The Redskins appeared to be in a dogfight against the Vikings. Kirk Cousins scored on a quarterback sneak with four and a half minutes left in the first half to give his team a 17-14 lead. At that point the game had a tie and three lead changes.
But at that point the dog dressed in purple took control of things. In a span of just over seven minutes of game clock time, the tight battle turned into a rout.
In those seven minutes, the Vikings scored 21 unanswered points. It started when the Vikings took the kickoff after the Redskins’ TD and drove 71 yards in six plays. The big play was a 38-yard pass to Adam Thielen, who shook free from Bashaud Breeland down the left sideline. Thielen caught another pass for 17 yards to set up first a goal at the five and he appropriately finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown reception.
“We relaxed as a defense, we didn’t pay attention to the details as we should,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “I guess we got too high on ourselves, I don’t know the reason why.”
That’s a very good question, why a 4-4 team should get too high on itself.
The next Vikings score came just about a minute and a half later. Kirk Cousins sailed a pass towards Jamison Crowder and Mackenzie Alexander picked it off and returned it to the Washington 23.
“We had a mirrored out route on both sides of the field,” said Gruden. “He chose to work the one to our right and we had an underneath check down that he tried to get to Crowder and he just overthrew him. It got tipped and intercepted.”
Three plays later Case Keenum threw to wide-open tight end David Morgan for a one-yard touchdown.
Although that score goes against Cousins and the offense, the defense always things it should hold the other team to a field goal in those situations.
“Our Friday practice wasn’t good enough,” said Swearinger. “You practice like you play. I try to set our tone. You can’t just say it, you’ve got to do it.”
That made 14 unanswered points and the Vikings, having deferred after winning the opening coin toss, got the second-half kickoff.
It took them only 2:38 to complete the 21-0 run. You probably can guess that it was a Keenum pass to Thielen that was the big play. Without much of a pass rush, Keenum was able to watch the receiver get past a couple of defenders and haul in the pass for 49 yards to the Washington 12.
The Redskins didn’t generate pass pressure all day. In fact, they failed to register a sack for the first time in 33 game. They had the NFL’s longest active sack streak, with the emphasis on had.
“They do a good job chipping with the tight end, running back,” said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “I got that a few times. And they do a good job [staying]in favorable situations. They were never in a true third and long situation. That’s a big flaw of ours to day is that we never put them in an uncomfortable situation.”
Kerrigan is spot on about the second part. During the 21-0 scoring run the Vikings faced a third down of any kind just once, right before their third score. On third and five at the seven, Keenum threw a short pass to Jarius Wright, who found his way into the end zone.
“We’ve got to make a play, man,” said Josh Norman when asked about the feeling on the defense during that Vikings scoring run. “We’ve got to find some juice, we’ve got to get going. We were so lackadaisical. We didn’t have crap today, we really didn’t. Three unanswered scores, I was like, wow, what is going on today? We’re capable of doing [the job] week in and week out and that’s what’s the frustrating part about it. It was slack, just real slack, and that’s the most disappointing part about it.”
It’s hard to figure how an NFL team can be “lackadaisical” in a game against a good team when a win would put them squarely in the playoff picture. How can they not “have crap today”?
Preston Smith was more analytical. “We watched film, so we know what type of team we’re up against,” he said. “We just know we had to stop making so many mistakes. We had to hone in and know what kind of stuff we were getting. We had to be more assignment clean.”
Again, you have to ask why a team that has been at this since the start of training camp three and a half months ago has issues being “assignment clean”.
The Redskins still had time to put on a run of their own but they had to settle for a field goal after getting a first and goal at the three on their next possession and they never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead the rest of the game.
It’s up to both Jay Gruden and the players as a group to have solid Friday practices, play assignment clean and to not come out and play lackadaisical football. They still can save the season but at 4-5 they are running out of time to do it.
RedskinsTalk Podcast: What went wrong in loss to Minnesota and what happens now