The Vikings weren't one of the 12 teams playing in the NFL's "Super" Wild Card Weekend, but several players and coaches who used to sport Vikings purple put up strong performances during the six-game slate. Let's take a look at some of the former Vikings who shined this weekend, whether their team advanced to the divisional round or not.
Washington QB Taylor Heinicke
The biggest star of the weekend was arguably Heinicke, who was thrown into a very tough spot and delivered incredible results. The former Old Dominion QB, who was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2015, was called on to start for Washington with Alex Smith unable to play. He had just been signed by Washington –– his fifth NFL team –– a month earlier, and had most recently been a backup in the XFL. Surely he had no chance to compete against Tom Brady and the heavily favored Buccaneers, right?
Wrong. Heinicke was fantastic, throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown and adding 46 rushing yards and a second score. He kept Washington in the game until the very end, displaying a ton of poise and confidence in the pocket and excellent athleticism as a runner. Heinicke's best moment as a Viking came when he dove for the pylon for a game-winning two-point conversion in the 2017 preseason, and he recreated that moment on a much bigger stage on Saturday.
Heinicke finished as PFF's highest-graded QB of the weekend with a 92.0 grade and made himself a lot of money with that performance. He could get a shot to compete for a starting job in Washington or elsewhere next season, or more realistically, will carve out a long career for himself as a backup.
Bills WR Stefon Diggs
In the first game of the weekend, the NFL's leading receiver continued doing what he's done all season. Diggs caught six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, helping the Bills defeat the Colts 27-24 and advance to a matchup with the Ravens next Saturday. He made a spectacular diving catch early on and got open for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
All six of Diggs' catches went for a first down or touchdown, and only one gained fewer than 16 yards. That was a four-yard catch on 3rd and 1, after which he was tackled by an old friend in former Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes. Diggs and the Bills appear to have a real shot at reaching the Super Bowl, but they'll have to beat the Ravens and either the Chiefs or Browns to get there.
Browns STC Mike Priefer
With one former Vikings coach in Kevin Stefanski unable to coach his team due to a positive COVID-19 test, another one took over. Priefer, the Browns' special teams coordinator who was with the Vikings from 2011-2018, served as acting head coach and helped lead Cleveland to a 48-37 win over the Steelers on Sunday night. Whatever Priefer did during the week leading up to the game and during the game itself, it worked.
I'm happy for Stefanski, who had to watch this one from his basement at home. He'll be back on the sidelines coaching in next Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
Other notable performances by former Vikings:
- Colts CB Xavier Rhodes: 5 targets, 16 yards allowed, 1 PBU, 3 tackles
- Washington OC Scott Turner: helped Heinicke put up 23 points against Tampa
- Ravens DE Yannick Ngakoue: 1 QB hurry
- Saints RB Latavius Murray: 6 touches, 20 total yards, 1 receiving TD
- Bears KR Cordarrelle Patterson: 2 returns, 68 yards (long of 42)
- Browns S Andrew Sendejo: 1 PBU, 5 tackles
- Browns DT Sheldon Richardson: Team-high 6 pressures, 4 QB hurries, 3 tackles
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