Best and worst moments from Washington’s 34-27 loss the Vikings Thursday night in Minnesota.
Worst Hope: The Redskins were up 10 at halftime. Their offense appeared unstoppable. They were poised to start the second-half with the ball. Alfred Morris was out-performing Adrian Peterson. It seemed like maybe, for once, there could be a nice, relaxing, blowout, in which people could go to bed early, and the night-cap could be orange juice instead of whiskey, and bloggers could comfortably do a whole lot of bests and hardly any worsts. But nope. That isn’t the way life goes, kids.
Worst Lead Protection: The Redskins had a 14-point lead against Denver, and then got blown out. They had a 10-point second-half lead against San Diego, and needed overtime to win it. They had a 13-point lead against Minnesota on Thursday night, and still lost. When you have a dominating rushing attack, you’d think maybe you could hold onto some of these leads.
Best Record: I mean, 3-6? Maybe? Of course, 3-6 is, famously, where Mike Shanahan began evaluating players for the future in 2012; the Redskins didn’t lose until the playoffs. Here we are again.
Best Tweet: This one wins.
If we had drafted Adrian Peterson instead of LaRon Landry, we wouldn’t even have the chance to not use Alfred Morris.
— Dan Snyder Cares (@DanSnyderCares) November 8, 2013
Worst Guy to Crush Your Spirits: John Carlson had 43 receiving yards in all of 2012. He had 61 receiving yards before Thursday night. He had 98 against Washington, including a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up the Vikings’ final field goal. Sure, the starting tight end was injured, but the Redskins still got run out of Minnesota by John Carlson.
Worst Missed Opportunity: It would have been a tough play, but Ryan Kerrigan had a would-be interception in his hands late in the third quarter. He almost certainly would have returned it for a would-be touchdown. That would have given the Redskins a would-be cushion. Instead, Kerrigan dropped the ball, and the Vikings soon scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Worst Clock Management: With the Redskins out of time and desperately driving for a tying score, the Vikings kept calling timeouts. Why were they doing this? If I were a Vikings fan I would have ripped my head off. I guess it worked, but sheesh.
Worst Punishment: I understand it’s tackle football, and I understand quarterbacks get hurt, and I don’t know if this debate happens in every town, but is there a way you can avoid having your quarterback caved in by at least four or five brutal hits every week? I mean, sure, Christian Ponder took a beating, too, and left the game after diving for the end zone. But Griffin just seems to go out of his way to not avoid contact. That’s like a triple negative, but I’m not sure how else to explain it. He does not seem to mind accepting inordinate poundings.
Best Meriweather Moment: For the first time this season, the highlight of Brandon Meriweather’s performance was not a heavy hit. The sometimes controversial safety made his mark on the first drive of the night, intercepting a hopeless deep heave from Christian Ponder. That was the only turnover forced by the Redskins defense.
Worst Meriweather Moment: And now, the bad. The safety crashed into Adrian Peterson on a crucial 2nd-and-long carry in the fourth quarter; only one of them wound up on the ground, and it wasn’t the ball carrier. Peterson wound up with a 14-yard gain and a first down.
Worst Special Teams Implosion: This week, the winner was a fake punt and Sav Rocca pass that fell incomplete, but didn’t count because of a false start penalty, which led directly into a 20-yard punt return, which was combined with a 15-yard personal foul against Darrel Young. I literally was thinking to myself, “hey, the special teams haven’t embarrassed themselves in any obvious way yet,” just moments before that play.
Best Breakthrough: Washington’s offense finally scored a first-quarter touchdown. I repeat, Washington’s offense finally scored a first-quarter touchdown. It followed a divine 7-play 78-yard drive, highlighted by a terrific 29-yard catch-and-run play from Leonard Hankerson, and several bruising Alfred Morris carries. But it was also the first time Washington’s offense has reached the end zone in the first quarter this season.
Best Kick Returner: Niles Paul? I guess? With Paul back deep on Thursday night, the Redskins were regularly starting drives past their own 20. It isn’t great, but it’s better than the opposite. He had returns of 24, 25 and 25 yards on Thursday; the Redskins entered the game averaging 19.4 yards per kickoff return.
Best Offenses/Worst Defenses: The first punt of the game came with less than five minutes left in the first half. Before that, six drives had ended with four touchdowns, a field goal, and an interception.
Best Offensive Half: Washington had four drives in the first half. All four ended inside the Minnesota five-yard line. That led to 288 yards, more than the Redskins gained in the entire game against Denver. It was Washington’s best first-half offensive output since week 3 of 2006.
Worst Offensive Half: The other one.
Worst Defensive Half: The Redskins scored on their first five possessions. That meant the Vikings had gone 13 straight defensive series at home without forcing a punt.
Worst Reversal: And after that point? Suddenly the Redskins were instead, I don’t know, the Jaguars. They never scored again. How can you score on your first five drives, and then come up empty on your next four drives? That seems unlikely.
Best Milestone: Santana Moss caught his 550th pass on Thursday, passing Gary Clark for 3rd all-time in Redskins franchise history. He nearly got his 551st in the end zone on the team’s final snap, but he was out-of-bounds.
Worst Drive: How’s this one sound? Washington got the ball, trailing by a point, at its own 20. Despite a holding penalty, the Redskins gained a first down. Then they went four-yard run, 10-yard sack, 10-yard sack, 33-yard punt.
Best Pump Fake: Facing 3rd-and-goal late in the first half, RGIII was under pressure with no open receivers. His pump fake, though, was lethal. Chad Greenway surged forward like a tourist who’s finally reached the doorstep of Georgetown Cupcake. And then runs through the door and crashes over the counter and knocks over several trays of caramel apple cupcakes. Meanwhile, having cleared space with his fake, Griffin found Jordan Reed for a touchdown. It was one of his prettier passes of the season.
Best Pass by a Backup QB Off the Bench: That 25-yarder that Matt Cassel dropped into Jerome Simpson’s arms in the fourth quarter was about as pretty a pass as a cold backup quarterback could possibly throw. I thought all the Vikings quarterbacks were terrible, though. Like, I thought maybe Ponder was only a bit less terrible than Cassel. They combined to complete 21-of-27 passes.
Worst Coverage (tie): Logan Paulsen caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. You could have surrounded him with six concentric circles of Logan Paulsens without being disturbed by a Minnesota defender.
Worst Coverage (tie): Carlson caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. There were some Redskins guys running around on my television screen, sort of in the same area as Carlson, playing the same sport, but none of them seemed to be covering him, per se.
Best Tackle Breaking: Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris both received votes from our panel of experts. But Pierre Garcon wins for his 32-yard gain on a throw that was virtually parallel to the line of scrimmage. Garcon was touched by at least four Vikings on his run, and ran over Andrew Sendejo like he was stuffed with feathers. You often see running backs break tackles like that; you don’t often see it from wide receivers. In the second half, on a third-and-long drop-off, the fourth defender finally got Garcon after a 30-yard gain. Garcon finished with 119 receiving yards, and now has 291 over his last two games.
Worst Indicators: Washington converted 9 of 16 third downs. Adrian Peterson ran for just 75 yards. Had I seen those two numbers before the game, I would have predicted Washington success.
Best Stat: Via 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen, Alfred Morris had fewer than 17 carries in Washington’s first five games of the season. He had 17 carries in the first half Thursday night.
Worst Stat: Two weeks ago, the Redskins committed just one penalty in Denver. Last week, it was seven for 65 yards. This week? It was eight for 63 yards. That’s not great.
Best Other Stat: Via ESPN Stats & Info, Griffin’s three first-half passing touchdowns were more than his first-half total in the team’s previous eight games, combined.
Worst Delays: Last week, Washington went with the timeout and then delay-of-game penalty sequence. This week, Washington went with the spike-to-stop-the-clock and then delay-of-game penalty sequence. Those are both painful sequences.
Worst Boos: The Minnesota crowd booed on the Vikings’ first possession of the game, when Ponder was sacked, and when Ponder threw an interception. The Minnesota crowd also booed on Washington’s first drive, when Alfred Morris broke about four tackles on a rather routine run play. The crowd also booed on Washington’s second drive, when Pierre Garcon wound up in the end zone. The whole home-field advantage thing doesn’t work very well when you’re 1-7 and the crowd keeps booing.
Best Gimme: Last week, what seemed like a sure-thing gimme Kai Forbath field goal turned into a deflating gaffe when the Chargers blocked the kick. This week, Washington’s first drive was bottled up near the goal-line, but Forbath converted his 20-yard attempt.
Worst Penalty Call: If the personal foul against Chris Baker was for a late hit on Ponder, maybe. Those are so borderline nowadays, but maybe you can argue this one qualified. But officials said the foul was for contact to the helmet, and I didn’t see that. Like, at all. See above.
Worst Personal Foul: On the other hand, Perry Riley’s late hit was just dumb. Sure, he might have been hit first. But he then sized up the offending Viking, strode over to him, and shoved him, directly in front of an official, hours after the whistle had blown. It was just a ridiculously silly thing to do. It turned a third down into a first-and-goal; the Vikings needed just one more play to reach the end zone and take the lead.
Best Talent: Adrian Peterson is a divine running back. His 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter — on an offense riddled by injuries and without a whole lot of threats in the passing game — just made you feel bad that he isn’t on a better team.
Best Sign: Well, most homerific sign, anyhow.
Worst Complaint: For what seems like my entire lifetime, Redskins fans have insisted that their pass rushers are regularly held, and that the flags aren’t thrown. I get the frustration, but trust me, fans of every single team in the NFL are convinced that their pass rushers are regularly held, and that the flags aren’t thrown. Somehow, this doesn’t prevent sacks in the NFL.
Worst Wacky trend: As my pals at Japers Rink noted earlier in the day, the Redskins and Caps have never defeated opponents from the same city on the same day. Like, ever. The Caps polished off the Wild in a shootout earlier Thursday. The Redskins could not follow suit.
Worst Reminder: Brad Nessler, no one cares if this was the Vikings first win in the United States. Seriously, there’s not one person in the world who cares about that fact. You don’t care about that fact. It’s not possible. Why did you keep talking about it?
Worst Realization: A Thursday loss means we’ll all be chewing over the gristled remains of this one for a full nine days. And there aren’t going to be a lot of juicy bits of meat in that conversation. Just gristle. Mangled, burnt gristle. And special teams mishaps.