The Washington Redskins defense put up a putrid performance that doomed any chance of a win. The Redskins lost 38-30 to the Vikings who have now won five games in a row and sit atop the NFC North.
The Redskins made Vikings quarterback Case Keenum look like Drew Brees, ironically the next quarterback Washington faces. Keenum threw for over 300 yards for just the second time this season. He threw for 369 yards against the Buccaneers who are among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Keenum also threw a career high four touchdown passes. So is the Redskins defense really that bad? They were certainly destitute of life against the Vikings.
Lackluster Defensive Line
The Redskins defensive line was surging early in the season led by Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen. Both helped the Redskins dominate the Raiders on Sunday Night Football earlier this year. Without Ioannidis and Allen the Redskins defensive line got dominated.
The Vikings have allowed only 10 sacks this season and did not allow one against the Redskins. Keenum routinely had amble amount of time to survey the field.
Washington was not any better against the run. Latavius Murray averaged four yards per carry against the Redskins. The Vikings routinely faced second and medium and third and short which did not help.
It is not a coincidence that the Vikings last loss was against the Lions who were able to harass Keenum. Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel sacked Keenum twice in early October. The key to stopping the Vikings offense is forcing pressure. Any quarterback including NFL journeyman Keenum can beat you when you give him time.
Washington did not have a defensive lineman step up in their meeting with the Vikings. No one sacked Keenum and no one was able to clog the running lanes. That is not a recipe for success.
The Redskins defensive line is not solely to blame, but their poor performance was the foundation for a Vikings offensive explosion.
Secondary Gets Shredded
When two-thirds of the defense is deficient, an opposition firestorm of offense is bound to occur. The Redskins starting corners Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman got burned time and again by the Vikings wide receivers.
Adam Thielen caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. Stefon Diggs had four receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
The Redskins offense got off to a great start scoring a touchdown on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead. On the Redskins first defensive possession Norman gave up a 51-yard reception to Diggs. The Vikings later scored to tie the game at 7-7. The Redskins offense kept scoring early on, but it did not matter because the Vikings offense kept answering back.
Safety DeAngelo Hall returned to action last week in a heroic performance against the Seahawks. Hall was just as poor as Breeland and Norman against Minnesota. To make matters worse he suffered a bone bruise according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport.
The lone bright spot for Redskins secondary was former South Carolina Gamecock D.J. Swearinger. The safety made two key interceptions to almost single handedly get Washington back in the game after going down 35-20. His second interception set up a Redskins touchdown early in the fourth quarter that made it a one score game.
Minnesota has talented wide receivers, but Washington made them look like Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.
Third Down Defense
The Vikings went 8-12 on third down. It was a big reason why the Redskins lost. Washington had plenty of chances to get off the field, but was not able to make plays.
The Vikings faced 3rd and 4 at their own 43-yard line early in the second quarter. Keenum found Thielen for a 38-yard reception. Minnesota went onto score a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead.
Early in the third quarter the Vikings faced a 3rd and 5 at the Redskins seven-yard line. Down 28-17 Washington needed a stop badly. Keenum threw his fourth touchdown of the game to help Minnesota take a 35-17 lead that ultimately proved insurmountable.
Perhaps Washington needs to perform better during the week in practice. Swearinger certainly thinks that was part of the problem.
“Our Friday practice wasn’t good enough, as a defense. I’ve been saying that all year,” said Swearinger according to the Washington Post. “Our Friday practices got to be the best practice we have. If we don’t start that culture here that the Friday practice has got to be your best practice — your most mentally sharp practice — you’re gonna keep losing.”
Washington’s defensive players did not seem to have many answers as to what went wrong against the Vikings.
“We just got our butts kicked up and down the field defensively,” said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “There’s nothing else to it.”
Washington gave up a season high 38 points against Minnesota. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said that it might have been the worst first half his defense has played during his tenure in the nation’s capital.
Things do not get any easier as Washington travels south to take on Drew Brees and the highflying New Orleans Saints. Only one team has given up fewer sacks than the Vikings this season— the Saints (8 sacks). The Saints are coming off a 47-10 walloping of the Bills.
The Saints have won seven games in a row and it has not just been their second ranked offense. The New Orleans defense has not given up more than 20 points during their win streak. Washington faces arguably their toughest opponent of the season so far on Sunday. Things do not get any easier moving forward as the Saints are on a historic pace after starting the season 0-2.
The @Saints are the 2nd team in the Super Bowl era to win 7 straight games after starting the season 0-2 (1993 Cowboys, won Super Bowl)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 12, 2017
Will Fairfax is a Washington Redskins editor and staff writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @willfairfax1. Looking for more Redskins news and features? Like our Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_redskins on Twitter.