The Minnesota Vikings took on the Washington Redskins in this week's Thursday Night Football showdown as they attempted to salvage their season. Somewhat surprisingly for Vikings fans, they pulled out a win with a defensive stand in the last seconds
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|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Game Grade|
Week 10 against the Redskins
Final Game Analysis
Passing Offense: A surprising development for the game was Christian Ponder's excellent play. When he went down due to a shoulder injury, it looked like Matt Cassel was able to fill in, and fill in well. Ponder finished with the highest completion percentage of his career and paired it with an additional touchdown through the air to add to his first-half total.
A nitpicking film breakdown of Ponder wouldn't find perfection, but his much-improved play and looser style served him well as he was able to take advantage of open receivers to make consistent gains. The offensive line tightened up as well, and when Matt Cassel was forced to play, they gave him enough time to bring things home.
Running Offense: It will be hard to find a statistic in the coming NFL games that will be more deceptive than Adrian Peterson's 3.8 yards a carry. Peterson ran with energy and looked unstoppable, despite poor blocking from tight ends, offensive linemen and his fullbacks. He even peppered his game with good pass protection, and that enabled the run game all the more. It can't earn a perfect grade because of the poor blocking, but the running offense came to play.
Passing Defense: Boosted at the end by a series of consecutive dropped passes at the goal line and a poorly thrown ball out of bounds, the defense performed a lot worse than the Redskins passing offense would imply. While it worked out in the end, it perhaps wouldn't be a sustainable way to play defense and is something they'll have to work on in the future.
With no turnovers and three touchdowns allowed, they put the game on the offense and were lucky the offense performed as well as it did. Big gaps in the passing defense didn't really go away in the second half, but at the very least the defensive line was dominant in producing pressure and was the only unit on defense performing well all game.
Running Defense: The running defense tightened up a little bit in the second half, but that doesn't mean it did well. They were a bit smarter about gap discipline and staying within assignments, but it was for naught given the number of broken tackles from Darrel Young, Roy Helu and Alfred Morris.
Washington was always a threat to get yards on the ground, and that makes playing defense a tenuous proposition at best. Through this, the Redskins were able to keep the potent offense off the field, and the Vikings run defense is responsible in a big way for the offense producing fewer points than it potentially could have.
Special Teams: There still isn't much to say about the special teams performance, as nothing stood out in a big way, but there were no missteps, either. Blair Walsh looks healthy again, and thankfully, Jeff Locke didn't have too many opportunities to showcase what looks to be a game that is becoming more consistent. As returners, the Vikings weren't blessed with too many chances given the squibs and intentionally misdirected kicks, but they did well in punt returns. Overall a good, but not great, day for special teams.
Coaching: The coaching staff was saved by Washington's misfortune, and their inability to properly evaluate their roster was a big reason the Vikings looked so poor in the first half. In the second half, their terrible clock management almost cost the Vikings the game, and key decisions consistently put the Vikings in a poor position to win the game. One of the worst coaching performances of the year.
Passing Offense: Despite the mediocre numbers and the interception to open the game, Christian Ponder is playing slightly above the box score. That's not to say he looks good, but stringing together a healthy set of consecutive receptions is better than it is worse by a significant margin. Adding in a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson—Patterson's first receiving touchdown and Ponder's first passing touchdown to a wide receiver—helps things, but he did give up three points on an interception. The offensive line has done an alright job in pass protection, first drive aside, but neither have they been the unit Vikings fans were used to last year.
Running Offense: It would be easier to separate the blocking from the running, as the run-blocking has been nothing short of abysmal, while Adrian Peterson himself has been fantastic. Overall, it's been a good performance from the unit, and it's clear many expect him to carry the offense in the second half despite not having the lead or many carries. It's the only highlight the Vikings should be able to count on, and it's baffling they're moving away despite poor blocking.
Passing Defense: Good pressure does not necessarily beget good defense, as the Vikings seem eager to prove. On the (unusual number of) blitzes or in standard rushing, Minnesota has largely been able to get home and target the quarterback, but the back seven have been unable to capitalize. Whether it's trailing too far in zone coverage, confusing route reads or simply giving up an open receiver, there hasn't been much pass coverage in the back end.
Running Defense: The worst unit in the game, the Vikings haven't been able to maintain gap discipline or stay as solid anchors against the run up front. In addition to that issue, even well-anticipated runs have been blown up by poor tackling angles or tackling technique. In some ways, the depleted Vikings defense could be to blame, but the linebackers—a largely healthy unit—are also largely responsible for the 5.2 yards a carry Alfred Morris has. In short, everything that could go wrong in run defense, has.
Special Teams: It is difficult to gauge the impact on special teams when the Redskins are doing their best to obviate the Vikings' top weapon, but all phases of the game have performed well, considering. A misstep in one return denied Patterson the opportunity to run, but it has nevertheless resulted in positive field position without many mistakes. Jeff Locke has done well, and Blair Walsh's kicks have been neither spectacular nor disappointing.
Coaching: Aside from the most obvious gripes, the coaching has not been as bad as fans have come to expect. There aren't many things Alan Williams can do to hide the depleted defensive unit—far more depleted than a typical midseason defense—but the decision to play Sharrif Floyd at nose tackle to cover for Letroy Guion and Fred Evans has already met disaster. In addition, players continue to be out of position against a suddenly potent Washington offense. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings continue not to take advantage of Adrian Peterson despite playing much of the half tied or with a lead. It's a baffling set of decisions, but not something that fans are unused to seeing.