ReFo: Redskins @ Vikings, Week 10
Ben Stockwell shares notes from the Thursday Night game, including a dominant night for Kevin Williams, a strong showing for Washington's offensive triplets, and a next-man-up success at tight end ...
ReFo: Redskins @ Vikings, Week 10
In the ever-competitive NFC East, the Washington Redskins entered this game not far out of first place in the division knowing that a victory would put them back within touching distance of the Cowboys, ready to mount a similar winning streak to 12 months ago to try and retain their division crown. But, after surrendering 20 straight second-half points and a two-touchdown lead, Washington finds themselves in need of repeating last season’s miraculous win to surely have any chance of repeating as division champions.
All seemed to be going to plan for Washington with points on their opening five drives and overcoming a couple of early scores to establish a comfortable lead early in the third quarter. From there things went off the tracks with both offense and defense running out of gas to surrender the lead with their final drive unable to salvage a second overtime game in as many outings.
For the Vikings this gives them their first victory in the United States this season with their sole prior victory coming on their jaunt across the Atlantic to face the Steelers at Wembley Stadium six weeks ago. A victory powered by contributions from unexpected places, and some more familiar faces with Christian Ponder producing a fine display before his departure and John Carlson putting in his best performance in years filling in for the injured Kyle Rudolph. Ahead of road trips to Seattle and Green Bay, this victory will be a much needed tonic for a franchise that needed to get off the slide.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Pressure Through the Middle
The interior of the Washington offensive line has been a problem individually at times this season but last night all three of Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery and Chris Chester combined to have bad games at the same time for the first time this season. At left guard, Lichtensteiger was highlighted in our latest Stock Report as having a dip in form due to his pass protection in the last month and that dip continued as he surrendered four pressures (1 Ht, 3 Hu) to earn his third negative pass protection grade in the last five games. He at least didn’t concede a sack which cannot be said of Montgomery and Chester who each had their hands full with Kevin Williams and Everson Griffen. Of the 21 pressures charged to the Redskins (the Vikings registered 26) 14 of them were given up by the interior of the offensive line. Neither guard helped themselves in a the run game with both players struggling to contain the Vikings’ defensive tackles on the ground and Chester also struggling late on with Erin Henderson.
Strong Defensive Start Wastes Away
Having stood tall at the end of regulation against the Chargers with a goal-line stand to force overtime, the Washington defense carried that momentum into the opening drive last night. After giving up a first down to John Carlson on the opening play, the next three plays were exactly the start they would have wanted to make. Barry Cofield set up Jarvis Jenkins to take down Adrian Peterson for a 1-yard gain on first down before Brian Orakpo rounded Matt Kalil for a sack and then, the cherry on the cake, Brandon Meriweather picked off a floater from Christian Ponder as Perry Riley showed excellent range to cut off a seam route by Greg Jennings.
From there not a lot went right on the defensive side of the ball for Washington. Touchdowns followed on the next two drives and the second half saw the defense throw away a two-score lead principally through bad matchups and bad tackling. The offense played its part with only a solitary first down from the time they established a 13-point lead to the time the Vikings established their seven-point lead with 3:40 left in the game but the defense simply couldn’t stand up play by play with the Vikings’ offense (not a ringing endorsement) but probably more importantly couldn’t come up with a big play to ease the pressure and turn the tide in the game.
Triplets Shine on Offense
The trio of Pierre Garcon (+1.8), Alfred Morris (+2.1) and Robert Griffin III (+5.7) had stellar games last night to build Washington’s lead but frustration will remain at the inability to continue that form in the second half to close out the victory. Of his 119 yards through the air, Garcon earned 86 of them after the catch forcing four missed tackles, both of which see him lead the league in those statistics ahead of the remainder of the Week 10 slate. The downside for Garcon? Two drops, taking his season total to seven, also among the league leaders.
In the backfield, Morris was given solid blocking by his tackles and responded with some tough running on top of the space given to him earning 2.5 yards per carry after first contact and breaking seven tackles. Morris sustained his running through the second half but was given the carries to help grind the game out and clinch the victory. On the failed drives throughout the second half, Washington turned to the passing game for first downs after solid gains on the ground and after a strong first half, Griffin and his receivers couldn’t come up with the plays to extend drives.
Washington got good games from their offensive difference-makers but through play calling and execution they didn’t get the right plays at the right times to close out the victory they had in their hands after their first five drives.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Williams Shines in Primetime
While he may not be the consistent force he was once in the heart of the Minnesota defensive line, Kevin Williams (+4.1) showed last night that he is still capable of truly dominant performances. Doing strong work against the run, but excelling against the pass, Williams got the better of all three members of the Washington interior line for much of the night — especially in the second half, really turning the screw as the Vikings’ defense played their part in the comeback victory.
One sack may have come as a cleanup but the other two were quick, dominant beatings of either Montgomery or Chester with his final sack seeing him meet both Brian Robison and Jared Allen at Griffin, a quarterback’s worst nightmare. Earning his fight sack since Week 10 last season, Williams recorded his highest pass rush grade since Week 12 of the 2010 season. The Vikings’ opponents that day? The Washington Redskins.
Career Night for Carlson
When opportunity knocks in the NFL you need to respond emphatically and that is exactly what John Carlson (+4.1) did last night. Stepping up in place of the injured Kyle Rudolph, Carlson provided positive contributions not only as a receiver but also as a run blocker, replacing the rare all-around game that Rudolph brings to the table. On his touchdown reception Carlson was open by virtue of some catastrophic play action defense by the Washington defense but still had to finish the play which he did, breaking through a tackle from DeAngelo Hall just outside the 5-yard line before extending the ball to the goal line for the score. That touchdown went with a quartet of first downs on his six other receptions and some solid blocking on the edge sealing defenders inside rounded out a strong night for a tight end who, after a productive rookie season in Seattle, had faded to the fringes.
Ponder Shows What he’s Capable of
There is no doubt that Christian Ponder has been a massive disappointment as a quarterback in the NFL, but last night he showed, prior to his departure through injury, what can be all too often forgotten that he can put it together on occasion. After a poor start on the opening drive with a poor interception aimed for Greg Jennings, he got his act together with an effective performance the rest of the way. He took only one further shot downfield, a 28-yard play to Jarius Wright which highlighted his ability to get outside the pocket before finding Wright wide open to the right sideline. On intermediate targets, Ponder went 5-of-6 for 96 yards and a score, showing more adventure than his customary dink-and-dunk targets. Is this a performance that will save Ponder’s job and give him another year as Minnesota’s starter? No, that die is already cast, but it is a credit-worthy performance in a victory with the only shame that injury robbed him of the chance to finish the job in the fourth quarter.
– Washington’s early-season tackling troubles reared their ugly head with a baker’s dozen missed. Eight were by Brandon Meriweather and DeAngelo Hall (four each) in the team’s highest total since Week 3.
– Both defenses’ leaders in terms of stops were their strong safeties. Andrew Sendejo registered eight stops for the Vikings while Reed Doughty notched seven for Washington, both season highs.
– Both starting quarterbacks registered NFL passer ratings above 100 when pressured last night. Ponder faced pressure on seven drop-backs going 6-for-6 for 76 yards (118.8) with a sack, while Griffin faced pressure on 19 drop-backs, going 9-for-14 for 91 yards and a score (106.5) with four sacks and a scramble.
PFF Game Ball
While the offense racked up the points in the second half, the Vikings’ defense but the brakes on the Washington offense with Kevin Williams leading the way up front.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.