Despite a slow start against the Vikings on Sunday, the Redskins defense was able to hold their opponent to three consecutive field goals in order to keep the game close. Once ignited by a 50-yard field goal from kicker Kai Forbath, the Redskins offense would go on to score 17 unanswered in the second quarter.
Thanks to solid play-calling from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the brilliancy of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins extended their lead in the second-half, including 14 points in the final 15 minutes, and ultimately defeated the Vikings 38-26.
1. See what happens when you convert on 3rd down?
As a team that ranks dead last in the league on third-down conversions, it was nice to see the Redskins change their ways against the Vikes.
After struggling on offense in the first quarter, the Redskins put together a nearly seven-minute drive in the second quarter that seemingly sparked Robert Griffin III and the offensive unit. Before that drive, the Redskins had failed on four third downs.
By game’s end, the Redskins were 6-of-12 on third-down — doubling their 25-percent average-per-game on the season.
Third-down conversion may not be everything in winning a football game, but extending drives certainly increases your team’s chances. With a quarterback like RG3 and the range in which Shanahan can call plays, there’s no reason the Redskins should rank in the bottom half of the league.
2. Jim Haslett and the defense sticks with the bend-don’t-break approach.
80 plays, 421 yards, 27 first downs, 26 points, and 8-of-17 on third-down.
The Redskins defense wasn’t necessarily pretty. But they got the job done.
Similar to last week, Jim Haslett gameplanned around not being torched by the opposition’s most lethal weapons. And while Adrian Peterson was effective in averaging nearly five yards per carry, the Redskins didn’t allow the All-Pro running back to score, or eclipse 100 yards.
The same goes for playmaker Percy Harvin. Despite 13 touches and 133 yards receiving, the Redskins didn’t allow Harvin to score, nor did they allow him to get behind their secondary — holding his biggest play to 23 yards.
Contrary to last week, Haslett did dial-up more blitzes against the Vikings and he was able to get a better push from his defensive line. While Stephen Bowen contained the right side and funneled the run, nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins displayed a good combination of speed and power.
The Redskins recorded four sacks, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions (one of which Madieu Williams returned for a score).
3. Early confidence for the new stud?
And by stud, I mean the Redskins’ new and improved kicker (or so we hope), Kai Forbath.
Did anyone else yell “Yippie-Kai-Aye” when he nailed that 50-yarder in the second quarter? No?
After just one game, the verdict is still out on the new kid. But when you go 5-for-5 on extra points and you nail your only opportunity from 50 yards out, that’s a damn good start for a kid making his NFL debut.
Not to mention, in pregame warm-ups, Forbath was reportedly blasting 52-yarders with room to spare and a 59-yarder that was a perfectly split down the uprights.
Considering the Redskins’ last kicker was struggling to make kicks within 40 yards, Forbath is an exciting addition.
4. Bouncing back, RG3 shows key attributes of a clutch quarterback.
After looking a little shaky against the Falcons last week before leaving the game with a concussion, Robert Griffin III rebounded quite nicely against Minnesota to snap the Redskins’ longest home losing streak in the NFL.
Unlike Week 5, Griffin showed the confidence and poise of a veteran against the Vikings and he held in the pocket with light feet and active eyes. He delivered his passes on a dime and showed no signs of tension under any of Minnesota’s pass-rush.
Some were skeptical as to how Kyle Shanahan would alter his play-calling to account for the recent injuries sustained by RG3. And as Shanahan promised prior to kickoff, his play-calling didn’t change at all. He kept Griffin mobile, designed options, disguised play-actions and caught the defense when they appeared vulnerable.
With the Redskins leading by five late in the fourth quarter, the game was far from over. After watching Christian Ponder and the Vikings effectively move the ball for three quarters, the Redskins defense could not be trusted. The scene was set for a prevent Washington defense and huge chunks of yards by Percy Harvin before a redzone target like Kyle Rudolph hauled in a game-winning touchdown.
But Griffin didn’t quite see it that way. With 2:43 to go in the game, Griffin lines up and observes the defense on 3rd-and-6. He calls for the snap and his receivers take off. Griffin drops back, looks, and takes off down the middle of the field before jolting over to the left side and down the sidelines for a 76-yard touchdown run — the “track star speed” on full display.
With only six games NFL games under his belt, labeling Robert Griffin III a clutch quarterback may be a little premature. But given what we’ve seen from him in terms of accuracy, poise, confidence, heart, and fearlessness under any sort of pressure, the kid is showing all the right signs.
5. Trent Williams displays his Silverback status, along with the rest of the offensive line.
When matched with the assignment of blocking defensive end Jared Allen, any left tackle knows they’re in for a long day. And while it wasn’t any easier for the Redskins on Sunday, Trent Williams did a tremendous job in containing one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL.
In fact, the entire Redskins offensive line performed well against the Vikings.
At the start of the season, the offensive line was the Redskins’ weakest link. But following three consecutive weeks of solid blocking up front, that criticism has since lost its merit.
For now, the offensive line appears to perform better in one facet of their game every Sunday, whether it be run-blocking or pass-protection. Typically strong in the ZBS, rookie Alfred Morris has benefited from it and is ranked as one of the top running backs in the league. But look at the Redskins game against the Vikings and you’ll notice the line giving better protection on passing plays — allowing just one sack and forming decent pockets for RG3.
This offensive line unit may not be top-caliber throughout each position, but it’s certainly improving. And once everything begins to click in pass-pro and on the ground, for every game, the Redskins offense could become even better.
6. Offensive play-calling was impressive, yet again.
When most were critical of Kyle Shanahan, I was supportive. And although it’s not a case of “told ya so”, the younger Shanahan deserves credit for the way this offense has taken off to begin the season.
Does having Robert Griffin III make things easier/doable/better? Yes. All of those things. But Shanahan is the guy coming up with the plays and calling them when they count.
And like every coordinator, we’re going to yell from the stands and complain about how stupid a call was (see: pitch to the right on 3rd-and-short), but everything is easier once you know the outcome. Failed attempts will always be criticized harder and more often than successful ones.
Bottom line: Kyle Shanahan is kicking ass this season. He’s innovative. And with a better offensive line and a healthy Pierre Garcon, there’s no telling how good this offense can be.