Fifth Quarter: Minnesota Vikings
By: Scott Hurrey
Category: Washington Redskins News
On paper, quarterback Mark Brunell had a decent game. Brunell racked up 163 yards, while completing 17 of his 28 pass attempts. In reality, Brunell seemed to hone in on Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El, and completely miss wide-open targets like the newly acquired Brandon Lloyd and last yearís playmaker Chris Cooley, particularly on some of the downs that Mark Brunell threw the ball away. When he did throw to Lloyd, the throws seemed to be off. Whether it was because of not being on the same page or because Lloyd has not fully grasped the playbook is unclear. What IS clear is that integrating Lloyd into the offense is essential to building the type of dynamic offense the Redskins are after.
On a good note, it was exciting, especially in the first half of the game, to see all of the motion and movement in the passing formations. The pre-snap movement was clearly different from anything the ĎSkins showed in training camp or the preseason. The pass protection was decent on the day as well, as the Redskinsí offensive line faced one of the more talent defensive lines in the league and did not give up a single sack.
Ladell Betts got the starting nod, but clearly, the story of the evening was the amount of playing time Clinton Portis got Monday night. Portis not only got into the game, but his 10 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown paced the team, and was reminiscent of CP when he is 100% healthy. Clinton scored the Redskinsí only touchdown on the sweep play Priest Holmes rode to stardom, and is indicative of what the team will be able to do when Portis is healthy. He did seem to favor that shoulder a bit and was obviously not at full strength, but 80% of Clinton Portis proved to be very effective.
The offensive line looked decent in run blocking schemes, especially on the plays that that allowed them to run down the field and demolish people. There were a few breakdowns in assignments throughout the game, but nothing these guys cannot overcome this week in practice.
The defense is the biggest question mark following Monday nightís game. Obviously, it is hard to analyze how good or bad the defense was because no one really knows how good or bad the Minnesota Vikings offense is yet. They obviously have a very good offensive line. Steve Hutchison is a beast and Bryant McKinney is a top-flight tackle. In the middle is Matt Birk who is one of the top centers in the game. That being said, there have not been many occasions in recent memory that Cornelius Griffin was shutdown, but Steve Hutchison dominated Griffin on Monday. To make matters worse, pass rusher extraordinaire Andre Carter was manhandled by Bryant McKinney. Chester Taylor ran at will at times yesterday. The overall numbers were only 88 yards on 31 carries, but the Redskins could not stop Taylor when it counted.
They also could not seem to stop the Vikings at all on third and long. Brad Johnson picked them apart with his smart yet conservative play. His numbers were not much better than Brunellís, but the timing of his plays were better. The Redskins secondary was unable to cover Troy Williamson when it counted. The score could have been much worse had Williamson not dropped three or four passes that could have at least extended drives, if not finished them. To make things worse, Pierson Prioleau was lost for at least 4-6 weeks - and probably the season - on the opening kick-off with a knee injury, and his duties as a cover safety were sorely missed. With Shawn Springs likely missing the Dallas game, the secondary will need to step it up if the team is to avoid a 0-2 start.
This is the toughest phase of the game to analyze. There was some very good and some very bad in this part of the game. Antwaan Randle-El was as advertised on punt returns. Plus, who can forget the crushing blocks made by Carlos Rogers and Sean Taylor threw on Randle-Elís 15-yard scamper that almost broke free. While one can respect his request to avoid kick returns, hopefully the Redskins can talk him into spot duty in big situations.
Derrick Frost had easily his best game as a Redskin. His kick-offs were outstanding, driving two into the end zone, one of which was downed for a touchback. In addition, for the first time this reporter can remember, bounced a punt on the two-yard line and it stuck.
Kick coverage units had a less than stellar day, allowing Troy Williamson 98 yards in kick returns, including a 44-yard scurry at the end of the first half, which led to a Vikings field goal in the waning moments before half-time. That field goal marked the shift in momentum that ultimately led to the loss.
Last, but not least, we must mention John Hall. His extra point was drilled right down the middle, but all of his field goal attempts pushed right. Whether it is a mental block stemming from his injuries or an adjustment he made while hurt to compensate for the hurt muscles, only he truly knows, but if he is going to return to his status of one of the leagueís top kickers, he is going to have to overcome this current funk heís in. If he was a slugger in baseball in a slump, he could play through it, but in the NFL, there are only 16 games in this season, and a team with high aspirations cannot afford to let games like this one slip through their fingers.
These types of games are tough on everyone, from the fans to the players to the coaches. Make no mistake about it though; there were some signs of greatness in Monday nightís game. As long as the Redskin players can keep their collective confidence up, and address these issues as they go, the Washington Redskins might just be peaking come January.
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