EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield is credited with a speech that helped turn around the Minnesota Vikings, especially the defense, following the Week 2 loss at the Indianapolis Colts this season.
Winfield pushed his teammates to be more physical and not fall into the same traps they did during last year’s 3-13 campaign. Minnesota suffered its first loss since then on Sunday and again had defensive lapses against Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Winfield isn’t planning any speeches this time around.
“No, no speeches,” Winfield said. “Right now we’re 4-2, in a good spot; could be a little better. We’re going to take it week to week.”
Griffin was 17 of 22 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ 38-26 loss. Minnesota’s defense is trying to put the letdown behind it, knowing they won’t face another speedy, dual-threat quarterback like Griffin the rest of the season.
“Yeah, I don’t think we’ll worry about that,” Winfield said of putting too much stock in the defensive breakdowns Sunday. “It’s just that team. You don’t see too many quarterbacks that have the same skill set as he does. When he breaks out and you’re trailing, I don’t think there’s many players in this league who are going to catch him.”
Griffin’s 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter essentially ended the Vikings’ comeback attempt. Minnesota also entered the game with the fourth-ranked run defense in the league and allowed 183 yards to Washington.
“He’s a very fast guy, talented runner,” safety Harrison Smith said. “So, you don’t see a lot of quarterbacks like that.”
Winfield had his second interception, but that was one of the few highlights as Griffin’s versatility had the defense on its heels trying to handle the multiple ways Griffin could attack. The threat of Griffin’s speed and running ability also helps the Redskins’ option offense and play-action passing.
“Once we see it’s pass, we’ve got to get out and try to run to the underneath routes,” linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. “That was the whole reason for the play-action, to slow fast defenses down and then they executed it well.”
Winfield said Minnesota ran more zone coverage than it had in the previous weeks and focused on keeping Griffin from getting outside the defense. As a result, Griffin was able to hit several passes in the middle of the field and his 76-yard touchdown run started straight up the middle, before he broke to the sideline and outran the defense.
Griffin told reporters after the game the play was supposed to be a pass, but he read the Vikings’ blitz before the snap, dropped back, took one look down field and took off.
Minnesota held rookie running back Alfred Morris, who entered the game fourth in the league in rushing, to 47 yards, but handling Griffin was a different story with his 138 yards, and the back-breaking 76-yarder.
“You don’t see that every day,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “I don’t think we took a step back at all. We played a quarterback that was a little bit different than most that we see and he was very effective against us on Sunday, in particular on that last run for 76 yards.”
Brinkley and the defense aren’t letting one slip against the unique abilities of Griffin override the goodwill built up the three previous weeks in victories.
“Our confidence has never wavered,” Brinkley said. “We still know what we’re capable of. This is a reality check.”