Five Things That Must Happen For the Washington Redskins to Beat the Minnesota Vikings
Robert Griffin III may return to start for the Washington Redskins.
The collective heartbeat of the Washington Redskins’ fan base skipped a beat during the Redskins’ 24-17 Week Five loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game with a legal hit by Falcons’ linebacker Sean Witherspoon. Griffin III suffered a concussion, and did not return to the game.
However, there’s no time for the Redskins to dwell on their current misfortune. The Minnesota Vikings will visit Fed Ex Field in Landover, Maryland to face the Washington Redskins for their Week Six matchup. With a record of 4-1, Minnesota has quietly built a reputation as an opponent not to be overlooked during the 2012 NFL season.
Griffin III has a strong arm, as well as outstanding running ability, that contribute to his exciting quarterbacking style. Griffin III’s style also exposes him to injury. On the play that took him out of the game, Griffin III would have been better served to slide feet first instead of diving head first.
Griffin III maintains that he will not change his style of play. However, he needs to take precaution in an effort to maintain a healthy playing status. In addition to sliding, he can throw the ball out of bounds on passing plays to avoid big hits. Simply put, Griffin III gives Washington the best chance to win games, considering that the Redskins average 28 points per game in his first five starts.
If Griffin III is able to play against Minnesota, Washington’s chances at victory increase significantly. However, his return isn’t the only key to victory. If the Redskins are to even their record with a victory, these five things must happen:
The Washington Redskins must rely heavily on Alfred Morris.
Washington Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris has been Washington’s most consistent player on both sides of the ball. He is currently ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, ahead of Minnesota Vikings’ star running back Adrian Peterson. Nothing takes the pressure off a starting quarterback more than a potent running game. The Redskins need to give Morris the ball early and often, because he has proven capable of producing first downs that maintain potential scoring drives for Washington.
Morris needs to get about 25 to 30 carries a game. If he can continue to get opportunities to carry the ball and gain positive yardage, the offense will continue to be productive.
Griffin III needs to reestablish an on field bond with Pierre Garcon.
Washington Redskins’ wide receiver Pierre Garcon missed two games with a sore right foot. Since his return Week Four against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he hasn’t provided the impact Washington hoped for when they signed him before the start of the 2012 NFL season. It’s unclear whether or not Garcon’s foot is still hampering him. Since his breakout Week One game against the New Orleans Saints, Garcon has caught only four passes, none of them for touchdowns.
The Minnesota Vikings’ starting cornerback tandem of Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook are not currently considered to be shutdown corners. They have one interception between them. Griffin III and Garcon need to connect on a few intermediate or deep passes to exploit Minnesota’s pass defense. Pass completions by Griffin III to Garcon need to be an integral part of the Redskins’ game plan if they are to defeat the Vikings.
The Washington Redskins must convert on third down.
During their Week Five contest against the Atlanta Falcons, Washington converted only one first down in nine attempts. That statistic means fewer possessions for the offense. It also puts added pressure on a Washington defense that has proven incapable of slowing down opposing offenses when they absolutely need to.
To remedy this situation, Washington needs to gain positive yardage on first and second down. Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan, and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, might consider using play action passes on first down against Minnesota. That would draw in the linebackers towards the line of scrimmage, as well as open up the middle of the field for Washington’s leading receiver, tight end Fred Davis (above left). Or they could throw quick, short passes to wide receivers Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, or Leonard Hankerson on first and second down.
In any case, the Redskins need to avoid second or third down and long yardage. If they can find themselves needing a reasonable amount of yardage to convert on third down, they will sustain drives and increase their chances of scoring enough points to defeat the Vikings.
Contain Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin are Minnesota’s main offensive threats. They have the ability to go the distance every time they touch the ball. The Redskins may have to bring either safety Madieu Willams or safety Dejon Gomes closer to the line of scrimmage in an effort to contain Peterson. That would mean Harvin or Vikings’ wide receiver Jerome Simpson would face single coverage. That would be a great opportunity for Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder to take advantage of.
If the Washington defense can continue its timely, opportunistic ways (the unit has scored three defensive touchdowns so far), it can remain competitive against the Vikings. However, if they can contain the aforementioned Minnesota players, the Redskins have a great opportunity to win the game.
Washington Redskins’ special teams must become special.
The Redskins had two punts blocked earlier in the season, which led directly to their opponents scoring touchdowns. While that issue seems to have been fixed, recent issues with Washington’s placekicking game have been well documented.
Washington released placekicker Billy Cundiff before the start of Week Six game against the Vikings. He has been replaced with Kai Forbath (above right). Forbath kicked collegiately at UCLA, as well as professionally for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2012 NFL preseason. Although he has a strong, accurate leg, Forbath is untested in the NFL, having never appeared in an NFL regular season game.
The Redskins also have to worry about Harvin, who is one of the NFL’s most dangerous return men. He averages 39 yards per kickoff return, and has returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Forbath would be best served to kick the ball through the end zone on his kickoffs in an effort to avoid Harvin.
As for Forbath’s placekicking opportunities, he must be able to connect on manageable field goals when called upon to do so. If he is able to do so, the Washington Redskins increase their opportunities to beat the Minnesota Vikings.