The Vikings weren’t dominant defensively, but five sacks, an interception, two red-zone stops and a rare fourth-quarter stand kept Washington contained long enough for the offense to come from behind three times in Sunday’s 29-26 victory at TCF Bank Stadium.
Yeah, the Redskins scored three red-zone touchdowns. But they also had to settle for field goals two other times when they had first-and-goal at the 13 and second-and-1 at the 6.
“That’s eight points right there that they could have had,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “That would have cost us the game. Being tough in the red zone was something we preached all week.”
Unlike last week’s win at Tampa Bay, Barr won’t be found on SportsCenter returning his forced fumble for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. But the rookie did make two game-changing plays in the red zone earlier in the game.
The first one came out of what’s becoming coach Mike Zimmer’s best defensive scheme. With the Redskins facing second-and-13 at the Vikings 16, Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards loaded the line of scrimmage with seven defenders, including Barr and linebacker Chad Greenway in the “A gaps” between the center and guards.
Barr rushed. Greenway dropped into coverage. And the Redskins clearly were confused as Barr tossed aside 5-11, 215-pound running back Roy Helu Jr. before dropping Robert Griffin III on a painful-looking 8-yard sack. Two plays later, the Redskins settled for a 3-0 lead.
“I’d say that’s probably our most effective defensive alignment,” Barr said. “We do so many different things out of it. It’s not predictable at all.”
Barr would rise up again late in the third quarter. With Washington leading 17-14 and facing second-and-1 from the Vikings 6, Barr was executing a stunt that allowed him to shoot into the backfield and drop 224-pound running back Alfred Morris for a 2-yard loss. The Redskins settled for a field goal after an incompletion on third-and-3.
“That one felt good because I had given up the [9-yard] run the play before,” Barr said. “The fullback came across and I was late getting there and got cut off by the tackle on the backside. So it felt good to beat my man and make that tackle on the next play.”
Barr also had a strip-sack on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.
“Anthony Barr,” said defensive end Brian Robison, “is just one of those guys who gets better every week.”
Barr wasn’t the only defender to stand out. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had his second interception of the season, safety Harrison Smith had a season-high 10 solo tackles and end Everson Griffen, Robison and Greenway tied a team record with sacks on three consecutive snaps by Washington.
Greenway’s sack — his first of the season — came out of that effective double “A gap” look. This time, it was Greenway who rushed and Barr who dropped.
“We like the look because we can do a lot of different things with it,” Greenway said. “That’s the beauty of trying to being offensive on the defensive side of the ball. [Zimmer] is trying to take the game to the offense and dictate to them based off what we’re seeing and what we can do to them.”