LANDOVER, Md. -- The quarterbacks who picked them apart, establishing themselves as MVP candidates, all looked the part. Alex Smith and Carson Wentz were high draft picks. Dak Prescott starred as a rookie and has continued to show this season that he wasn’t a fluke.
Yes, Case Keenum, playing with his fourth team in four seasons. Case Keenum, who entered with seven touchdown passes in six starts. That Case Keenum did what no other quarterback has done versus Washington this season: Throw for 304 yards. Oh, and a career-best four touchdowns.
“We played like trash in the secondary,” Redskins corner Josh Norman said. “We really did.”
Because of it, the Redskins have returned to an unwelcome spot -- needing to win on the road next week at New Orleans to stay close enough to make a run at the playoffs. The Saints, by the way, just scored 47 points at Buffalo.
After Sunday’s 38-30 loss to Minnesota, the Redskins are 4-5. They had a chance to build on the momentum of a comeback win at Seattle, only to cast into doubt what this team can accomplish.
Thanks to Keenum. It’s not as if the Redskins didn’t know what to expect. They knew he was tough to sack (five in 233 pass attempts entering the game). They knew he was efficient and got rid of the ball quickly. Coach Jay Gruden pointed out, too, how Keenum liked to distribute the ball to many receivers.
“And when he did get out of the pocket, he hurt us with some scramble throws,” Gruden said.
He wasn’t sacked in 29 pass attempts, averaged 10.5 yards per pass attempt, threw four touchdown passes and helped Minnesota to convert eight of 10 on third down. The Redskins mentioned all week how Keenum could extend plays. But that efficiency showed on crucial downs on a clinching drive. He extended a play and found the tight end for 12 yards on third-and-4 and, on a third-and-1, he threw a pass at the line of scrimmage and watched Adam Thielen turn it into a 2-yard gain. Efficient.
That’s how the Vikings scored 28 points in the first half.
“It was one of the worst defensive performances we’ve had since I’ve been here in the first half,” Gruden said.
The Redskins' corners -- Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland -- struggled with double moves, leading to long gains. Safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted two passes, setting up one touchdown. Beyond him, though, a too-quiet day for everyone else.
“We just didn’t have it today,” Norman said. “We wasn’t on. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was something going around I guess. We just wasn’t on. That’s what sucks the most.”
The Vikings coaxed Washington into giving up big plays by biting on fakes. Norman fell for the out route; Stefon Diggs turned it into an out-and-up for a 51-yard gain. Breeland remembered Thielen getting open earlier on a dig route, but didn’t get the ball. So when he saw the dig again, Breeland jumped it – and watched Thielen break free for a 38-yard gain.
“We’ve got to watch our eyes, man,” Breeland said.
Make no mistake, the Redskins’ offensive players, who managed 30 points and 394 yards, will watch film and come away with one thought: They should have done more. An open pass to Chris Thompson should have resulted in a touchdown, but the pass was a little high and caused him to stumble and fall after the catch. They settled for a field goal. Josh Doctson would have been open for a touchdown, and the ball was there -- except he stumbled and fell. Another time quarterback Kirk Cousins missed him down the seam, and another time Jamison Crowder couldn’t hold on to a ball in the end zone. Cousins threw for a lot of yards; he wasn’t nearly good enough. Add it up: That’s 15 potential points.
Still, this was a defense that couldn’t stop Minnesota when it needed, one week after shutting down Seattle. The Redskins like the unit they’re building and they play with attitude. But the lack of an interior push -- minus Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen -- was troublesome. But it went beyond that.
“Can’t really blame injuries this week,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “That’s not an excuse. We just got our butts kicked up and down the field defensively.”
They just played an overall bad game -- their worst defensive game of the season at a time when they needed a strong effort to keep pace in the NFC.