The Washington Redskins traveled to Minnesota on a short week to play the Vikings and fell to 1-7. Here are five takeaways from Washington’s 19-9 defeat:
1. Failure to convert in the red zone crippled a strong offensive outing.
The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league this year, but the Redskins were able to move up and down the field for most of the night. It was a complete turnaround from the way the offense has looked for much of the year. They were converting third downs and putting together long drives that went deep into the Vikings’ territory.
But the offense couldn’t do much once they got into scoring position, and it essentially destroyed the Redskins’ chances of pulling an upset. After fumbling the ball on their opening drive, the Redskins drove the ball down to Vikings’ 2-yard line with some help from a defensive pass interference call. But the offense failed to cross the goal line and were forced to kick a field goal.
They found themselves near the goal line again on the following drive with quarterback Case Keenum completing five of seven passes. But then a fumble and two incomplete passes left the Redskins at the 12-yard line and left with no choice but to kick another field goal.
The Redskins were only down 13-6 at halftime, but it could have been a much different situation.
2. The receivers played outstanding.
After being relatively quiet in a soggy game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Redskins’ receivers were the most active part of the Redskins’ offense Thursday night, and they came through in big moments.
Keenum was picking the Vikings and their sixth-ranked defense apart in the first half, and it was because the receivers were having their way in the secondary. The Redskins had eight players catch at least one pass in Thursday’s game and were led by Terry McLaurin, who had four catches for 39 yards.
There were several plays where the receivers were the ones that kept drives alive. The Redskins opened up the game with an 18-yard pass to Paul Richardson, and McLaurin made a six-yard catch that converted a 3rd-and-1 on the following drive that ended with a field goal.
Although their efforts did not result in a win, the performance is an encouraging sign for the group moving forward.
3. Interceptions and accuracy continue to be a problem for Dwayne Haskins.
Haskins was forced to come into the game after Keenum was put into the concussion protocol at halftime. The rookie signal caller has not seen any game action since his three-interception performance against the New York Giants, but with the score 16-9, the game still felt winnable.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense elected to go for it on fourth down in their own territory and failed to convert, giving the Redskins the ball back on Minnesota’s 34-yard line. But two plays later, Haskins overthrew McLaurin and gave an easy interception to the Vikings.
It was a play that interim head coach said he was sure Haskins wanted back, because the Vikings proceeded to march down the field for a 12-play drive that ended in another field goal, making the score 19-9.
The lead was back to 10 points, but the chances of a comeback seemed to evaporate with every play from Minnesota’s offense.
4. The defense played well until the very end.
Washington’s defense has had no shortage of challenges this year between going against Tom Brady, handling the 49ers rushing attack and the Dallas Cowboys’ lethal offense. Thursday’s game was no different with running back Dalvin Cook, the NFL’s leading rusher, and Cousins, who has been on a tear for the past month.
The Vikings’ high-powered offense that had been on a roll for three games seemed to stall against the Redskins. Although the Vikings didn’t punt a single time Thursday night, the Redskins kept them out of the end zone for most of the first half. Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis was a terror for the second straight game with six tackles and a sack, while safety Landon Collins led the team with 11 tackles.
But after the Redskins punted the ball away with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings finally broke through with a 14-play drive that took up virtually all of that time. Minnesota chipped away at the defense until running back Alexander Mattison broke loose for a 28-yard gain.
Washington finally forced a turnover on downs at their own 5-yard line, but there was only 26 seconds left on the clock and no time for the offense to do anything except run one play for 11 yards.
5. The Vikings still have love for Adrian Peterson.
Peterson didn’t get into the end zone against the Vikings, but he did have 14 carries for 76 yards. That was enough to push him to sixth all-time in rushing with 13,701 yards.
As the game was slowly drawing to a close, the camera panned over to Peterson while he and his career rushing yards were put on display. The crowd immediately began to roar and give Peterson a standing ovation while chants of “AP! AP!” rang in the background.
It was apparent that Peterson will always be special to Vikings fans. The feeling is mutual for Peterson.
“It was special,” Peterson said. “It was bittersweet because you come here to win a game, but just coming back and seeing the love that they still have for me...it felt good. It was definitely a great home welcome. I had to hold back tears, to be honest.”