- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins‘ defense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

GAME BALLS

ILB LONDON FLETCHER:Fletcher was credited with 17 tackles and half a sack. The Vikings still rushed for 241 yards (6.3 yards per attempt), so his impact was limited, but he was tenacious and repeatedly got off blocks to make tackles.

He wasn’t perfect by any stretch. On the decisive touchdown Minnesota scored with 10:06 left in the game, Fletcher bit when QB Joe Webb faked the inside handoff to RB Toby Gerhart going left. As a result, he trailed WR Percy Harvin when Harvin slid out into the right flat for an easy 8-yard catch-and-score.

But Fletcher got off TE Kyle Rudolph’s block to stop RB Adrian Peterson for 2 yards on third-and-6 in the first quarter. Later on that drive, he shed LG Joe Berger on the second level to stop Peterson for 2 yards. At the end of that drive, he shot through a gap and stuffed Peterson at the goal line. (OLB Brian Orakpo created the opening by standing up and pushing back TE Visanthe Shiancoe.) Being relatively short (5-10) seems to help Fletcher in shedding blocks. He has a low center of gravity and rarely gets swallowed up by blockers with longer reach.

Fletcher also knocked Minnesota starting QB Christian Ponder out of the game with a violent hit early in the third quarter. As Ponder was going down, Fletcher made sure to keep his helmet to the left of Ponder’s so as not to incur a penalty. Ponder’s concussion ended up working against the Redskins because they couldn’t stop Webb, but that’s another story.

Fletcher deserves to be voted to the Pro Bowl. I also don’t see why the Redskins would expect their defense to improve without him next season. The organization needs to pay him and keep intact a front seven that has proven – although not against Minnesota – to be the team’s strongest area.

GASSERS

CB JOSH WILSON:Wilson, along with the rest of the Redskins‘ defense, had a terrible time matching up with WR Percy Harvin’s speed. On third-and-10 with the score tied 23-23 in the fourth quarter, Harvin ran past Wilson in a one-on-one situation. The Redskins blitzed eight defenders, putting their corners in man-to-man with no help. Wilson lined up 5 yards from Harvin, giving Harvin a free release. Harvin simply ran by Wilson, and QB Joe Webb threw up a pass that Harvin could run underneath. Wilson stayed close enough to make a play on Harvin as soon as he caught it, but Harvin had enough separation to make a 36-yard catch that extended the decisive touchdown drive.

Harvin also ran away from Wilson on the decisive 8-yard touchdown catch. He lined up as an H-back and slid out the right side of the formation while play action misdirected the defense to the left. Wilson couldn’t get to Harvin in time. Harvin also converted third-and-6 on Minnesota’s first touchdown drive by separating from Wilson on a shallow cross. Two tight ends ran interference crossing from the other side, and that backed Wilson off.

Wilson gave up some plays in the run game, too. QB Christian Ponder ran 8 yards on a naked bootleg to Wilson’s side after Wilson came down hard on the run fake. RB Toby Gerhart ran Wilson over on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter. Wilson ducked his head and never wrapped Gerhart’s legs up.

It wasn’t all bad for Wilson, though. He got the Redskins off the field on Minnesota’s first drive by shedding a block on a screen and stopping RB Adrian Peterson for 5 yards on third-and-9. Overall, though, Wilson became the latest in a long list of corners to struggle matching up with Harvin.

LOLB RYAN KERRIGAN: Minnesota dual-threat QB Joe Webb victimized the Redskins several times by running the counter option to Kerrigan’s side of the field. Kerrigan has done quite well this season turning the corner and getting down the line of scrimmage to make run stops from behind, but Kerrigan’s aggressiveness worked against him defending the option.

On second-and-goal from the Redskins‘ 9 in the third quarter, Webb took the snap, faked running left and then circled back to the right to run the option with RB Toby Gerhart. Kerrigan slanted hard to the inside when Webb started left, and that allowed TE Kyle Rudolph to seal him in. Kerrigan recovered in time only for Webb to drag him across the goal line.

Story Continues →