The Redskins had no business losing this football game. They won just about every single facet you could ask them to win except the final score. Consider the following facts from this game:
-Redskins won the yardage battle: 433-307
-Redskins won the time of possession battle: 36:01- 23:59
-Redskins won the turnover battle: 0-1
-Redskins won the first down battle: 27-22
-Alfred Morris has 26 carries and 139 yards
-Griffin completes 64.8% of his passes for 281 yards and 3 TD’s
-Adrian Peterson is held to just 75 yards rushing and a 3.8 ypc average
-Christian Ponder is knocked out of the game
-The Vikings were unable to dress their full complement of players due to the short week and a high number of injuries
How is it possible you lose a game when all those things go your way? Well the Redskins showed us exactly how it was possible. Here are the 8 reasons why the Redskins lost the football game:
-The Redskins did get 3 touchdowns inside the 10 yard line, but unfortunately they were there 5 times, and twice they weren’t able to punch it in. While the final drive of the game was a killer (more on that below), the real failure here was their first drive of the game. After the pass interference penalty, the Redskins had the ball 1st and goal from the 1 yard line. Their touchdown chance from there is off the charts, especially when you have one of the top running backs in the league. Despite three chances from the 1 yard line Alfred Morris only had one chance. That just doesn’t make any sense. You have one of the top running backs in the game, who runs with incredible power and rarely gets stopped for a loss or no gain, and you only give him one shot? The Redskins offense has been most effective overall and scoring by running the football (even when it’s not Morris), yet for some reason they abandoned that in that situation. That was a back breaker and in the end meant the Redskins needed a TD to tie the game.
-This was the most sacks the Redskins allowed this season and Griffin was under constant pressure. Sometimes he was able to get out of it or still make a play, but too often it put the Redskins in bad situations. The line really collapsed in the 2nd half and the sacks killed a couple of their drives. While Griffin had a good game passing, he took a lot of hits that did lead to some off target passes in crucial situations. The line simply can’t let him take hits like that,and if he does it’s going to lead to another major injury.
-A couple times they were able to get some pressure on Ponder and did get him for one sack, but overall he was more able to buy time in the pocket and make plays with his legs. This allowed him plenty of time for the coverage to break down or bite on the play action. Too often the Vikings were able to convert key third downs because of this.
-Look, the Redskins early in the game did a tremendous job on third down, including a number of 3rd and long situations. But you just knew if they continued to put themselves in those low percentage situations the odds were going to catch up to them. Overall you have to commend them for succeeding in the majority of these situations, but it hurt them down the stretch. Even on their nice first drive of the 2nd half, the Redskins were in 3rd and 9, before they had to settle for a field goal.
-Now at the end of the first half the Redskins did get the touchdown, but the lack of urgency and the use of a timeout early in the half almost meant they had to settle for a field goal. We’ve seen it far too often where the Redskins 2- minute offense just doesn’t function smoothly or with the precision you are hoping for. Plays seem to come in late from the sideline, there is too much wasted time getting the plays off and too many of the calls just don’t seem to be effective for an offense short on time.
In the 2nd half at the end of the game it was even worse. The Redskins started the drive with 3:36 and the two minute warning to go, but they ran it a lot early on and they were at the 50 with just 2:00 minutes remaining. I don’t mind running some in this situation, but it ate that clock and kind of took away the run option on the final three plays, where you probably wanted it the most. After the 17 yard catch by Jordan Reed, the Redskins took far too long to get the next play in and then that next play was a run which kept the clock still moving. The Redskins lucked out that the Vikings felt they needed to talk some things over because they called a timeout and let the Redskins regroup. Now that may have ended up being the right move for the shorthanded Vikings, but with the way the Redskins offense was going it would have made it tough to get three plays off at the end without the timeout.
Finally I didn’t like the final play call. I get that was the hot route option, and probably the correct “read” even though Jordan Reed was coming open. But you should know that play is low percentage, especially since Griffin is going to be under pressure. How do you call a low percentage play on 4th and goal with the game on the line? With the Vikings in a cover zero blitz, you are giving them an extra defender by putting that ball right up on the sideline. As a 2nd or 3rd down call it wouldn’t have been that bad of a play call, but on 4th down it’s horrible. Moss beats his guy, but the throw is just too off target and would have taken an incredible effort for Moss to catch it cleanly and get two feet down. I just don’t see why that is the correct play call, especially when we’ve seen Griffin have some accuracy and touch struggles on outside the numbers throws (even though it was the short side) this year.
-Look, you can blame the refs for a phantom call on the Chris Baker roughing the passer, but outside of that the Redskins simply played sloppy stupid football. They committed 7 other legit penalties, including multiple personal fouls. One of those on Perry Riley, gave the Vikings a first down and goal instead of a 3rd down play. Minnesota scored easily on the next play. Now they may have still done that on 3rd down, but the Redskins made it too easy. Another personal foul on Darrel Young gave the Vikings the ball on the Redskins 41 yard line, which allowed them to take the lead 5 plays later. Most of the other penalties didn’t really cost them too much, but it did put them in some worse situations which probably led to further hits on RGIII. Overall it was just sloppy play and stupid mistakes that really cost the Redskins.
-In the Redskins first 5 drives of the game they had a total of 4 drives with 11 or more plays, 3 of those drives went 77 or more yards, and every drive had at least 3 first downs and ended in points. In their next three drives they had a combined 11 plays and -5 yards with 1 first down and zero points. Not only did these short drives give the Vikings plenty of time to come back from the 13 point deficit, they consistently gave the Vikings great field position. The Vikings three drives after those Redskins punts started at the Redskins 41 yard line, the 50 yard line and the Vikings 38 yardline. Not surprisingly the Vikings scored on each of those drives to not only take the lead, but make it a 7 point deficit. Even if the Redskins had been able to pick up a first down or two on each of their drives and punted, it would have put Minnesota in far worse field position, and it’s doubtful they would have scored on all three of those drives.
-While many are going to blame the defense entirely for this loss let’s not forget the defense did some things well. The interception and return on the Vikings first drive gave the Skins great field position. They held Peterson to 75 yards and under 4 yards per carry. And the final two Vikings drives where they had great field position, the defense held them to field goals. Of course you want them to hold them to no points, but if the defense allowed a TD on either one of those drives this game would have been over far earlier.
Where the defense really failed (outside of the lack of pressure on Ponder) was fundamental football (again). Just poor tackling and blown coverages. The coaches aren’t without blame, but they can’t force the players to actually do their jobs. For as much as the defense limited Peterson, he had some big runs at key times that proved back breaking for the Redskins, including his first touchdown. Way too many extra yards (and the one score) on these handful of runs. In coverage it was more of the same. The play action was working particularly well and too often the receiver or tight end was able to get wide open. After the first drive, the Redskins Defense was typically out of position on plays. It’s one thing when a perfect throw or catch beats you, but when you are just missing your assignments that’s a problem.