The Washington Redskins appeared to be on their way to an easy victory Thursday night. The first half went about as well as they hoped. Robert Griffin III threw three touchdowns in what was arguably his best half of football this season, Alfred Morris had 88 yards rushing and the Redskins held a 24-14 lead over the Minnesota Vikings. Life was good.
If only the second half hadn't happened.
The Redskins had 145 total yards in the second half after racking up 288 in the first. Robert Griffin III went 8-for-16 passing after intermission after going 16-for-21 before. He was sacked four times, three times in the fourth quarter alone, after being kept clean in the pocket through the first two quarters of the game. The old protection problems resurfaced, and Griffin and the Redskins' offense suffered as a result.
That said, the offense arguably played well enough to beat the now 2-7 Vikings squad. Unfortunately, the defensive secondary did not hold up its end. Christian Ponder completed nine straight passes after throwing an interception on his second pass of the game. He finished 17-for-24 for 174 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game late in the third quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. Matt Cassel stepped up admirably and finished the game 4-for-6 for 47 yards to lead the Vikings to two field goals.
The Vikings entered the game unsure if they had a viable starter, and came away believing they had two. Making opposing quarterbacks look good isn't a new for the Redskins, however. Washington has now given up 18 passing touchdown to 10 interceptions on the season. The 97.7 average quarterback rating they have allowed to opponents ranks 27th out of 32 teams.
For the Vikings, the win is clearly a big momentum boost. Ponder's performance can't be discounted because it came against a poor secondary. He has struggled against bad defenses in the past, too. On Thursday night, he moved around the pocket well, placed pinpoint passes on the run and looked like an excellent quarterback outside of one awful throw at the outset of the game.
With the offense holding its own, the Vikings' front seven came alive and did what many expected it to do at the season's outset: Hit the quarterback.
Minnesota, for a half, felt like a playoff team again. That feeling may not last long beyond the 30-minute window that opened Thursday, but who's to say. Perhaps Thursday night was the story of the same 'ol Redskins, or maybe the Vikings had a real epiphany. We'll find out soon enough.