LANDOVER, Md. — The undermanned Washington Redskins were supposed to travel to Seattle, play the Seahawks and lose, thus crippling their postseason chances.
Instead, they pulled off a stunning 17-14 upset and find themselves 4-4 and in the thick of the NFC wild-card chase as they host the rested Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“When everything is right in front of you and you have a chance and you’re playing for something with eight games to go, I think that’s a starting point,” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “As long as we can control our destiny with the games left to play, there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for.”
Catching Philadelphia (8-1) in the NFC East is unlikely, but the Carolina Panthers (6-3), Dallas Cowboys (5-3) and Seattle (5-3) are in range. And after traveling to NFC South-leading New Orleans (6-2) next week, the remaining schedule includes the New York Giants twice and home games against Denver and Arizona.
And the Redskins are getting healthy. Only tackle Trent Williams (knee) and defensive linemen Arthur Jones (shoulder) and Matt Ioannidis (hand) were held out of Wednesday’s practice, though 11 other players were limited.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but yes, it feels that way,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said when asked if the injury plague was bottoming out.
“Just seeing guys with their helmets — at least they’re wearing helmets out at practice today, which is good. Slowly but surely, certain guys are getting back into the flow. Now it’s a matter of getting them back up to speed and making sure we get them mentally right as well as physically, but it is looking a little bit better.”
Still without a running game (51 yards on Sunday), the Redskins’ offense struggled against Seattle, but Cousins led the fourth-quarter rally, firing back-to-back completions of 31 and 38 yards on the final drive to set up the go-ahead score.
“I think everybody can see him when the game is on the line, you feel the poise, and despite getting hit and hit and hit, he stepped in to a great throw to (Brian) Quick with two guys bearing down on him,” Gruden said of Cousins. “And, of course, he stepped into a throw to Josh Doctson to get us down there.”
Washington ranks 10th in passing yards per game (244.4) and ninth in passing yards per play (6.74).
Cousins faces a stern test against Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings haven’t allowed more than 20 points since a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh. They are ranked fourth in yards allowed per game (282.1) and second in third down percentage.
However, defensive end Everson Griffen (foot injury) did not practice Wednesday and would be a big loss against the mobile Cousins.
The Vikings are coming off a bye week preceded by four straight wins that put them atop the NFC North. Minnesota plays four of its next five games on the road. After Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams (6-2) visit before the Vikings hit the road for games at Detroit (3-4), Atlanta (4-4) and Carolina (6-3).
On Wednesday, the Vikings placed quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) on injured reserve to make room on the roster for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bradford, who has missed six of the past seven games, had arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday
Case Keenum, who is 4-2 as a starter this season, will start against Washington. But Bridgewater, who hasn’t played since suffering his horrific left knee injury before the start of the 2016 season, will be active and serve as the backup.
Coach Mike Zimmer said Bridgewater, who will wear a knee brace, is “ready” to play in a game.
“He’s done excellent (in practice),” Zimmer said. “He’s moved well, thrown the ball well, good accuracy.”
Keenum has completed 149 of 233 passes (63.9 percent) for 1,610 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
“I’ve only had him this year, but Case is a battler,” Zimmer said. “He competes, he’s taking good care of the football, he’s made good decisions, got us in a lot of right plays. I think a lot of that should go not only to him, but to (offensive coordinator) Pat Shurmur as well.”
The bye was timely for Minnesota’s much-improved offensive line. Starters guard Nick Easton and tackle Mike Remmers could return for the Washington game. Easton (calf injury) has missed the past three games, and Remmers left the Oct. 29 game against the Cleveland Browns with a concussion in the first quarter. Easton practiced Wednesday, Remmers did not.
Minnesota faces a Redskins defense ranked 18th in yards per game and coming off an impressive performance against Russell Wilson.
“Both those two ends are really good. (Ryan) Kerrigan is an all-day affair. He’s tough and physical,” Zimmer said. “And Preston Smith. Their defensive line does a nice job of getting pressure on a quarterback. Their secondary plays tight in coverage. I think they look really good to me.”
The teams are playing for the seventh time in eight years. The Vikings have won four of six, but the Redskins won 26-20 last season at FedEx.
“It seems like we play them every year,” tight end Kyle Rudolph told the Pioneer Press. “Coach Zim mentioned it earlier, we kind of treat it like a division game. We’re very familiar with one another.”
Former Redskins kicker Kai Forbath has made 21 of 22 field goal attempts and 12 of 16 extra point tries for the Vikings.
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(photo courtesy of Vikings.com)