Best interception: Smith has failed to get to the quarterback with the same frequency he did during his breakout rookie season, but he sure picked a good time for his first career interception. Two plays after a roughing-the-passer penalty moved the Vikings into Redskins territory with six minutes to play, Smith dropped back into coverage, tipped a Bradford pass to himself and gave Washington the ball with a three-point lead.
Worst red zone offense: The Redskins scored a touchdown on their only trip to the red zone during the first half, but their season-long problem surfaced again on their first drive of the third quarter. Facing first and goal from the 10, Kirk Cousins completed a pass to Rob Kelley for negative yards and then threw two consecutive incompletions. The league’s third-worst team at turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns was forced to settle for a 30-yard Hopkins field goal. Hopkins tied the game, 20-20, with a 37-yard field goal after Washington’s next drive stalled on Minnesota’s 19-yard line late in the third quarter. With a chance to ice the game after Smith’s interception, a third Redskins drive stalled inside the Vikings’ 20. One bye week wasn’t enough to fix this team’s red zone woes.
Best kicker: Hopkins had missed three of his previous six field goal attempts coming into Sunday’s game, including a potential game-winner during overtime of the Redskins’ tie against the Bengals in London. Perhaps after some fine-tuning during the bye week, Washington’s placekicking “machine” is back in order. Hopkins made all four of his field goals against the Vikings, including a 50-yarder that gave the Redskins a 23-20 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
Best domination . . . with little to show for it: Washington ran 21 plays in the third quarter. Minnesota ran four. That’s normally good for more than a six-point advantage, but the Redskins have seen this movie before.
Best protection: With Trent Williams serving the first game of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Ty Nsekhe got the start at left tackle and has held his own against Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. While the Redskins’ running game struggled in the first half, Cousins has had plenty of time to operate and was sacked only once in the game.
Best Fat Rob: Kelley started at running back in place of Matt Jones, who was benched due to ineffectiveness, and rebounded from a slow start to finish with 97 yards on 22 carries.
Worst turnover: After Minnesota tied the game on a Kyle Rudolph touchdown catch with 58 seconds remaining in the first half, Chris Thompson fumbled on the Redskins’ next play from scrimmage. Instead of taking momentum and a possible lead into halftime, Washington watched Minnesota drive 33 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Blair Walsh missed the extra point, but the Vikings, who trailed 14-0 midway through the second quarter, led 20-14 at the break.
Worst defense: The Vikings entered Sunday last in the NFL in total offense at less than 300 yards per game, and they looked it in the first quarter. Minnesota punted on each of its first three possessions before realizing that Joe Barry’s defense had no answer for Rudolph and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings mounted three consecutive touchdown drives and finished the first half with 237 total yards, including 155 receiving yards from Bradford’s two favorite targets.
Best Maryland battle: Sunday marked a homecoming for Diggs, who starred at Good Counsel and Maryland before the Vikings selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, but the 22-year-old was upstaged early in the second quarter by a Terp 10 years his elder. Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was wide open for a 38-yard touchdown catch that gave Washington a 14-0 lead with 14:18 to play in the first half. Diggs put on a show after that, with 13 catches for 164 yards.
Best adjustment: Davis, who was penalized and fined for “using the ball as a prop” during a celebratory jump shot after a touchdown against the Eagles in October, didn’t make the same mistake after scoring against the Vikings. This time, he mimed a jumper, and possibly imagined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disapproving face was the imaginary ball.
Best answer: Minnesota responded with an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive to cut Washington’s lead in half. Diggs helped set up Matt Asiata’s one-yard touchdown run with a 36-yard catch while working against his former high school teammate, Redskins rookie Kendall Fuller, in the slot.
Worst running game: Given the effectiveness of their passing game, it’s a wonder the Viking didn’t throw it more. Minnesota finished with 47 yards on 21 carries.
Best emotion: Cousins sprinted 25 yards to argue what he thought should’ve been a defensive pass interference penalty on Washington’s next drive. While Cousins put his hands on his head and squatted in exasperation, replays showed that Redskins receiver Ryan Grant appeared to slip coming out of his break.
Best milestone: Jamison Crowder’s first catch of the game was the 100th of his career, a four-yard touchdown to cap the Redskins’ first drive. The second-year pro out of Duke leads the team with five touchdown catches this season.
Best (for the Redskins) and worst (for the Vikings) luck: One play before Crowder’s touchdown, Cousins made an incomprehensibly awful throw under pressure. The ball fluttered toward the end zone, where not one, but two Vikings linebackers were posed to pick it off. In a Three Stooges-like sequence that was a microcosm of just how bad things have been for Minnesota during its three-game losing streak, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks collided, and the pass fell harmlessly incomplete. Both players were shaken up on the play, but would later return.
Best uniforms: It was alumni homecoming weekend in Landover, which meant the Redskins were in their 1930s era, Burgundy and Yukon Gold throwbacks. The last time Washington wore these threads, against Tampa Bay last October, Cousins orchestrated the largest comeback in team history. He then proceeded to shout at a TV camera en route to the locker room. Cousins was solid in the throwbacks again, completing 22 of 33 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
Worst helmets: Props to the Redskins’ equipment staff for removing the stripes from and adding gray face masks to the helmets for Sunday’s game. They looked sweet. Unfortunately, an NFL rule requires teams to use the same helmet shell throughout the season and Washington’s regular burgundy lids clash with their slightly darker burgundy throwback jerseys. This should conclude the fashion portion of Best and Worst.
Worst jersey: Actually, one more for D.C. native Tim Gunn. This Brandon Scherff-Adrian Peterson mash-up just doesn’t work, and not only because the merged name (Scherson) and number (78) are misaligned.
Best certainty: Norv Turner would not haunt the Redskins again, at least not from the opposing sideline. Washington is 0-5 against Turner (as both an offensive coordinator and head coach) since Daniel Snyder fired him late in the 2000 season, but the former Redskins frontman abruptly resigned as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator earlier this month.
Best alumni: Former GM Bobby Beathard was inducted into the Redskins’ Ring of Fame at halftime and was one of dozens of Redskins greats in attendance for Sunday’s game.
Best bye: The Redskins improved to 13-13 in games following a bye week.
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