By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Washington Redskins for the first time at FedEx Field since the 2004-05 season finale. The team had won three straight, including one in each of the last two seasons in Landover, Md.
The Vikings jumped on the Redskins early, but were unable to put them away before falling 38-26 Sunday.
Blair Walsh capped all three Viking drives in the first quarter with short field goals. They took a 9-0 lead into the second quarter when everything fell apart.
The rally put on by the Redskins (3-3) began with a 50-yard field goal early in the quarter. The Vikings (4-2) failed to get a first down on the ensuing drive and punted.
The Redskins, with the help of a roughing the passer penalty, took its first lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Alfred Morris with two minutes and 26 seconds remaining in the first half. It was the first time the Vikings found themselves behind on the scoreboard since a loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 2.
Christian Ponder fumbled a pass attempt that was caught by Lorenzo Alexander and returned to the six-yard line. Robert Griffin III found Darrel Young in the flat for a touchdown on the first play of the drive.
The Vikings got back in the game midway through the fourth quarter after giving up a pick-six to former Viking Madieu Williams. Ponder overthrew several open receivers during the game, but Williams’ return will stand out because of the result.
While trailing 31-12, Ponder found Michael Jenkins for a nine-yard score. Kyle Rudolph made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone to convert a two-point conversion. After getting the ball back, the Vikings moved back down the field and scored on a one-yard pass from Ponder Rudolph. This two-point try failed and the Vikings trailed by five points.
Griffin sealed the victory on the ensuing drive by turning a third-and-six play into a 76-yard touchdown run. The Vikings came with an all-out blitz and Griffin ran right up the middle before going off to the races down the sideline. Once he got behind Chris Cook, there was no catching the rookie quarterback.
The Vikings’ offense had good moments and bad moments. In the first quarter it moved the ball at will, but could not get the ball in the end zone and had to settle for three field goals.
The offiense put up 421 yards of total offense, but did not finish drives. It passed for 327 yards, but threw two interceptions – one was returned for a touchdown.
In football, the winning team usually has fewer turnovers, converts on third down and gets touchdowns in the red zone. The Vikings were lucky to be in the game in the fourth quarter after getting beat in all three areas. They lost the turnover battle 3-1, third down success rate 47 percent to 50 percent and red zone scoring two touchdowns in seven attempts compared to 3-for-3.
The Vikings’ defense came out on fire forcing back-to-back runs for a loss before getting a three-and-out. It stayed on a roll when Antoine Winfield intercepted Griffin III at the Redskin 35-yard line.
Beginning with the Redskins third offensive possession, the Vikings could not stop Griffin III or the Redskins.
The special teams were special again for the Vikings. Walsh was a perfect 4-4 on field goals. Chris Kluwe had a 50.5 yard punting average; both downed inside the 20-yard line. Percy Harvin had three kick returns for a 33.3 yard average, including a long of 45 yards. The only negative on special teams was punt returner Marcus Sherels, who had one punt return for minus-two yards.
The second-year quarterback took a step backward after playing his best football through the first five games. Ponder threw his first two interceptions of the season in last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans. This week, he threw two more and wasn’t as sharp as a passer as he was through the first five games of the year.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.