The Redskins defense pitched a second half shutout on Sunday, demonstrating the defense's disruptive potential the team wants to harness for the rest of the season.*
The Redskins came out of their Bye Week hoping to play more stifling defense. The team can now look to the second half of their game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday for a blueprint on how they want to perform defensively in the second half of the season.
After a trying defensive stretch allowed three Vikings touchdowns in the final six minutes of the first half, the Redskins' defense regrouped at halftime and held Minnesota scoreless for the rest of the game.
"We just did what we didn't want to in the first half," linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens said. "We got up early, then we got kind of relaxed, kind of conservative. They put up 20 points in a blink of an eye. We locked them down in the second half; they didn't score. I'm proud of the defense, proud of the way the offense played."
The Redskins' Week 8 contest against the Detroit Lions ended in a loss after a similar game flow where the Redskins jumped to an early lead before allowing a their opponent to spring back to life. Shutting the door on the Vikings in the final 30 minutes was a statement on how the team wants to play going forward.
"It says that we can be resilient," defensive end Chris Baker said. "We still got to learn how to when we got a team down, keep them down, cause a lot of times we get the lead early and then we give up the lead and let the team come back. If we really want to be a good team, we got to stick our foot in their throat from the beginning of the game until after the game and not let teams back into the game."
The Redskins wanted to emphasize stopping the run in the second half of the season, and they got off to a fantastic start on Sunday, holding the Vikings to 21 carries for a measly 47 yards and one touchdown.
"They couldn't run the ball on us, we showed that in the first half and the second half," Cravens said. "They were just attacking us in the flats and with crossing routes. Once we honed in on that, we just tightened down and they didn't have anything."
Without an effective running game, the Vikings air attack was forced to take on the offensive load. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford completed 31 of his 40 passes for 307 yards, including two quick touchdowns inside the final minute of the second quarter to turn a seven point deficit into a six point lead at halftime.
Outside of their first half outburst, the Vikings offense struggled to gain a foothold.
"Played better in the second half today, we got some stops when we needed it, one to two minute drill which we always pride ourselves on doing," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "Tonight was big for us...Guys being on assignments sharper and making better plays. We saw when allowed those couple touchdowns, those guys were kinda running a little bit open. We got to be on our assignments better and I think we were in the second half."
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams in their 2016 Week 10 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings Nov. 13, 2016, at FedExField.
A huge part of the second half performance was taking advantage of the Vikings patchwork offensive line and getting into the backfield. Linebacker Preston Smith had perhaps the best game of his career, highlighted by his impressive one-handed interception of Sam Bradford that ended a threatening Vikings drive late in the fourth quarter. Smith ended the next Vikings drive with a crushing sack of Bradford on fourth down that put the game away.
Smith credited the Redskins' defensive effort in part to the offense, who held the ball for 11:23 of the third quarter, allowing the defense a rest that paid off at the end of the game.
With that much rest, the Redskins focused on getting the job done and putting the game away.
"I don't think we were ever worried," Cravens said. "I don't think we ever got to the point where we were on our heels. You could see it early in the season, a couple two-minute drills, we were on our heels. Offenses were taking chunks out. Today, we just played our game. Even when we allowed first downs, got penalties, we just played our game. If we keep playing with that confidence, and going out with that spirit and that heart as a whole, we're a very tough team to beat."