Three times this season, the Redskins have faced off against the league's No. 1-ranked passing offense. On Sunday night in Minnesota, they went up against the league's top rush offense.
With the playoffs on the line for both clubs, the Redskins' defense stepped up with a dominating performance in a 32-21 victory at the noisy Metrodome.
Dynamic running back Adrian Peterson, the NFC's Pro Bowl starter, was bottled up all game long, totaling just 27 yards on nine carries.
At halftime, Peterson had just five yards on four carries and was basically a non-factor. With the Redskins leading 22-0, the defense had effectively taken him out of the game.
Peterson wasn't able to break off a significant run until early in the third quarter when he picked up 18 yards on a carry.
Later in the same drive, the Redskins shut down Peterson again, this time stopping him on a 4th-and-1 run up the middle. London Fletcher and LaRon Landry combined on the key tackle.
Since the end of the 2006 season, the Redskins' run defense has made great strides. Last year, the Redskins yielded 100 or more rushing yards in a game on seven occasions.
Washington was especially weak in Weeks 16 and 17 last year, when Steven Jackson of St. Louis picked up 150 yards and then Tiki Barber rushed for a New York-franchise record 234 yards in the season finale.
This year, that same run defense has shown solid improvement. Through 14 games, only Brian Westbrook (100 yards on Week 10) and Brandon Jacobs (130 yards last Sunday night at the Meadowlands) had hit the triple figure mark against the Redskins.
On Sunday night in the Metrodome, though, came the stiffest challenge.
The Minnesota Vikings have not only rookie sensation Peterson, but also a left side to their offensive line that includes outstanding run blockers in tackle Bryant McKinnie, guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk.
With good reason, three of those Minnesota players--Peterson, Hutchinson and Birk--are headed to the Pro Bowl, as is Viking fullback Tony Richardson.
Peterson, the 6-1, 217-pound former Oklahoma Sooner, has been spectacular. Heading into Sunday's action, he was third in the NFL with 1,278 rushing yards. Only Pittsburgh's Willie Parker (1,316) and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson were ahead of Peterson, who missed two games because of serious knee injury.
Certainly a key to the game was how the Washington defense would fare versus Peterson and his team of power blockers. Peterson shredded the San Diego Chargers for an NFL record 296 yards and three TDs in a 35-17 Minnesota win back on Nov. 4.
Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams was missing one of his leading tacklers at Minnesota.
Weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh, second on the team in tackles with 105 through 14 games, was placed on the injured list last week with a knee injury sustained in the 22-10 win over the Giants at the Meadowlands.
Only Fletcher had more tackles (148) than McIntosh for the Redskins' defense heading into Week 16 at the Metrodome.
In his place, the Redskins turned to Randall Godfrey, who stepped up in run defense and led the club with nine tackles. H.B. Blades also saw action and finished with three tackles.
Fred Smoot, the former Viking, had six tackles, while Fletcher, Shawn Springs and Leigh Torrence had five apiece. Smoot also had a first-quarter interception of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to set the tone for the evening.