Defense earns best grade yet vs. Vikings

Defense earns best grade yet vs. Vikings
October 16, 2012, 12:15 pm
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Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (97) runs with the ball after recovering a fumble as Minnesota Vikings tackle Matt Kalil (75) makes the tackle in the second quarter at FedEx Field.

(Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

Defense
Grade vs. Vikings: B+
Comment: Although it may have seemed that the Redskins’ defense got pushed around in the first quarter as Vikings kicker Blair Walsh finished off consecutive drives with short field goals, in fact, keeping Minnesota out of the end zone early likely proved to be the difference in the game.

Three times, Christian Ponder and the Vikings had the ball inside the Redskins’ 10-yard line. But instead of seizing a 21-0 lead, they settled for a 9-0 edge that was quickly erased by Washington’s high-octane offense.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett also deserves kudos for making significant changes to his personnel. After struggling to produce an adequate pass against the Falcons and Buccaneers, Haslett introduced special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander (season-high 27 snaps) to the rotation of linebackers and scaled back playing time for Chris Wilson (2). Recently signed Mario Addison also played 11 snaps.

Of course, the Redskins still miss two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Brian Orakpo. But his absence was much less noticeable Sunday with Alexander enjoying a breakout game. Alexander’s fumble recovery at the Minnesota 6-yard line led to a touchdown. He also recorded 1-½ sacks of the team’s season-high four sacks.

Haslett also increased Jordan Pugh’s playing time at safety and reduced DeJon Gomes’.

“We’re going to always try to play the best players,” Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. “So if a guy like Lorenzo has a great game, we’re going to try to find ways to get him into the football game.”

The defense also produced a touchdown – again. Madieu Williams’ 24-yard interception return for a touchdown was the Redskins’ fourth defensive score of the season.

It wasn’t a flawless performance by any means. Ponder passed for 352 yards, Percy Harvin hauled in 14 receptions for 133 yards and Adrian Peterson ripped off an early 32 yard run. But the unit produced three turnovers and, although it bent in the fourth quarter, it did not break, which should give the Redskins something to build on entering next week’s NFC East opener in New York.