Week 6 three-and-out
- Article by: DAN WIEDERER
- Star Tribune
- October 10, 2012 - 9:12 PM
The Redskins haven't won a home game since Week 2 in 2011, a skid of eight consecutive losses. The Vikings, meanwhile, have won on visits to FedEx Field each of the past two seasons and haven't lost there since 2004. So that's got to be good Week 6 karma, right? Wait, there's more. Here's a trio of other things you should know.
1. Robert Griffin III isn't the only Redskins rookie making a major impact.
Allow us to introduce you to Alfred Morris, a 5-10, 218-pound running back drafted in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic.
At the time Morris was picked, he seemed like he might have an outside chance to make the team or maybe secure a practice squad spot.
Washington was already sorting through a crowded backfield that included Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower.
Now? Through five games, Morris is the NFL's third-leading rusher with 491 yards and four touchdowns, asserting himself so well that coaches and teammates are breaking out some crazy superlatives.
"He's right up at the top with some of the guys I've been with," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "That says a lot."
This is the same Shanahan who has coached such standout backs as Bo Jackson, Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis.
And Shanahan isn't alone with his praise. Receiver Santana Moss, a 12th-year veteran, said Morris runs harder than any of the backs he's played with, too. That list includes Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, Portis, LaMont Jordan and Ladell Betts.
"He's a tough dude, man," Moss said. "That stands out the most. ... He runs through you. He's going to run around you. He's one of those guys where any way he can get it done, he gets it done."
Morris opened the Redskins' eyes most during preseason action. He rolled over Indianapolis for 107 yards on 14 carries in the third preseason game and secured the starting job.
"He has a little bit of everything," Shanahan said. "He's got power. He's got the ability to make the first guy miss. He's always leaning to get the extra 2 or 3 yards."
2. The Vikings made a concerted effort to steer Christian Ponder around a big confidence pothole Sunday.
After throwing 144 consecutive passes without an interception, Ponder was picked off on back-to-back throws against the Titans, a stumble that could have caused the perfectionist wheels in his brain to begin turning too quickly.
But offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave rescued Ponder by subsequently dialing up a bunch of high-percentage, short passes to build new momentum.
After the two picks, Ponder completed 12 of his final 13 throws for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Eight of those passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage. Three others went less than 7 yards down the field. Just like that, Ponder left Week 5 on a roll instead of worrying about his turnovers.
"It's important to establish a rhythm," he said. "And as you establish a rhythm, that establishes confidence. To connect on shorter passes and build that confidence again, that definitely helps."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was pleased with Ponder's ability to regroup.
Said Frazier: "I just think back to a year ago where I would have had to come over [and say], 'Hey, come on, Christian, let's go. Get your head up. You have to go back out there.' It wasn't necessary."
3. The Vikings defense is showing impressive balance.
Quick quiz: Name the weak link on the Vikings D. Hard to find one, isn't it?
At present, the defensive line is playing well, the secondary is much improved from 2011 and the linebacking corps has jelled into a united and confident bunch.
In all, 14 players have recorded either a sack or had a hand in a takeaway. Since halftime of Week 2, the defense has been on the field for 241 plays and has come up with more takeaways (five) than it has allowed touchdowns (three).
"Our unity is a big deal," middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "It builds a lot of confidence to have so many guys in sync."
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