The final score read a one-possession loss for the Washington Redskins, 38-30, but they spent much of the second half digging themselves out of an 18-point deficit against the Minnesota Vikings. Sunday was another game during which Washington failed to close the first half on a high note. This time, it was the result of a dreadful defensive half and a costly turnover to concede 14 points in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
The most glaring play of that stretch was an interception thrown by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has just five on the season in 313 attempts. Washington's defense had just allowed a seven-yard touchdown reception to Adam Thielen to give Minnesota a 21-17 lead with 1:49 remaining in the first half. The Redskins had an opportunity to answer and take the lead before halftime, which was of particular importance because the Vikings would receive the ball to start the second half.
On the first play of the drive, Cousins threw a pass intended for Jamison Crowder that landed in Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander's lap for his first career interception. Crowder ran what the team calls a "whip" route, as he broke inside then cut back out towards the sideline.
Cousins felt pressure from his left side and got rid of the ball as a Vikings defender lunged at his feet, but the pass sailed just over Crowder's hands.
"I just felt some trash at my feet and wasn't really able to transfer my weight and just kind of tried to touch it over the line, but the ball was high to Jamison Crowder and then there's a defender behind him who catches it," Cousins said. "So, that is the challenge of playing this position. You put the ball in the air 45 times, you're making split decisions. There was trash at my feet all game long and one play, one throw that's a foot too high can be many times the difference in the entire game, and that's where it becomes a challenging position and can be very tense throughout the game."
It was the only turnover Cousins had all game for an offense that otherwise scored 17 points in the first half. But Washington's defense couldn't buy a stop in the first 30 minutes of the game. Alexander stumbled his way to the 23-yard line and, three plays later, tight end David Morgan scored on a one-yard reception off a beautifully designed play.
Suddenly, the Redskins were down two scores, 28-17, heading into halftime, as Washington's defense allowed a touchdown on four of its five first half drives.
"It was one of the worst defensive performances we've had since I've been here, in the first half," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. "Twenty-eight points and four touchdowns and whatever they wanted basically. They had big plays, play-action plays, whatever they wanted."
To make matters worse, the Redskins allowed another touchdown to start the second half. Minnesota marched down the field on a six-play, 72-yard drive to score on a seven-yard touchdown reception by Jarius Wright on the opening drive of the third quarter. Washington allowed 21 unanswered points to fall behind 35-17 — a hole it couldn't climb out of despite there being more than 18 minutes left in the game.
"We dropped the ball on that one, man," defensive end Ziggy Hood said. "We're supposed to go out there, no matter what happens for the offense, we gotta go out there and make sure they don't get no points. If not, three points or less. We didn't do that and failed that. We lost the game for the offense. We gotta do better as a defense."
Minnesota would only score three points for the rest of the game, a 53-yard field goal by former Redskins kicker Kai Forbath to go up 38-27 with less than eight minutes in the game, and the Redskins would record two interceptions by safety D.J. Swearinger in their comeback attempt. But it wasn't enough.
"It was tough, man," cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. "We couldn't get it going. And finally, we got it going a little too late. Started making plays, trying to give our offense a chance to win the game, but it was a little too late for us."