1. About time on Patterson
Nine games into a lost season, Cordarrelle Patterson finally became visible on offense. On the Vikings’ third possession, he actually caught — gulp! — two balls on one drive. Lined up wide right, he caught a 20-yarder to the Redskins 21-yard line. Later, after a boneheaded unnecessary-roughness penalty by Redskins linebacker Perry Riley Jr. gave the Vikings first-and-goal at the 2, Patterson notched the first TD catch of his career on a well-designed play. Lined up to the left, he came in motion, then released into the right corner of the end zone. Cornerback Josh Wilson had no chance against a bigger target on the move. The whole drive might have been one of the better ones of the season. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave alternated throwing the ball left three times and right three times. One of the throws left was a 5-yarder to running back Adrian Peterson spread wide in a five-receiver set. It was one of the few times Ponder has looked comfortable and the offense hasn’t looked stale. Ponder was 6-for-6 for 44 yards.
2. New approach with CP84’s returns
The Redskins kickoff team wanted no part of Patterson, who came into the game leading the league with a 36.7-yard average. In the first half, the Redskins pooched three kickoffs, popped one up one to the 1-yard line and squibbed the last one. It actually worked in the Vikings’ favor in the first half as their average starting point off kickoffs was the 28. That’s 2 yards better than their NFL-leading starting point coming into the game. Of course, Washington’s approach limited the chances of giving up a touchdown. In his first seven NFL games, Patterson tied the NFL career record for most touchdowns of 105 yards or longer (two). Joe Webb returned the opening kickoff 9 yards to the 28. A.J. Jefferson returned one 21 yards to the 35. Toby Gerhart returned one 15 yards to the 27. Patterson went 23 yards to the 24. And on the final kickoff of the first half, Patterson went 14 yards to the 25. So, to recap, the two worst starting points in the first half came when Patterson returned the ball. Not a bad fallback plan if future opponents opt to kick away from Patterson.
3. Tacklers whiffing and walloped
The Vikings missed as many tackles as you’ll see in an NFL game. Especially by the winning team. Of course, you may never see another receiver run as hard and deliver as many running back-type blows as Pierre Garcon did. The Redskins trailed 14-10 and were at their 48-yard line when Robert Griffin III threw over the middle to Garcon. Safety Andrew Sendejo raced in, lowered his shoulder and … got walloped. Garcon flattened him at the Vikings 38-yard line, avoided linebacker Chad Greenway and ran 18 more yards before being stopped.
4. Ponder’s deep ball had no shot
Here’s another head-scratcher from Musgrave — Vikings win the toss, get the ball and … call three pass plays in their first four snaps. Adrian Peterson overlooked … again. And the drive ended with Ponder throwing a weak deep ball that traveled 43 yards into double coverage and had absolutely no chance of being caught by its intended target, Greg Jennings. Safety Brandon Meriweather intercepted it and returned it to midfield. It took a goal-line stand from the defense to fall behind only 3-0.
5. RG3’s arm strength, moxie
Anyone who thinks the Vikings wouldn’t have drafted Robert Griffin III if they had the No. 2 overall pick in 2012 are, well, nuts. Yeah, they had Ponder, whom they had selected 12th overall in 2011. But guys like RG3 have the ability to erase everything bad around them. Perfect example. Third-and-goal from the 11-yard line late in the first half. The Redskins had just been penalized 5 yards for a false start on tackle Trent Williams. The Metrodome crowd was as loud as it has been all season as the Vikings led 14-10. Then both defensive ends — Jared Allen and Brian Robison — converged on Griffin. As they’re blasting him, Griffin delivers a strong pump-fake and throws a laser as he’s falling backward. It splits Greenway and cornerback Marcus Sherels for an 11-yard TD to tight end Jordan Reed.