- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2017

LANDOVER — Despite a season-high 30 points, the Washington Redskins offense left opportunities on the table Sunday in a 38-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, stumbling in two major areas: the red zone and third down.

If the Redskins hope to fix those problems before Sunday’s date with the red-hot New Orleans Saints, they’ll have to do it without their starting running back. Redskins coach Jay Gruden announced Monday that Rob Kelley will miss “a few weeks” with an MCL sprain and a high ankle sprain.

Kelley, who missed two games earlier in the season because of injuries, could be a candidate for injured reserve.

“I think it depends how much time [Kelley will miss],” Gruden said. “Three, 4, 5, 6 weeks. We’ll have to wait and see. Gather that information and see how many roster spots we have for other guys to fill voids.”

Gruden said the Redskins will look to bring in another running back in the meantime, adding that rookie Samaje Perine will see more action.

Against the Vikings, the Redskins gambled early, converting two fourth-downs in the first half but didn’t have the same luck late. In the second half, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-eight and Chris Thompson was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 when the Redskins were chasing a comeback.

The Redskins went 3-of-5 on fourth down, which normally translates to a successful day.

“There was some plays out there that are really good, really impressive for our offense against a very good defense and there was some plays that we’d like to think we can make,” Gruden said. “Unfortunately we didn’t make them. Just got to get back to the drawing board here, 4-5, and try to make sure we continue to compliment them on the good they’re doing, coach them on the things we need to do better and go from there.”

Cousins had another solid outing, throwing for 327 yards with one touchdown. He also added two rushing touchdowns.

But the Redskins struggled in the red zone and on third down. The Redskins were forced to settle for field goals because of errors, and in some cases, unlucky bounces. For instance, Cousins completed a 27-yard throw to running back Chris Thompson on fourth down, but if Thompson stays upright, it’s a touchdown.

Instead, Thompson fell and Redskins kicker Nick Rose went on to make a field goal to put Washington ahead, 10-7.

Later on, Cousins had receiver Josh Doctson wide open in the end zone, but Doctson slipped and fell as the ball went right past him. The next two plays resulted in a Jamison Crowder drop and another incomplete pass intended for Crowder.

The Redskins were just 2-of-4 in the red zone and 5-of-14 on third down.

“If you want to beat a good defense, you’ve got to score when you’ve got them backed up like that,” left tackle Trent Williams said.

Cousins also threw a costly interception near the end of the first half, which the Vikings capitalized on. At the time, the Redskins trailed 21-17 and had the ball with 1:49 left.

Cousins then threw an interception straight to Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander, which was returned to the 23-yard line.

The Vikings went on to score and the Redskins trailed 28-17 at halftime.

“I just felt some trash at my feet and wasn’t really able to transfer my weight and just kind of tried to touch it over the line, but the ball was high to Jamison Crowder,” Cousins said. “Then there’s a defender behind him who catches it.

“That’s the challenge of playing in this position, you put the ball in the air 45 times, you’re making split-second decisions.”

For most of the game, Cousins’ split-second decisions were good. But not converting key chances, along with a porous defense, gave the Redskins another loss.

Compton hurt

Redskins linebacker Will Compton suffered a Lisfranc sprain in the Redskins’ loss to Minnesota. Like Kelley, Compton is a candidate for injuries reserve. The injury is another blow to the Redskins defense, who’ve lost Mason Foster and Jonathan Allen with long-term injuries. Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and safety Montae Nicholson are banged up, as well, missing Sunday’s game.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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