For the second time in three games, Redskins backup QB turned starter Todd Collins was brilliant completing 22 of 29 for 254 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions as Washington rolled over Minnesota and continued their late season transformation from 5-7 divisional basement dwellers to 8-7 playoff contenders. Now firmly in the drivers seat for the sixth seed in the NFC, the Redskins can earn themselves a wild card and a playoff appearance by defeating the visiting Cowboys in Week 17 regardless of what the Vikings do in Denver.
Redskins running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combined to rush for 97 yards against Minnesota who own the stingiest run defense in the NFL. Portis was the workhorse for the ‘Skins carrying 20 times for 76 yards and a touchdown, and he padded his all purpose yardage total for the day by catching 5 passes for another 48 yards. Portis even completed a 15 yard touchdown pass to Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El who was a quarterback at Indiana University and is usually the one who is on the throwing end of trick passing plays.
No receiver for the Redskins had more than five catches on the day, but Collins spread the football around well to Santana Moss, Randle El, Portis, Reche Caldwell and Chris Cooley. Moss, who caught just four passes from Collins but led the receiving corps with 71 yards and a touchdown has become the go-to guy for Collins. Moss was the key factor in Washington’s victory over the Giants last week when he pulled in two critical passes in howling winds that had buffeted the football whenever either side attempted to gain yardage through the air.
Redskins tight end Chris Cooley who had been averaging better than 15 yards per catch and 80 yards per game over the past five weeks had only one reception against Minnesota but it was a 33 yard touchdown catch that opened Washington’s lead up to 9-0 midway through the first quarter.
Minnesota running back Tony Richardson who came into the game with only 14 yards rushing this season now has a total of only 13 yards. On his one and only rushing attempt of the game he carried the ball into the end zone â€“ his own. The resulting safety gave Washington a 2-0 lead which they never relinquished. Meanwhile Adrian Peterson, the Vikings league leading rusher was stunted for a mere 27 yards on 9 carries.
Peterson was stuffed in the middle by effective play from Washington inside linebacker London Fletcher who filled any gaps in the line of scrimmage, and Redskins defensive ends Philip Daniels and Andre Carter stood their ground on the outside refusing to let Peterson turn the corner into the secondary.
Even Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson gained more yardage on the ground than any of his alleged running backs, but at least when he was running he wasn’t throwing interceptions. Jackson was picked off twice by Washington accounting for two of Minnesota’s three turnovers.
Next week the Vikings travel to Denver where their ground game should be effective. But even if Minnesota dominates the Broncos, they will need help from Dallas to make their playoff dreams come true. The Cowboys have a great record on the road but Washington has all kinds of momentum and may well upset Dallas who has little to gain by a win over the Redskins.