The Washington Redskins' offense did whatever it wanted Thursday night in Minnesota. The Redskins led by 13 points midway through the third quarter, scoring on every single possession. They were facing a quarterback who has struggled all year and a defense that hadn't forced a punt in 14 straight possessions at home.
And the Redskins still found a way to lose. The Vikings' 34-27 victory drops Washington to 3-6 on the season, the same record the team had at this point a season ago.
Washington's defense looks beyond repair again. But it was the offense's shortcomings inside the 10-yard line that stuck out. On a night when the Redskins rushed for 191 yards, they couldn't score on a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter. (During that sequence, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan surprisingly called two passing plays.)
With 34 seconds left in the game, the Redskins were back inside the 5-yard line. They had no timeouts, and they dialed up three consecutive pass plays that didn't put Robert Griffin III on the move. Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon couldn't come up with the first two throws. With the game on the line on fourth down, Griffin threw a low-percentage fade to Santana Moss. Game over.
Give Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder credit for making some nice throws in the third quarter before leaving with a dislocated left shoulder. Give Matt Cassel credit for a few nice throws and give Adrian Peterson even more credit for helping to kill the clock with violent runs. The Vikings' defense applied pressure in the final frame, blitzing like crazy to end the game.
With all that said, this is a game the Redskins have to win. Minnesota was a one-win team that was missing five starters. The Redskins' offense racked up 433 yards of offense without a turnover, but it came up short in the crucial moments. The defense didn't force a punt in the entire second half, giving up four straight scoring drives.
The Redskins can't blame this loss on Griffin's recovery from ACL surgery. He played great overall, and the offense has played well over the last month. We just can't see them overcoming the defense.
This is a Redskins team that is less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps they will prove us wrong again, but it does not look like a team capable of going on a late-season run. Just because they won seven consecutive games to finish last season doesn't mean lightning is going to strike twice.