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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

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Redskins report card vs Vikings—Smith has the day they've been waiting for

Here is my report card on some players, coaches, and various other aspects of the Redskins’ 26-20 win over the Vikings. If you think I’m off or if I didn’t issue a grade where you think one is needed, hit the comments.

A

The Redskins have been waiting all season for Preston Smith to have a game like this one. He became the first Redskin with multiple sacks and at least one interception in a game since Marcus Washington did it in 2005. If he continues to make big plays the defense will improve by leaps and bounds.

For a couple of games it looked like Dustin Hopkins was trending towards being a bit wobbly, with misses of makeable field goals against both the Lions and the Bengals, the latter being a critical error. But he was back in form yesterday, drill four of four tries including one from 50 yards out.

B

I think that Rob Kelley got about 50 more yards than his blocking should have given him. That’s not based on film analysis, just from watching and figuring that he averaged around two additional yards on his 22 carries. Why not an A? I’m looking for over 100 yards and/or a couple of TD’s for him to earn that grade.

Since I graded them with an F a couple of weeks ago, I should point out when the officials do a good job. The crew of Pete Morelli kept the game moving along. Accepted penalties were exactly equal with each team with four for 35 yards for each team. The non-PI call on the throw to Ryan Grant was borderline but not awful. And the game moved at a brisk pace, finishing up in 2:52.

I really can’t find much to fault Jay Gruden on. He’s had his team ready to play just about every game this season and yesterday was no exception. There were no questionable fourth-down calls yesterday, no replay challenges. Just a normal, nerve-racking win in a critical game.

Pierre Garçon had another workmanlike day, with six receptions for 81 yards, leading the team in both categories. There is plenty of talk of him being underutilized but he’s on pace to catch 75 passes for 850 yards, not a bad season at all. He will make some money next year at age 30 whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere.

C

Slot corner Kendall Fuller was on Stefon Diggs for most of the Vikings’ wide receivers’ 13 receptions for 164 yards. It was a tough assignment and Fuller did prevent Diggs from breaking a long one. But it still was a rough day for the rookie.

D

WR Ryan Grant played 78 percent the offensive snaps (more than any WR except Pierre Garçon) and did not catch a pass. He was only targeted three time and perhaps he should have drawn a flag on one second-quarter throw. But at times it seems like the Redskins are playing with four eligible receivers when he is on the field.

The Redskins’ red zone efficiency was, well, not efficient at all. They scored a TD on their first trip to the red zone and they had to settle for field goals on the three subsequent trips inside the Minnesota 20. They are now dead last in the NFL in red zone performance at 38.9 percent.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.