Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 6 game against the Vikings at FedExField:
The Minnesota Vikings prove that too much offseason attention is paid to strength of schedule and record predictions. Given their first five games against the Jaguars, Colts, 49ers, Lions and Titans, it's plausible that they should have a losing record. Instead, the Vikings brought their 4-1 record to FedExField, looking to test the Redskins' rush defense.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III showed resiliency in coming back one week after suffering concussion-like symptoms, but the real test began at kickoff. Going up against one of the top pass rushes in the NFL, Griffin III rose to the occasion in a major way.
The revealing moment occurred with 9:37 left in the third quarter, with the Redskins driving inside the Vikings 10-yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the Vikings 7, Robert Griffin III tucked the ball and darted up the middle, diving into the end zone for the touchdown. This was his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, which gave him sole possession of the franchise's single season rushing touchdown mark by a quarterback. More importantly, it confirmed the notion that Griffin III had no apprehension or reservation concerning last week's concussion. Griffin III dived head-first into the end zone and scored the team's 23rd-consecutive point.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III went back to the mobile game today, keying the offense with the option before busting off the first big rush of his career. With the Vikings threatening late in the fourth quarter, Griffin III tucked the ball and raced 76 yards up the sidelines for the score. It was the longest touchdown rush by a quarterback since Steelers' quarterback Kordell Stewart went 80 yards for a score in 1996.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Robert Griffin III's performance today cannot by understated. Griffin III told the media early in the week that there's no way he wouldn't suit up today, but there was uncertainty until he cleared his tests this morning. He responded perhaps his finest performance in the NFL, completing 17-for-22 for 182 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team in rushing, with 12 carries for 139 yards, with a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has played limited reps on defense the last two seasons, but made his presence known this afternoon. After entering the game off the bench, Alexander recovered a Christian Ponder fumble, plucking it out of the air before being tackled. The turnover set up a six yard touchdown reception by fullback Darrel Young. Alexander went on to register 1.5 sacks, two tackles and fumble recovery on the day.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins defense gave up 157 yards through the first 20 minutes of play, but yielded only nine points on three field goals. This bend-but-don't-break mentality stoned the Vikings' offense, despite having nine red zone opportunities in the first quarter. The Redskins defense did not yield a touchdown until eight minutes remained in the fourth quarter, a stretch of 55 minutes dating back to last week against the Falcons.
--Home field advantage: Despite not winning at home for a full season (eight games dating back to Week 2 of last season), Redskins fans turned out in force today to cheer on the burgundy and gold. The Redskins won at home for the first time in 13 months, in front of 78,476 fans.
--Redskins receiver Santana Moss backed up last week's 80-yard performance with another strong effort today. After serving as Kirk Cousin's primary target last week, Moss led the team with four receptions and 46 yards, opening up the offense for the Redskins. After gaining only 45 yards on the ground in the first quarter, the Redskins tallied 115 to close out the half.
--Madieu Williams's interception and touchdown return was another momentum swing in the game. This was the fourth defensive touchdown of the season, the second of Williams' career. It is also the first time since 1994 that the Redskins have scored defensive touchdowns off interception in consecutive weeks. Ryan Kerrigan and Williams did it in 2012, Darrell Green and Andre Collins did it in 1994.
--The importance of a reliable kicker cannot be understated in professional football, and the Redskins experienced the positive side of that today. After making the move from Billy Cundiff this week, untested youngster Kai Forbath started his NFL career with a 50-yard field goal that split the uprights. He scored a total of eight points on the day.
--Griffin III has done a great job this season spreading the ball around to all available receivers. Today, he hit eight receivers with at least one pass, with four receivers averaging at least 14 yards-per-reception.
--Redskins pass protection had another fine performance this week, limiting the Vikings' tremendous pass rush to just one sack. The offensive line has steadily improved in the last three weeks, and needed to give Griffin III an added degree of protection after last week's hit. Even when the Redskins turned to the triple option early in the first quarter, the Redskins offensive line remained disciplined.
--On the flip side, the Redskins got consistent pressure on Christian Ponder throughout the afternoon, forcing three sacks and a pair of turnovers. Ponder has ridden the talent of his running game so far this season, averaging only 258 yards-per-game. Today, he was asked to carry the offense and could not.
--The Redskins offense remains gritty on fourth down this season, converting again in the second quarter to remain a perfect three-for-three on the season. The offense struggled early in the game, but a rollout pass from Griffin III to Santana Moss converted on 4th-and-three. This is gritty play call by the Redskins offensive coaching staff, and it paid off.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins have shown a consistent inability to close out strong defensive performances. Even when the offense scores enough points to win, every game has featured some sort of fourth quarter comeback to make the game interesting. At one point during Sunday's contest, the Redskins led 31-12. That 19-point lead was cut to five with 3:36 remaining, and needed Griffin III magic to preserve for the win.
--For the third-consecutive week, the Redskins failed to control the time of possession, a statistic that builds importance as the season goes along. After Week 1, the Redskins led the NFL in time of possession with more than 39 minutes against the Saints. Since then, the Redskins have steadily slid to the middle of the pack, now averaging less than 31 minutes per game. If the Redskins slip to the wrong side of 30 minutes, expect repercussions on defense.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III threw only his second interception of the season in the first quarter of today's game. This was his first interception since the second quarter of the Week 2 game against the Rams, a span of 104 consecutive attempts without an interception. The NFL record for attempts without an interception is 335, owned by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The Redskins leave the friendly confines of FedExField, bound for the Big Apple next week. The Redskins swept the Super Bowl Champion Giants last season, including a Week 15 victory that nearly ended their playoff chances. The Giants are tied for first place in the NFC East going into Week 6, but the Redskins sit only one game behind. Anything can happen in a division matchup, and the Redskins should have a good test.
The Redskins battled hard today and finally enjoy the spoils of a home victory. In winning today, the Redskins snap the longest home losing streak in the NFL and one of the longest in franchise history. For Robert Griffin III, it was also the first in front of the hometown crowd, an improbable end to a game he may not have been available for.
The Redskins have closed on the first six games of the year and find themselves in a good position at 3-3. Both the Eagles and Cowboys lost earlier in the day, which sets up a four-way tie for first place, with all teams sitting at .500. The Redskins have a tough stretch for the next few weeks, going on the road to battle the Giants and Steelers in the next two weeks.
The Redskins can take comfort in beating anyone at home, but they beat a quality team in the Vikings (4-2). Look for this win to build some momentum in the right direction.