QB Robert Griffin III. Let’s see, Griffin: completed 17-of-22 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown and ran 13 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He clinched the 38-26 win with one of the biggest highlight plays ever at FedEx Field (which has not seen a lot lately), the 76-yard sprint for a touchdown on third-and-6. Warning to defenses: if you’re going to play man-to-man and blitz, you’d better not leave a gap free. Griffin executed the zone read game perfectly and was smart about avoiding major collisions. But I like that he’ll continue to be aggressive, as he was on the QB draw for a seven-yard touchdown. Griffin could have had another long run, but corner Antoine Winfield came from the backside and tackled him. Had Winfield not anticipated the play so well, Griffin had a big hole – and only two safeties in a cover-2 to beat, with receiver Josh Morgan on one of them. It would have been interesting.
C Will Montgomery. I’ll get to other blocks in a minute, but he did an excellent job on the 76-yard touchdown run. Montgomery and running back Evan Royster picked up two linebackers blitzing the A gap, clearing a lane for Griffin. Montgomery prevented linebacker Chad Greenway from reaching back to get a good shot at Griffin. Montgomery was solid throughout the game, save for a missed block on a screen pass and another time when he lost a block. But he did a good job getting to linebackers and in protection.
LT Trent Williams. He was far from perfect; on the second play of the game he failed to get any sort of shove on end Jared Allen, who then tackled Alfred Morris for a loss. Williams also had a false start. But other than that he had a silent and effective day. Williams was not matched up all the time on Allen in pass protection. By my count it was only 12 times where they were one-on-one. But Williams won all 12 battles. Allen never really threatened when matched one-on-one. That’s enough for me. Also, on a key Alfred Morris eight-yard run late in the game (see below), Williams helped spring him by driving out the linebacker, right into a corner.
PK Kai Forbath. I’m going to (slightly) overlook the kickoffs because I do think they could be an issue on occasion. His hang-time is typically around 3.8 seconds, which is OK if you’re drilling the ball to the back of the end zone with regularity. For example, one of the kickoffs by Minnesota’s Blair Walsh lasted that long in the air, but went to the back of the end zone. One reason the Vikings had two excellent kick returns is because of Forbath’s kickoffs. Yes, four were touchbacks but of the three that weren’t, all resulted in possession beyond the 20-yard line, with two at the 39 and 36, respectively. Ironically the latter one had a hang-time of 4.2 seconds so you can’t pin that one on his kick. But the other had a 3.6 hang-time, leading to a 45-yard return. Regardless, he did have four touchbacks and his first NFL kick was a 50-yarder that he nailed. Here’s the thing: on his kick the play from snap to kick only took 1.0 seconds – the fastest it’s been since Nick Sundberg was injured.
RG Chris Chester. He had the toughest matchup of the game, arguably, going against tackle Kevin Williams, who had been playing very well. But Chester kept Williams quiet. On Alfred Morris’ 1-yard touchdown run, Chester pulled to the left and threw the final block that cleared the path. On a third-and-1 in the third quarter, Morris appeared stopped but Chester gave him, uh, a little help by driving the pile forward. It enabled Morris’ second effort to result in a first down, prolonging an eventual touchdown drive. Overall, it’s not as if Morris executed every block well; that’s almost impossible. But he was solid and deserves credit.
WR Brandon Banks. His presence helps in the triple option as defenses must honor his ability to potentially get the ball. It opens up lanes. However, that would be true if they put, say, Santana Moss or Aldrick Robinson back there too. Banks touched the ball four times from scrimmage and gained one yard. He also fumbled a bubble screen out of bounds late in the game. I like how the Redskins want to use Banks and that they wanted to stay aggressive. But nobody fumbles more than Banks; not sure I’d want to put the ball in his hands at that time (they were up 11 with 8:02 left, but see the next writeup to see what could have happened on that play). Banks returned one punt for one yard. In fairness to Banks, he didn’t always have a lot of room to maneuver when he had the ball and he’s easy for defenders to bring down. So it wasn’t always his fault, but the production wasn’t there.
WR Leonard Hankerson. He managed two catches for 23 yards, but his blocking was not as good as in previous games. And in fact his missed block cost Banks a potential long run in the fourth quarter on his bubble screen. Hankerson tries to cut safety Jamarca Sanford, but fails. Had he done so, with Niles Paul taking care of Chris Cook on the outside, there was a HUGE lane available. The Vikings were in a single-high safety and a linebacker was in pursuit. But if the block is made, then perhaps Banks is the one with the long touchdown run. Two plays later Hankerson couldn’t slow the linebacker on a negative gain for Morris. It was probably asking a lot, but it’s what he’s out there to do.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger. He’s played well for most of the first six games (and has been a Stud twice), but this past Sunday was a tough one for him. I thought Minnesota defensive tackle Letroy Guion had a good game plan against him. After the game Lichtensteiger said Guion was tough to reach because it was almost as if he stepped back at the snap to be able to see and react better, and make him harder to reach. Saw something like that happen on a three-yard Morris loss in the fourth quarter. But it appeared that what Guion often was line up a half-yard further off the ball than his linemates. It wasn’t every play, but it was enough and it made a difference in his ability to read the play better and get off Lichtensteiger’s blocks. Guion was able to shed blocks – I did see one time where ‘Steiger got a little too upright because he needed another step to get there — and get in on the play, one reason he registered a season-best five tackles (a third of his season total), including three solo stops. The first time I saw Guion shed a block came because his first step was lateral. ‘Steiger had his share of good blocks – did an excellent job turning his man inside on Griffin’s QB draw for a touchdown. But Guion won the matchup.
…Running back Alfred Morris only finished with 47 yards against one of the tougher units to run against. Three of his carries lost yards (for a combined negative-10 yards). But Morris had enough consistent runs to remain a threat and two of his plays were under the radar – but pivotal. The first occurred on the 90-yard touchdown drive when he gained nine yards on second and 14 from the Redskins’ 7-yard line. Morris slipped the grab of one lineman at the 11, and spun off linebacker Chad Greenway for two more yards. That set up a manageable third and 4, which the Redskins converted. The other play occurred right before Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run. Morris took a pitch and ran around left end and patiently waited for a hole to open. Running full speed, he sucked a defender inside with a quick jab, as receiver Joshua Morgan blocked him and then sped past (getting help from Williams on his block). Morris gained three yards after contact and eight overall. His eight-yard run again set them up in third and manageable.
…Another key on Griffin’s 76-yard run: The Redskins used a bunch formation to the right and one receiver to the left. Because the Vikings were in man coverage and had a single-high safety that meant only one defender was on that side of the field when Griffin broke through the line. Three defensive backs were on the other side and the safety was at the 43-yard line – and in the middle – when Griffin started upfield. He was easy for Griffin to elude, just by cutting outside thanks to Morgan’s block on the corner.
…Griffin does get extra cautious with the ball at times, which is why he only has two interceptions (but only five touchdown passes). There have been several big plays that could have been made had he been a little more decisive, throws that you’d think he’ll eventually make. It has to be a big reason why coaches are excited about the future. They’re scoring, yet leaving some big plays on the field too. The play against Atlanta in which he got hurt would have been a touchdown had he thrown the ball. And this past week in the second quarter he opted to throw a swing pass to Brandon Banks in the flat rather than hit Fred Davis downfield. The Vikings were in a cover-2 and the corner to that side had dropped about 10 yards deep. He was a good 10 yards from Davis as he broke wide open over the middle (Hankerson was running down the seam to occupy the safety on that side). Griffin appeared ready to throw (there was pressure backside, but he still had time) then pulled it back and opted for Banks instead. The Redskins would have been down around the 15-yard line; instead they settled for a field goal.
…Vikings corner Antoine Winfield is a personal favorite, not just because he’s an ex-Buckeye, though that’s why I liked him initially. But it’s because he’s very, very tough. How much so? I haven’t seen Niles Paul miss a block like he did in the second quarter. Winfield knocked him aside. Winfield played fast – his anticipation skills were outstanding — and physical all game; haven’t seen a corner play that well against the Redskins this season.
…When you’re not getting opportunities you have to make the most of those that occur. Dez Briscoe did not, dropping a ball right in his mitts. I’m sure it’s tough to stay sharp when you’re not getting much action in games, but you get more chances when you make plays. He had a chance to make one and didn’t. The Redskins still scored a touchdown on the series and still managed to win or else Briscoe would have been a Dud just for this drop.
…The Redskins used their triple option look eight times. In this case, I’m just talking about when Banks lines up behind Griffin. There are times when the Redskins run a zone read in which Banks is aligned for a potential bubble screen. In essence that’s comparable to what he’s doing when behind Griffin and flares out to the flat. Anyway, on these eight plays the Redskins gained 59 yards – and would have had probably another 20 had Dez Briscoe not dropped a pass. Still, more than seven yards a play is a darn good average.
…Some of the triple-option looks really stood out. The first one that did so was the 16-yard pass to tight end Fred Davis. When Griffin fakes the handoff to Morris, one linebacker freezes in the hole, end Jared Allen engages a blocker but does not penetrate and another linebacker flows with Brandon Banks, running left out of the backfield. The linebacker in the hole stays there, waiting to see if Griffin is going to run. He doesn’t. Instead, he pulls up and throws to Davis on a deep in. Tough to defend.
…Another triple option play – love watching this – was the 15-yard run by Morris. Why did it work? Because Winfield and the outside linebacker both started to their left following Banks and Griffin. But Griffin handed the ball to Morris and because there was no linebacker in that spot, once Montgomery sealed the middle linebacker, aligned on the other side, the hole was big. In fact, the outside linebacker was still staring at Griffin as Morris is two yards past the line.
…Tight ends Logan Paulsen and Davis blocked Allen a combined eight times in protection. In some cases it occurs out of the zone read look; the line helps sell the play by slanting to the right, which means Williams is not responsible for Allen. A tight end often comes from the backside to block him.