(photos by Brian Murphy)
1. “Believe” by The Bravery
Coming into the game, the Washington Redskins had every reason to believe the Minnesota Vikings boasted the toughest defense they would face in 2012.
That’s because the 4-1 Vikings boast an aggressive front seven that does a tremendous job at pressuring quarterbacks while also stopping the run.
Consider this: Minnesota’s defense had not allowed an opponent to rush for 90 or more yards in four-straight games and during the team’s three-game winning streak, they had limited opponents to less than 14 points per contest.
It should also be noted that the Redskins came into this affair with questions surrounding franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, after he suffered a concussion last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
Would he be able to play this week? If he did, would he still be effective? Would the team take drastic measures and change Griffin’s preferred style of play in order to try and limit the number of hits he takes during a giving game?
All of these questions were answered emphatically and RGIII showed no signs of rust — leading Washington to a resounding 38-26 victory over the Vikings. For the day, Griffin completed 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and a QB rating of 97.2. He also tied a career high in rushing attempts (13) and set a career high with 138 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Of course, one of those rushing touchdowns came when his team needed it most — with Griffin busting free for a 76-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-6 from his own 24-yard line with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.
At first it appeared that Griffin was simply going to scramble for the first down, but once he turned the corner and got to the sidelines, RGIII decided to turn on the jets and showcase his world-class speed. According to at least one media member, it took RGIII just 4.0 seconds to sprint the final 40 yards, which is simply ridiculous for a quarterback.
“He saw a hole and he took off and the rest is history,” said Shanahan. “Great job by him looking at the front and seeing that rushing lane and taking advantage of it.”
Oh, by the way, that touchdown run was the longest by an NFL quarterback in 16 years.
“I got to enjoy the moment a little bit,” Griffin said. “It was pretty fun to hear the crowd and see my teammates on the sideline celebrating as I got the touchdown.”
Griffin had time to look over at his teammates during the run because he was clearly the fastest player on the field, and there was zero chance anyone in a purple jersey was going to catch him once he hit his top speed.
2. “Stay And Defend” by Wolf Gang
The Vikings hadn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 23 points in a game this year and had allowed just 33 points total over their last three games, so how on earth were the Redskins able to rack up so many points so quickly?
The answer is simple: the defense finally came to play.
For much of the season, Washington’s defense has had trouble stopping — or even slowing down — anyone. The secondary has been victimized on a seemingly weekly basis while the front seven has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush without linebacker Brian Orakpo in the lineup.
Against Minnesota though, the defense finally came to play — racking up four sacks, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and even a touchdown.
The defensive touchdown — a 24-yard interception return by safety Madieu Williams ended up being the difference in this one, which is fitting since the Redskins were 0-3 in games this season when their defense scored a touchdown.
Seriously, think about that for a moment. Washington’s defense has scored a touchdown in four out of six games this season, and yet, somehow the team is just 1-3 in those games. How is that even possible?
3. “I Miss The Misery” by Halestorm
Speaking of things that shouldn’t be possible — the Redskins had gone 13 months without winning a game at FedEx Field.
In case you missed it (or blocked it out because it was too painful to comprehend), Washington’s last home victory came against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 18, 2011.
How long ago was that? The last time the Redskins won a home game, Griffin and the Baylor Bears were just 2-0 and no one had begun to seriously consider RGIII as a Heisman Trophy candidate yet.
How long ago was that? The last time the Redskins won a home game, Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris had gained just 37 yards on 24 carries as the winless Owls were outscored 85-3 during their first two games of the season.
How long ago was that? The last time the Redskins won a home game … okay, you get the point.
4. “I’ll Be Your Man” by The Black Keys
Aside from Griffin, Washington’s best player against the Vikings was middle linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who had a monster game with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
“It was great. I understand what my role on the team is to be a special teams demon and a captain, and fill in on defense when need be and take advantage of my opportunities. I know I can play in this league. Losing the weight has made me a different player, quicker, more dynamic, and I think that coach was able to utilize my history as far as playing [defensive] tackle in some of our game today. It was a great feeling to go out there and finally contribute on defense and win.”
Since Orakpo was placed on injured reserve, the Redskins have had to turn to the unheralded duo of Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson to try and fill the void. Nothing against those two gentlemen, but Alexander did more in this single game than the two of them have done combined all season long. Rather than utilizing Alexander as a reserve middle linebacker, the coaching staff might want to seriously considering rotating him into the mix with Wilson and Jackson as well.
“He’s one heck of a football player,” Shanahan said. “He got a game ball. We gave him a game ball for rushing like he did in the limited plays that he did play, obviously the [fumble recovery], but he’s a guy that gives everything and we’re going to have to play him some more obviously.”
5. “Road To Joy” by Bright Eyes
It’s no secret that Washington’s special teams have struggled for much of the 2012 season, allowing punts to be blocked in each of the team’s first two games of the season and missing chip-shot field goal attempts with alarming frequency.
Thankfully, for one week at least, Danny Smith’s unit finally made it through an entire game without doing anything to jeopardize the game.
The newly signed kicker, Kai Forbath, made a 50 yarder to kick off his Redskins tenure and excelled on kickoffs as well. Tight end Niles Paul also came up big, with a devastating hit on to Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels and downing a punt deep in Minnesota territory.
All in all, this is the closest the Redskins have come to dominating all three phases of the game this season. If the special teams unit can continue to impact a game in a positive manner, the Redskins might not have to wait another year to win another game at FedEx Field.