The 5th Quarter: Vikings
With nothing left to play for but the role of spoiler, the Redskins finished up their season Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. As has become customary this year, this team once again showed grit, determination and heart in earning their 6th victory of the season. Overcoming a multitude of injuries, somehow the Redskins defense was able to stifle the league's 2nd most potent offense. Here are the grades for Washington's final 2004 game:
With Clinton Portis on the shelf, Sunday was Ladell Betts' game to show the coaching staff what he can do. Betts took advantage of the opportunity and carved out 118 yards on 26 carries. He wasn't spectacular but he was steady. His longest carry came on a 27-yard break, but most of his work was short, tough, yardage and he added a touchdown as well. Betts may not have put any fear into Portis about losing his starting job, but he proved to the staff that he was a valuable asset to have nevertheless. It bears mentioning that the offensive line was largely responsible for any success Betts had -- they were solid on Sunday.
For weeks, the Redskins faithful have been whining incessantly that Joe Gibbs and the Redskins offense needed to make more down field strikes. Fans got their wish on Sunday. Whether it was because the season was lost, or because the coaching staff was just evaluating talent, Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash saw a lot more playing time with the offense. Both of them capitalized having their best receiving games of the year. Thrash led all Skins receivers with 81 yards on 5 receptions, including a 31-yarder, while Jacobs caught 3 balls for 56 yards. The bulk of Jacobs' yardage came on a 45-yard reception that was the longest play from scrimmage for the Redskins in weeks and weeks.
Of course, Patrick Ramsey was the one whose job it was to throw the ball downfield more, and obviously, it was with better success. Ramsey finished the day with a workman-like 17 of 26 for 216 yard performance. He had two touchdown tosses on the day, a 6-yard pass to Chris Cooley and a 4-yard pass to Robert Royal. It was just the second time all season that the Redskins scored more than two touchdowns.
Queue up the broken record about the phenomenal play of the Redskin defense once again. While 2004 may not have seen many bright spots for the Redskins, the defense is the exception. How this team continues to field a competitive squad with all of their injuries is amazing. The fact that they could ostensibly shut down one of the most lethal offenses in all of football is truly astounding. The mighty Randy Moss was limited to just 66 yards on 5 receptions, although he did grab a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass.
For the most part, the Redskins also held Daunte Culpepper in check. Gregg Williams' defense constantly pressed Culpepper forcing 4 sacks and multiple pressures. Demetric Evans led the way with 1.5 sacks to cap off his 2004 swan song performance. Antonio Pierce had another 8-tackle, run stuffing performance as the Vikings managed just 52 yards on ther ground.
You could probably rhyme off name after name on the defense and be justified but this defense is the sum of it's parts... it's interchangeable parts. Perhaps it's the nostalgia of the final game of the season, but this unit get's this season's highest marks...
Would Antonio Brown please step forward and show whether or not he has what it takes to play in the NFL in 2005? A 66-yard return to start the game would seem to indicate so. Couple that with James Thrash's 36-yard return, and the Redskins were treated to some very good starting field position. Tom Tupa kicked well, though not as stellar as he has at other points this season. Nevertheless, Tupa had a great 2004 and at many times helped hide the Redskins desperate inability to move the ball. He has been a steadying force on special teams.
This article was released on 2005-01-03.
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