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Griffin starts hot but Redskins can't score on final drive

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Griffin starts hot but Redskins can't score on final drive

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins started hot and finished hot. But in between they didn’t have enough offense or defense to keep the Minnesota Vikings from getting their second win of the season.

Trailing by 34-27 with 3:30 to play, the Redskins embarked on a desperation drive that got them a first and goal at the eight and a Roy Helu Jr. run got them to second down at the four. But Griffin threw three straight incompletions, including a fourth-down fade pattern to Santana Moss that was just out of bounds in the left corner of the end zone.

"This loss hurts, but we have to pick ourselves up and get back to work after the weekend,” said Griffin. “We have to keep pushing forward"

Griffin ended up with one of his better statistical days of the season, completing 24 of 37 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns.

But the numbers are somewhat deceptive. Griffin was on fire in the first half, completing 16 of 21 for 179 yards and all three touchdowns. But he completed just half of his passes in the second half, going 8 for 16 for 102 yards. After driving for a field goal in their first possession of the second half, making it five scores in five possessions and giving them a 27-14 lead, they did not score again.

Griffin didn’t get much help from his line. He was hit frequently in the first half but not sacked. In the final 30 minutes those hits got home as Griffin was sacked a season-high four times.

"I got hit a lot, but it's football,” said Griffin.

As noted, the offense started off well. The Redskins had the ball four times in the first half. The results were 11 plays, 43 yards, field goal, 7-78-TD, 13-85-TD, 11-82-TD. Griffin was playing as well has he had all year, thanks in large part to Alfred Morris. He had 17 carries for 88 yards.

But after a 12-play, 59-yard drive to a field goal to open the second half the Redskins next three drives went three plays, five plays, and three plays. They wound up punt, punt, and punt while the Vikings were taking the lead.

As noted, Griffin was under pressure more in the second half. Even when he had time on occasion he was off target. And it didn't help that after getting those 17 carries in the first half, Morris got just seven in the second.

The key series was the middle one. The Vikings had scored to take a 28-27 lead. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder was out of the game with an injury and this was the Redskins’ chance to blunt Minnesota’s momentum. They overcome a first and 20 to get one first down. But back-to-back sacks on third and fourth down—on both occasions Griffin had defenders in his face—killed the drive and the Redskins had to punt.

The Vikings got two field goals in their final two possessions, leaving the Redskins the ball with three and a half minutes to go and needing a touchdown to force overtime. Griffin was 4-4 for 34 yards as the Redskins got down to the four. But his pass to Jordan Reed was off target, his third-down pass to bounced off of Pierre Garçon’s hands and Moss caught his fourth-down pass but he couldn’t get two feet inbounds.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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