Redskins Follow Familiar Pattern

The book is out on how to beat the Minnesota Vikings – stop the run. The Redskins were the third consecutive team to load their defensive front to limit the Vikings' running tandem, and Minnesota didn't have a quarterback that could take advantage of it without turning the ball over.

The Vikings will enter their regular-season finale on Sunday at Denver, needing a victory over the Broncos and a Washington loss against Dallas to qualify for sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.

That's because Minnesota blew an opportunity to lock up a postseason berth Sunday night by losing 32-21 to Washington at the Metrodome. That put an abrupt end to Minnesota's five-game winning streak.

In hindsight, the loss should not have been a major surprise. That's because the Redskins perfected what more and more of the Vikings' foes had been focusing on in recent weeks.

Namely, stopping rookie Adrian Peterson and a Vikings rushing game that was averaging an NFL-best 169.6 yards per game on the ground entering Week 16.

Success in slowing Peterson began in the Vikings' 27-7 victory over San Francisco; the 49ers blitzed both their cornerbacks on several occasions and held Peterson to a career-low 3 yards on 14 carries.

The Chicago Bears also put a focus on Peterson, and although the Vikings came away with a 20-13 victory, he finished a good but not great 78 yards on 20 carries.

That brought us to a Redskins defense that made it clear Peterson would not be allowed to single-handedly win the game.

And that's how the Redskins played it, often putting five defensive linemen up front and moving nearly everyone into the box area. "I can't remember the last time I saw a seven-man front," Peterson said. "But coming into the game you know that and you know you have to fight for those yards and eventually something will open up."

Only it didn't.

Peterson rushed for only 27 yards on nine carries and as a team the Vikings had 87 yards on 25 attempts, or an average of 3.5 yards per touch.

The Vikings could get on track against a Broncos defense that entered last weekend ranked 29th against the run, but at this point it might be too late for that matter.

One has to think that Denver will follow the pattern of telling Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to feel free to put the ball in the air as much as he wants. Jackson appeared to be making significant strides during the first four games of the Vikings' winning streak, but there have been some definite steps backward of late.

That includes two interceptions and a 63.1 quarterback rating against the Redskins. Jackson had four touchdowns and two picks in victories over Oakland, the Giants, Detroit and San Francisco. But in the past two games he has five interceptions and one touchdown.

Those aren't the type of stats that are going to cause opponents to respect the pass, and thus back off the line of scrimmage, or get a team into the postseason.

"Whenever you become one dimensional it is hard to win and it is harder to get the offense going but teams have been doing a pretty good job of stopping our line," Jackson said. "We used to rush for 200 yards a game, but we have just got to step it up in the passing game. Just point blank, we are a team so we just can't depend on the run game all the time. We have got to be able to pass the football."

NOTES

  • CB Antoine Winfield missed his fifth game of the season on Sunday because of a pectoral strain near his left shoulder. Rookie Marcus McCauley, who had played well in Winfield's absence when the veteran was out because of a hamstring injury, had a tough night. He was beaten on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss and also bit on a pitch to Clinton Portis that ended with the running back throwing a 15-yard scoring toss to receiver Antwaan Randle El.

  • WR Sidney Rice, who leads the Vikings with four touchdown receptions, sat out the Washington game because of a sprained ankle. It's unclear if Rice will be able to play this Sunday against the Broncos.

  • WR Troy Williamson returned after a three-game absence. Williamson suffered a concussion Nov. 25 against the Giants and sat out the next two games because he was experiencing headaches. However, he was a healthy scratch in the Vikings' victory over Chicago on Dec. 17.

  • LB Heath Farwell set a Vikings record by recovering his second on-side kickoff of the season. He also tied former Vikings receiver Terry LeCount for the most onside kick recoveries in a career.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas did not play against Washington because of a groin strain. LBs Vinny Ciurciu (sprained ankle) and David Herron (concussion) were injured in the loss. All three are backups but play on special teams.



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