Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday Night's Redskins-Viking clash at the Metrodome.
“Redskins-Vikings: 4 Keys To The Game” is presented by Papa John’s.
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In Week 1, he came out and threw for the best statistical rookie debut in NFL history. In Week 4, he led his first career fourth-quarter comeback in a hostile environment with no radio communication with his coaching staff. He called his own plays en route to victory.
But perhaps the defining moment of his rookie season was how he bounced back from a Week 5 loss in which he took a huge physical beating and left the game with a concussion. He assured the media after the game that he would be ready for Sunday against the 4-1 Vikings, and he proved it by practicing fully by the end of the week.
When Sunday rolled around, he had one of his most complete games as a pro, completing 77 percent of his passes and rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He was effective running the ball all day, but had the best run of his career with a game-sealing, 76-yard burst down the sideline, winning a footrace and taking it all the way to the house. It was the first time since 1996 that a quarterback had run that far for a touchdown, and it happened on a passing play where no receivers got open. The radio call at the time declared it "electrifying!"
It was a play that forced defenses to game-plan specifically for the ever-present danger of him running for a touchdown. More than 12 months later, Robert Griffin III appears to be back at that level, as healthy as he's been at any point this season and on the run again.
There's no reason to believe that Griffin III will be granted a similar opportunity in tonight's game, but the Redskins don't need that to win. What they need is the ever-present danger of it happening, which should open up big holes for players like
MIND AP STYLE
No matter where you stand on the AP-AD debate, one thing is certain: Adrian Peterson is the single most-dangerous Vikings player on offense. Shutting down his dynamic attack is the surest way to stopping Minnesota at home.
Last season, Peterson rushed for a near-NFL record 2,097, falling just short of the all-time mark set by Eric Dickerson (2,105). He did it while coming off of a torn ACL suffered in Week 15 vs. the Redskins in 2011.
In his career, the Redskins are one of the few teams that has had his number, as he has averaged just 11 touches, 45 yards and .5 touchdowns per game in four career games. Even when healthy, he has yet to gash the Redskins for a big play or a big performance. The Redskins would like to keep that streak alive.
Even though Peterson technically ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards through the first nine weeks (711 yards), he has taken his bye week while the other three have not. Peterson is ranked first among starters in rushing yards per game (88.9) and averaged a healthy 19 carries per game. Win or lose, close or blowout, Peterson will get his chances tonight and the Redskins have to be sound in their defense in order to make sure he stays in check.
The Redskins have matched up well against one of the best running backs of his era, but none of that matters once 8:20 rolls around tonight. Mind your p's and q's and stick to AP Style.
NO TIME TO PONDER
The Washington Redskins have turned things around on defense in the last month, rolling on all cylinders in turnovers and pressure. This is a defense that is going to give up points to high-powered offenses, but they are built to take advantage when anyone makes mistakes.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has had his moments as a pro since being drafted in 2011, but he is a noticeable step down from the Peyton Mannings, Phillip Riverses and Aaron Rodgerses the team has faced this season. He is simply not in their class.
The Redskins will find success by taking away Adrian Peterson, but have the personnel necessary to eliminate Ponder as well. He has an appalling 1-to-2 touchdown-interception ratio this season. He has been sacked 15 times in just five games. He was hurt and benched earlier this season in favor of journeyman Matt Cassel and new addition Josh Freeman.
While he has done better since his return (67 percent completion, 84 passer rating), he is not an elite quarterback. He does not have elite receivers, particularly with tight end Kyle Rudolph out of the lineup.
The Redskins need to control the tempo on defense, and have a chance to turn in some three-and-outs tonight. Send the hounds at Ponder and take advantage when he throws under duress. The Redskins are seeing the emergence of
Going into Week 9, Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon had not registered a 100-yard receiving day since Week 2 vs. the Green Bay Packers. His frustration came to a head on the field, as he took it out on a hapless Chargers secondary, gashing them for seven receptions at nearly 25 yards a pop.
Just four days later, he says he will be ready to do it again, and he matches up favorably against this Vikings defense. Truthfully, when healthy, Garcon matches up well against every secondary.
Last week, it became clear as the game went on that the Chargers knew the ball was going to Garcon, but still could not stop it. On several of his intermediate crossing routes, he shook double coverage and streaked for an extra 10-15 yards. It was the best statistical game of his career.
This is the Garcon that the Redskins coaching staff envisioned last season and the one that fans saw flashes of even while injured last season. He is healthy, he is motivated, and he will be returning to a dome tonight, where he has experienced so much success in his career.
If he can do it again tonight, he will have the first back-to-back 100-yard receiving games with the Redskins and his first overall since Weeks 4-5 of the 2011 season. Even if he does not, the game film from Sunday should open up gaping holes for his teammates in the secondary to get work done.