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Redskins 2013 Game-by-Game, Vikings Ponder their quarterback question

Redskins vs. Vikings

This is the ninth of a 16-part series where Hog Heaven looks at each game on the Washington Redskins 2013 schedule. We are six days away from the start of training camp.

Thursday, Nov 7 – Redskins at Vikings

Quarterback Match-up: When last these teams met, Robert Griffin stuck a dagger in the Vikings’ comeback attempt with his 76-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to go.

Griffin's run on that one play nearly matched Adrian Peterson's rushing total for the whole game. Griffin, in fact, out-rushed both Peterson and Alfred Morris that night. Griffin keeps making us forget that he prefers to be viewed as a passing quarterback instead of a running quarterback. Oh, but how fantasy football loves black running quarterbacks.  

That run encapsulated every debate about Griffin’s play style and Washington’s play calling. The Redskins needed but six yards for first down. Kyle Shanahan called for a quarterback run with Griffin showing pass from the shotgun formation. Minnesota did not account for Griffin running and he easily made the first down.

Griffin might have slid inbounds to kill the play. He had an unobstructed view of the goal line 70 yards away and had the speed to get there. The spectacular success of the play does not hide the fact that quarterbacks are fair game when they are running.

But Griffin was not wrong to make that run. Shanahan was right to call it. Thus, the dilemma of the season – to keep the offense as is, or run Griffin less.

Hog Heaven is not sure how the parties will resolve the argument. The offense works. It should be tweaked, not changed.

Christian Ponder’s showing against the Redskins encapsulates why he is so maddening to Vikings fans. He threw two touchdowns on the day. His 352 passing yards offset a rough outing for Adrian Peterson (79 yards, 17 carries). But Minnesota’s first three drives died in the red zone, forcing settlement for field goals instead of touchdowns.

Ponder threw two fourth-quarter picks, one by ex-Vikings, ex-Redskins Madieu Williams who played his greatest game for Washington that day. The second was the drive killing INT by DeAngelo Hall just over the goal line with 22 seconds to go. Losing a fumble while taking a sack did not help either.

Ponder is fighting for his status as a starter this season. He is very likely to improve his performance. No one will call Hog Heaven a homer for projecting a better performance from RGIII, but Ponder will play well enough to keep it close. 

The Vikings don't need Ponder to win the game. They just want him not to lose it.

Coordinator Match-up

Bill Musgrave vs. Jim Haslett: Well-travelled Bill Musgrave is a Mike Shanahan disciple. He was the 49ers back-up QB when Shanahan was OC, then followed Shanahan to Denver to back up John Elway. He was the Eagles quarterback coach under Ray Rhodes, then was QB coach and OC for the Panthers under George Siefert. In short, Musgrave shares a common coaching ancestry with Shanahan and is firmly embedded in the West Coast Offense.

Musgrave was Redskins quarterback coach in the 2005 playoff year, but he was cast aside when Joe Gibbs brought in Al Saunders in 2006 as part of the general coaching churn of the early Snyder era.

The Vikings have been mired in division fourth place. That’s why they appeared on the Redskins schedule so regularly. Musgrave helped construct a 10-win season and an entry to the playoffs. Musgrave coached many quarterbacks, but this offense runs on the legs of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings beat the ‘Skins in 2011 when both Peterson and Ponder were injured. Who knew Toby Gerhart could run so well?

The Vikings think they have upgraded its wide receiver corps with Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarelle Patterson.

Haslett does not have Madieu Williams to throw at the Vikings any more. Haslett worked magic with the secondary last season before fans appreciated what he was up against. The Vikings offer a versatile offense, even of Jennings isn’t quite as good as Percy Harvin. To win, Haslett’s defense must contain Peterson and pressure Ponder into more mistakes. Ponder does not have to win this game. He just has not to lose it.

Kyle Shanahan vs. Alan Williams: Williams falls from the Tony Dungy coaching tree and maintained the Vikings front seven as one of the better ones in the league. They were not in RGIII’s league last season. The Vikings are the only NFC North team with first-hand experience with the Redskins offense.

Teams have signaled that defending read option is to hit the quarterback every chance you get. Williams has the horses to do it.

When Kyle Shanahan looks for match ups in the Vikings defense, he will see a hole where Antoine Winfield used to be. The Vikings young secondary can be exploited if the Redskins’ offensive line can hold off the pass rush.  

Storyline:  The Redskins have a short week to prepare for this game. The same is true of the Vikings, but they are at home. Afterwards, the ‘Skins get a mini-Bye break. They won’t play for 10 days before traveling to Philadelphia.

Twin Cities newspapers have a long-standing policy of censoring “Redskins” when writing about Washington’s football team. It is fair to point out that Minneapolis has a large urban Native American population and several Reservations are within a short drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Their sensitivity is more understandable than other media outlets that take the same position.

If you follow Redskins Hog Heaven, you know where we stand on the issue. Prepare for the argument in the lead-up to this game.  

In some Scandinavian countries, the word "vikings" is considered a slur.

Way too early prediction: The Redskins are 1-2 against the Vikings since 2010. Hog Heaven believes the Redskins will split with the NFC North. We believe the Vikings and the Packers are the two toughest of that division. We’re calling this for the Vikings at home.

Next: Washington at Philadelphia

“Way too early prediction” means we reserve the right to change our minds after we see these teams in preseason games. Look for Hog Heaven’s stake-in-the-ground prediction the week before game one.

This story idea was inspired by the Big Ten Network Tom Dienhart who is running a similar series for the B1G football season.

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