What did the Minnesota Vikings do wrong in their 26-20 loss to the Washington Redskins? The issues were many as they dropped their fourth straight game, turning a 5-0 team before their bye into a 5-4 team that is now tied for first place in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions holding the tie-breaker advantage.
The issues were many on Sunday.
RUN GAME STUMBLING
With Pat Shurmur taking over the play-calling duties, the Vikings figured a short passing game might complement the running game. It might have to replace it.
“It’s been tough the past couple weeks, but we are going to stay committed to it,” QB Sam Bradford said. “I know that we believe in the run game, I still believe that we are at our best when we are balanced and able to keep people off balance and mix in some play-action.”
The Vikings entered the game ranked last in average yards per rush and did nothing to improve it, even though they were facing the second-worst defense in yards-per-rush. In fact, their average got worse, as they ran 21 times for 47 yards – a paltry 2.2 yards per carry.
Matt Asiata had three runs for no yards, the running backs combined for two runs of minus-1 yard, one for minus-2, one for minus-3 and one for minus-6. Pro Football Focus put the onus on the running backs more than the offensive linemen.
The Redskins did an excellent job of exploiting those Vikings placed in the game because injury.
When Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr went out of the game after colliding while breaking up a pass at the goal line toward the end of the Redskins’ first drive, Kirk Cousins went to Jamison Crowder on the next play with replacement Emmanuel Lamur trailing in coverage. Crowder caught the ball at the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Washington lead.
With Captain Munnerlyn not active, rookie Mackensie Alexander didn’t start, but he got increasingly more time when Xavier Rhodes left the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Three of the six longest plays for the Redskins ended with Alexander involved in making the tackle.
And, finally, when Jake Long was carted off the field on Minnesota’s second-to-last offensive snap, Preston Smith exploited Jeremiah Sirles around the edge for a game-ending, fourth-down sack of Sam Bradford.
TACKLING ISSUES REMAIN
The Vikings passed 40 times, almost twice as much as they rushed (21). The Redskins, on the other hand, were able to have a better mix of the ground-air game, rushing 28 times and passing 33 times.
Robert Kelley rushed for 97 yards on 22 carries, but easily the longest run of the game was a 21-yarder by him, aided by a missed tackle by Harrison Smith. While Smith remains one of the best defenders on the team, he also missed several key tackles last week.
LACK OF PRESSURE
Up until their last drive, the Vikings offensive line had done a decent job of protecting Bradford. But the Vikings should have had the pass-rushing advantage with Everson Griffen facing Ty Nsekhe. Instead, Danielle Hunter produced the Vikings’ only sack and Griffen was limited to four tackles, no sacks and no hurries.
According to PFF, the Vikings blitzed on the 45.7 percent of Washington’s passing plays (league average is 30.8 percent), racking up 14 pressures, but were only able to put together one sack.
WALSH WAIVERS AGAIN
When the Vikings took the lead with their third touchdown of the second quarter, Blair Walsh missed the extra point. It was his second straight game with a missed point-after-touchdown.
While Walsh’s miss didn’t necessarily lose the game for the Vikings, it put a damper on their momentum and it also allowed the Redskins to tie the game late in the third quarter with two field goals instead of trailing by one point.
Walsh has now missed four extra points this season, but interestingly there have been six missed extra points so far in Week 10.