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What we learned: Defense holding Redskins back

The Redskins' defense is so defective that Washington got into a shootout with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel of the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night -- and lost.

In the driver's seat with a 27-14 lead early in the third quarter, the Redskins rolled over for four second-half scoring drives directed by a pair of quarterbacks banished to the bench in favor of Josh Freeman three weeks ago. They managed to stop the Vikings on just two drives all night.

The Redskins opened the season with a broken quarterback and a historically bad defense.

Two months later the quarterback is running his offense at near peak efficiency, setting third-down conversion records for a Mike Shanahan-led team. The defense still has no backbone, however, standing second to last in the NFL in points allowed and third to last in yards allowed per game.

It was at this point last season that Robert Griffin III led his team on a seven-game winning streak to close out the season as NFC East champions. He doesn't have the defense to pull off that feat a second time.

Here's what else we learned in Thursday's game:

1. Griffin turned in his finest performance of the season as a passer and decision maker. Even with his pass protection crumbling over the final quarter and a half, Griffin finished the game with his highest passer rating of the year. A third-down conversion machine the past two weeks, Griffin is finally closing in on 2012 form even if the play-calling was dubious in the third and fourth quarters.

2. Alfred Morris joined Ryan Mathews and Zac Stacy as the only NFL running backs with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. The ground attack has been clicking on all cylinders since coordinator Kyle Shanahan began more liberally mixing in the pistol and read-option plays from last season.

3. Getting more one-on-one looks because defenses have to respect the read option, Pierre Garcon has been playing like a top-five NFL receiver over the past few weeks. He was a monster with the ball in his hands, plowing through would-be tacklers with a violent, slashing style. Having entered the game second only to Demaryius Thomas in yards after the catch, Garcon now holds the No. 1 spot.

4. Speaking of violent, slashing runners, Adrian Peterson played better than his box-score numbers suggest. He repeatedly gained yards after contact, dragging defenders for extra yards. His 1-yard third-down conversion in the middle of a fourth-quarter field-goal drive was one of the game's key plays, as he made Brian Orakpo miss in the backfield to finish the run. Peterson is running as well as he has all season the past two weeks.

5. With Kyle Rudolph out of the lineup, the Vikings finally got a return on their $25 million investment in John Carlson. The tight end's 98 yards were just six fewer than he has accumulated in his 22 previous games with Minnesota. Don't expect a repeat performance at Seattle in Week 11.

6. The Green Bay Packers knew what they were doing when they let Greg Jennings walk. The two-time Pro Bowl selection no longer makes defenders miss after the catch.

7. Is there any defensive player with a penchant for thwarting screen passes like Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan? He nearly had a pick-six on a bubble screen to Cordarrelle Patterson.

8. A rejuvenated Kevin Williams led a defensive front that overwhelmed the Redskins' offensive line with blitzes in the second half. Williams' 2.5 sacks gave him his first multisack game since 2009.

9. Despite eight solo tackles and 16 total from fill-in safety Andrew Sendejo, the Vikings secondary was a sea of missed tackles. This has been an issue since Harrison Smith was placed on short-term injured reserve with turf toe.

10. Ponder's injury was diagnosed as a dislocated left shoulder. His "expectation" is that he will return next week, but players are always optimistic about their timetables. The Vikings won't have a good idea about his status until further tests are run Friday. It's not a good sign that he was ruled out for the game minutes after the injury occurred.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Raiders' 2013 chances.

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