It was supposed to be a mismatch and ultimately turned out that way — but not in the way the numbers seemed to suggest.
The Minnesota Vikings entered Sunday night’s game ranked first in the league both in rushing and in containing the run on defense. The Vikings averaged 169.6 yards a game while allowing a paltry 67.9 yards.
The Redskins ran for 106 yards while holding Minnesota to 87, nearly half its normal output. Rookie Adrian Peterson, who averaged 106.5 yards coming in, mustered only 27 yards on nine carries as Washington regularly stacked eight men in the box and dared unproven quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to throw.
“The biggest thing we did was we outnumbered them,” Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “Our corners allowed us to do that by playing so well on the island. As long as they hold up out there, you always have one more man than they can block.”
The defense played a new scheme switching Andre Carter from right defensive end to the left side and rotating Phillip Daniels to the right. Cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot and safety Reed Doughty each played single coverage. Springs and Smoot each had an interception.
“It’s not like we’re last in the NFL in run defense,” said Doughty, whose unit is ranked eighth in the league, allowing 97.3 yards. “The biggest thing is that we tackled well. A lot of teams had the people in the right position, but they didn’t make the play. [Peterson] breaks one tackle, and he has a chance to go the distance.”
The rush defense not only kept Peterson and Co. in check but also scored points. After the Redskins were denied a touchdown after a fourth-and-inches stop in the first quarter — a play that was reversed by instant replay — Washington stuffed Vikings tailback Tony Richardson in the end zone for a safety.
Defensive tackle Kedric Golston’s tackle gave the Redskins a 2-0 lead to begin the rout.
“I had a lot of freedom to run straight up the field,” said Golston, a second-year player from Georgia. “My responsibility is to go through the center. I don’t have to worry about which side to fall off on. It just so happened I was right there when he tried to come through the gap.”
Chris Cooley caught a 33-yard touchdown pass. Santana Moss added a 32-yard scoring reception. Antwaan Randle El registered his first touchdown of the season on a 15-yard option pass from tailback Clinton Portis.
“We’ve been waiting for big plays from our playmakers all year, and now’s the time to do it, when we’re close to the playoffs,” Redskins assistant head coach-offense Al Saunders.
Quarterback Todd Collins had an impressive outing, connecting on 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The 36-year-old veteran backup posted a quarterback rating of 124.8.
“Todd continues to play outstanding,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said of Collins, who has completed 60.8 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions since replacing injured Jason Campbell. “Todd did a great job standing up in traffic in there. … Zero turnovers has been huge. That has been a key the last three games.”
The Redskins were rushing to get a play off with 8:59 left, so Vikings coach Brad Childress couldn’t challenge a ruling that a reception by Santana Moss was inbounds. Washington ended up botching the snap, and Minnesota momentarily got the ball back at the Washington 47 down 25-14.
However, Gibbs challenged that play when coaches in the booth spotted 12 Vikings on the field. Officials ruled that was the case and gave the ball back to Washington.
“There wasn’t a penalty flag with 12 men on the field,” Childress told reporters after the game. “So who is calling the 12 on the field? I’ve never seen it like that. I’ve never seen you lose a possession. Did we have 12 on? We did. But they changed personnel. The video is going to show that, and it’s irritating as [heck].”
Gibbs denied the Redskins changed personnel, which would allow the Vikings to counter under NFL rules. He said the team has a specific play call under such circumstances.
Fullback Mike Sellers suffered a concussion and did not return to the game. He is expected to be available Sunday along with linebackers Khary Campbell (dislocated finger) and H.B. Blades (knee), lineman Lorenzo Alexander (shoulder) and safeties Vernon Fox (thumb) and Doughty (shoulder).
Several players who missed last week could return, including receiver Keenan McCardell (calf), safety Pierson Prioleau (hamstring) and tight end Todd Yoder (knee). Offensive lineman Mike Pucillo is likely to miss a third straight game with back problems, and Campbell (dislocated left knee cap) is also expected to miss the game against the Cowboys.