Nobody except diehard fans of both teams and fantasy football owners watched this Christmas Eve showdown at FedEx Field between the two win Minnesota Vikings and the five win Washington Redskins.
The Vikings were able to pull a victory out of this shootout, which saw their starting QB Christian Ponder and starting RB Adrian Peterson get injured on consecutive plays. Despite the win, one of their worst seasons in franchise history continues with the news that Peterson tore an ACL and MCL and his availability for the start of next season is in doubt. They can at least fall back on great performances from backups Toby Gerhart and QB Joe Webb.
The Redskins, dealing with injuries and still missing their starting LT and TE coming into this game, continued their good offensive streak, but once again Rex Grossman’s turnovers (a pick and a fumble) helped seal their fate. The story of the game though was the complete inability of their defense to adjust to Webb stepping into the starting lineup.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Joe Webb Catches Another Defense Flat Footed
London Fletcher probably regrets concussing Christian Ponder in the beginning of the second half as their defense was not prepared to deal with the rushing and passing threat that Joe Webb possessed. On a hand full of plays Webb was able to neutralize the defense with the option play. This includes his short TD run where safety Dejon Gomes was frozen by Toby Gerhart, who was in position to take a possible pitch. Another example is on Webb’s 8 yard TD pass to Percy Harvin, in which he buys time for Harvin to cross the formation by faking a handoff. With the Vikings’ success stifling the Redskins defense, Webb only had to throw five passes, completing four of them for 82 yards, two TDs and a ridiculous 158.3 passer rating. He also had a key block on Gomes on a Harvin reverse that allowed at least an extra 20 yards on the play. This performance should make the Vikings’ front office at least keep Webb around as a backup who can be developed and traded for draft picks in the future.
When your team rushes for 241 yards, it’s likely that the offensive line did its part. Even the weakest link, backup RG Brandon Fusco (+0.3 overall) subbing for Anthony Herrara on 12 snaps, made solid contributions This included bullying ILB Perry Riley at the second level twice on runs of 16 yards (10:39 in the second quarter) and 12 yards (57 seconds in the second quarter), though he did also throw in a mindless personal foul on the latter play.
With their success on the ground, they didn’t have to pass block very often (23 snaps), but when they did they had success. Left tackle Charlie Johnson (+3.2), who had given up seven sacks coming into this contest, gave up a pressure to outside linebacker Brian Orakpo on their initial third down but nothing after that. Right tackle Phil Loadholt (+2.2), with nine sacks on his resume this season, was perfect throughout. Center John Sullivan (+2.4) was the only lineman to give up a sack, conceded to nose tackle Barry Cofield. He shouldn’t feel too bad about that, as he won that matchup otherwise, leaving Cofield (-2.5) with no other stops and only an assisted tackle on the stat sheet.
Benny Sapp: Burned Again
Benny Sapp (-4.3 coverage grade) is best known as the guy who got burned by Wes Welker for a 99 yard TD on MNF while playing for the Dolphins in Week 1, and was cut the next day. He’s reappeared in the Vikings lineup due to injuries and had been playing well… until this game. He was targeted by Rex Grossman from the start, giving up a 20 yard completion to Santana Moss on the first third down of the day. It would continue like this as Sapp ended up giving up six of seven passes thrown at him for 81 yards and five first downs, along with a TD. He also missed two tackles, one on FB Darrel Young’s catch in the flat that went for 17 yards at 11:35 in the second quarter and another on the last play of the third quarter, a short Jabar Gaffney catch that would end up going for 29 yards.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Staying Together By Sheer Force of Will
Washington’s patchwork offensive line garnered mixed results on this day, but did play a part in rookie Evan Royster’s 132 yards against a tough run defense. Predictably, rookie left tackle Willie Smith (-3.1) struggled, especially with Jared Allen (a sack, a hit and two pressures conceded to him alone), while right guard Chris Chester (+0.8) gave up his first sack of the year to Kevin Williams. Otherwise though the line was able to handle the Vikings’ pass-rushers, with backup left guard Maurice Hurt (+3.8) having by far his best day with no pressures given up and some solid run blocking, and much-maligned right tackle Jamaal Brown (+3.4) putting in the best performance we’ve ever seen from him (and the first time all year he’s only allowed one pressure). Center Will Montgomery (-0.3) was also perfect in pass protection, but struggled in run blocking. A particularly bad play came with 9:27 left in the fourth quarter, where he’s bull-rushed immediately backwards into Grossman by Fred Evans (fortunately, Royster is just able to get the handoff).
Terrible Run Defense
The Redskins defense has struggled against mobile QBs, with two of their worst performances coming against Cam Newton and Michael Vick. Those struggles continued in this game, allowing the Vikings to run all over them with seven of the 11 starters grading red in run defense. The biggest culprit was rookie Ryan Kerrigan (-4.3 run defense), who looked clueless against the option for much of the day. The first Webb option play at 10:39 in the second quarter is a good example of his struggles as he goes inside, allowing the TE to easily seal him out of the play and open up a huge running lane. The backend was also a problem, with Reed Doughty (-1.2) continuing to regress after a solid 2009 campaign, including two missed tackles, one in which he gets juked by Webb in the open field on Webb’s TD run.
It wasn’t all bad though as they did keep the great Adrian Peterson to only 38 yards on 12 carries before his unfortunate injury. London Fletcher (+3.6) was his usual reliable self with seven stops, including some bone-jarring hits, while Orakpo (+1.7), not the best run-defender, also played well with four stops. It should be noted, though, that both of them were effectively neutralized on one of the biggest plays of the game; the 67-yard Gerhart run with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter. The Vikings never looked back after that.
Josh Wilson: Everyone is Entitled to a Bad Day
Wilson has been a solid acquisition for the Skins, but he struggled on this day, earning his worst grade of the year by a wide margin (-3.1). He simply could not cover Percy Harvin, who caught all three passes against him for 53 yards and a TD. Harvin could have scored another TD on his first catch had Reed Doughty not been there to make the tackle at the goal-line (Peterson would score a few plays later). He also contributed to the team’s run defense woes, including losing containment on a 2nd-and-one Ponder scramble, and getting run over by Gerhart at 7:32 in the fourth quarter. It should be noted that he did make some plays, including two nice tackles on Peterson screen passes (one which was a 3rd down stop) and showed great hustle by catching up to Gerhart on the 67 yard run, but more is certainly expected of him.
– DeAngelo Hall was thrown at only once and earned a pass defensed on that play
– Rookie Evan Royster gained the most rushing yards against the Vikings defense (132) since Steven Jackson in 2006 (142).
– The Vikings recorded their first interception since Week 5. Jamarca Sanford also dropped one early in the game.
PFF Game Ball
Joe Webb, who made a good highlight reel in this game by leading his team on four consecutive scoring drives in the second half.