Week 12 Recap

The Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings 13 – 17 because Washington doesn’t play opportunistic football. Even the best football teams have be to opportunists to win, so the 5 – 5 Redskins should have been prepared to make the most of the breaks they got. On Sunday, that wasn’t the case. Though Washington’s opening drive was promising, the offense let chances to win the game slip through its fingers.

The Vikings, who were early favorites to make the NFC title game, recently fired head coach Brad Childress after starting the season 3 – 7. The franchise then promoted defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to interim head coach. In spite of the Vikings’ problems, Frazier managed to win his head coaching debut against Redskins with ailing Brett Favre under center and without star running back Adrian Peterson for the majority of the game. Minnesota won not by its own stellar performance, though Brett Favre managed not to throw an interception, but rather by Washington’s dismal performance.

The first quarter began with the Redskins’ best drive of the season. McNabb completed 8 of his 8 passes (to five different receivers) on a drive that lasted 13 plays and took Washington 83 yards to the end zone, where tight end Fred Davis caught a 10-yard pass for the touchdown. The Vikings kept the Redskins out of the end zone for the remaining 52:07 of play. On the next possessions the Vikings responded with a 71-yard touchdown drive to even the game coming out of the first quarter.

Minnesota began its second possession of the second quarter by getting the ball to star running back Adrian Peterson. Redskins’ linebackers Phillip Daniels and Lorenzo Alexander tackled Peterson, injuring his ankle. Back up runner Toby Gerhart replaced Peterson, who watched the rest of the game from the sidelines. Losing the most potent offensive weapon to injury should have made the Vikings that much easier to defeat for the Redskins; however, Gerhart proved a more than capable replacement and finished the game with 76 yards and one TD on 22 carries. In contrast, the Redskins managed only 29 rushing yards for the whole game. Missed opportunity #1.

The two teams went into the halftime break tied at 7 points. The Vikings came roaring out of the gate to start the third quarter with a 74-yard drive. Brett Favre completed 6 of 6 passes including a 29-yard bomb to Visanthe Shiancoe and Toby Gerhart ran 5 yards for the TD with 9:48 left in the quarter. Washington, on the other hand, managed only one first down for the quarter. To make matters worse, the Redskins turned the ball over on the first play of their final possession of the third. Beginning the drive on Washington’s 5 yard line, Donovan McNabb threw a short pass to Santana Moss, who bobbled the ball, allowing Minnesota’s E.J. Henderson to grab it out of the air. “It hit me in the face,” Moss said after the game. Instead of responding to Minnesota’s score to keep the game competitive, Moss’ error gave the Vikings the ball at the Redskins’ 9 yard line. Missed opportunity #2.  Washington’s defense stepped up to hold the Vikings to a field goal, which put Minnesota up 17 – 7 heading into the fourth quarter.

The final quarter of play proved the most heartbreaking for the Redskins. Washington scored a FG with 13:34 to play in the game, bringing the home team within a TD of the Vikings. Minnesota went 3-and-out on the next possession thanks to strong play by the Skins’ defense. Washington got the ball back at its own 31 yard line with 11:45 to play and McNabb heaved a 45-yard pass downfield to Anthony Armstrong. The Redskins looked the strongest they had since the opening TD drive of the game; however, a series of incomplete and short passes gave the Redskins only one more yard on the drive, forcing them to settle for another field goal. Missed opportunity #3. Those 3 points would be the final score of the night.

Washington’s defense continued to stifle Minnesota, keeping the ‘Skins in the game. Then, with 7:15 remaining, emerging star Brandon Banks returned a punt for 77 yards and a TD. The team rejoiced and the fans at FedEx Field turned to one another for hugs and high-fives all around. It looked like the Redskins had pulled ahead of the Vikings, until a yellow flag hit the field. Illegal block in the back by Washington linebacker Perry Riley. Touchdown nullified. Washington ball at the 11 yard line. Missed opportunity #4 (but who’s counting?). Perry Riley can’t be blamed for costing the Redskins the game. He can, however, be blamed for costing the Redskins 88 yards and a touchdown. In his reluctant post-game comments, Riley said, “I felt bad about it. It was all in good spirit. I was thinking positive on the play. It turned out bad on my part, but that’s something that I will fix. I feel terrible for the situation.”

The game ended on a 10-yard run by the old man himself immediately before the 2 minute warning, which allowed Minnesota to take a knee and run out the clock to win the game. When asked about his scramble, Favre said “Did I expect to run for a first down? I haven’t expected to run for a first down in quite a while . . . It was 10 yards? Really? It felt like 50. But we needed that win.” Washington needed that win, too. But they didn’t get it.

With a 5-6 record and the competition heating up in the NFC, the Redskins will need to win at least 4 of the 5 remaining games to have a remote chance of making the postseason. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher spoke the truth when he said, “I don’t think 9-7 is gonna get you into the playoffs this year . . . Not in the NFC.”

Bring on the Giants?


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