Washington Redskins Breakdown: Redskins Beat Vikings For Fifth Win

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins linebacker Preston Smith (94) talks with Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins needed a big win over the Minnesota Vikings. They managed to do that on Sunday.

The Washington Redskins came out of the bye week with one goal and one goal only: beat the Minnesota Vikings. The Redskins were 4-3-1 coming into the game, and the Vikings were one of the toughest teams left on their schedule. They managed to defeat the Vikings and hold on to a place in the postseason picture.

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The Redskins certainly had their ups and down in the game. They had some strong performances and in particular, their defense was solid. Their offense did well too but they still had some room for improvement.

With all of that in mind, we will take you through a thorough look at everything the Redskins did this week. It is time for our Redskins Breakdown.

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) rolls out against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: Kirk Cousins Looks To Be In Midseason Form

In the second half of the 2015 season, Kirk Cousins put together and incredible string of performances. He looked like a franchise quarterback and many wondered if he would be able to repeat that in 2016. He got off to a rough start, but improved in the month prior to the bye. Now, it looks like he has officially missed midseason form.

In Sunday’s game, Cousins went 22-of-23 for 262 yards and he threw two touchdowns early in the game. The first came on a short route to Jamison Crowder. Crowder quickly cut across the face of the defensive back and Cousins managed to hit him with a strong pass.

Cousins’ second touchdown went to Vernon Davis. He put up a perfectly lofted pass that hit Davis in stride for a 38 yard strike. They were definitely good throws, and Cousins deserves praise for being able to vary his throws. Also, his deep accuracy has improved which was an issue of his early in the season.

This game was a hugely positive one from Cousins. He led the team to a signature win and he is definitely hitting his stride. It is certainly coming in at the right time.

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (88) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (34) during the second half at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: Pierre Garcon Leads Way With DeSean Jackson Out

The Redskins were always going to be without DeSean Jackson in this game. That became apparent on Thursday afternoon when the Redskins declared that his shoulder would make him doubtful. In his stead, it was expected that Jamison Crowder and the tight ends would pick up his slack. Instead, Pierre Garcon stepped up and had a big performance.

In the game, Garcon was able to record six catches for 81 yards and led the team in targets (10), receptions, and yards. As always, he was a very strong possession receiver and used his physicality to beat receivers. He did not do anything particularly unbelievable, but he was solid. That was what the team needed.

Jackson is scheduled to be out another week, so it is likely that the Skins will rely on Garcon in Week 11 also. Crowder and Jordan Reed will also be a part of the game plan, but after Sunday, I would imagine that Garcon would be considered the No. 1 guy for at least another week.

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries the ball as Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson (92) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Running Game: Robert Kelley Continues To Impress

Heading into this game, Robert Kelley was confirmed to be the No. 1 running back by Jay Gruden. That proved to be true, and Matt Jones was actually on the inactive list. As a result, Kelley was given a full workload and he impressed again.

Kelley ran the ball 22 times for 97 yards. It was a similar stat line to what he posted against the Bengals, but the Vikings have a much stronger defense. I am very impressed that the team was able to run for as much as they did on Sunday.

Kelley is simply very good at getting yardage. He has had very few negative plays over his two starts, and today he was able to keep his legs churning. He will only get better with more reps, so it will be interesting to see what will happen for him in the future.

Moving forward, the Redskins should continue to use the rotation that they have. Kelley can carry the full load with Chris Thompson being mixed in throughout the game. It looks like Kelley will continue to be a strong back and his long term upside has to make the organization feel good.

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins linebacker Preston Smith (94) runs with the ball after intercepting a pass as Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Jake Long (72) chases in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Preston Smith Leads The Way For The Defense

The Redskins always had an advantage in the pass rush for this game. The Vikings have no talent at the offensive tackle position, and the Redskins have a strong edge rush. I had thought that Ryan Kerrigan would have the advantage, but Preston Smith came out and had a strong performance.

Smith had two big sacks during the game. The second was the more impressive, as he overpowered the Vikings’ line on the last play of the game to sack Sam Bradford. That clinched the win for the Redskins. Smith also got a pick that Josh Landis described in this piece:

[Smith] also contributed with his hands. Shocking as that might sound, the 6-foot-5, 268 pound standout from Mississippi State made a game saving interception late in the fourth quarter that ultimately lead to a victory for the Redskins. Those defensive heroics saved the Redskins from yet another heartbreaking loss.

Needless to say, this was a huge game for Smith. He seems to regaining his form from last season and that could greatly help the Redskins defense.

Oct 9, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins inside linebacker Mason Foster (54) celebrates after tackling Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West (28) during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. Washington Redskins defeated Baltimore Ravens 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Redskins Run Defense Excels

Coming into this game, the Redskins were ranked 26th in the NFL in total rushing yardage allowed. That is going to change after this performance. In this contest, the team only allowed a grand total of 47 yards on 21 carries. That speaks volumes about the Vikings run game, but it also does go to show that the Redskins defense has improved.

For the Vikings, Jerick McKinnon really “led the way.” He got six carries for 16 yards and probably has the most potential of the team’s backs. They should focus on giving him most of the carries while working Matt Asiata in on the goal line. They tried to use Asiata a bit too much today and that came back to bite them.

Meanwhile, the Redskins got a great performance out of Mason Foster and Will Compton. The two middle linebackers combined to make 18 tackles and were very strong in run support. They demonstrated great instincts and showed what they could do to help make the defense great.

On the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Chris Baker made an impact as well. They used their big bodies to plug up running lanes and open things up for the edge rush. Altogether, the defense was able to take away the Vikings’ running game which rendered them one dimensional. That helped the Redskins to come away victorious.

Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins place kicker Dustin Hopkins (3) makes a 50 yard field goal against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Final Notes: Dustin Hopkins Puts Together Great Game

Early in the season, it seemed like Dustin Hopkins was one becoming one of the best kickers in the league. At one point, he was even named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month. Then, he endured a bit of a rough stretch. After the bye week, it seems like he has things straightened out.

Against the Vikings, Hopkins was as reliable as ever. He went 4-4 today from all over the field. He knocked through and impressive 50 yard field goal, and his final two kicks were the difference in the game. Hopkins has to continue to kick well in order for the Redskins to have success. He is an integral part of their special teams corps.

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