_10899685.jpg
USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

MORE NATS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

usatsi_10685702.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!