News & Analysis

MIN-WAS grades: Cousins spreads ball around in Washington win

Washington Redskins 26, Minnesota Vikings 20

Here are the highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Washington's win over Minnesota.

Washington Redskins

Quarterback grade: Kirk Cousins, 75.8

Cousins spreads the ball far and wide

Touchdown passes to Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder, along with 81 yards passing to Pierre Garcon, highlighted the depth of the receiving corps Kirk Cousins has at his disposal in an efficient performance. Cousins got good rewards hitting the intermediate range between the numbers (four of four for 60 yards) but targeted 23 of 33 passes outside the numbers collecting 164 of his passing yards and both of his touchdown passes in the wide areas of the field

Top offensive grades:

LT Ty Nsekhe, 83.9
WR Pierre Garcon, 80.5
WR Jamison Crowder, 80.3
TE Vernon Davis, 79.7
TE Jordan Reed, 77.1

Strength in depth drives Washington forwards

Rob Kelley’s ascension to starter at running back was cemented with Matt Jones reportedly a healthy scratch for this game and the rookie ran hard behind an offensive line missing its star left tackle for the first of four games this season. In his stead, LT Ty Nsekhe surrendered only one hurry and put in a strong performance as a run blocker, to which Kelley added seven missed tackles and 73 yards after contact to ensure Washington’s offense had a balanced attack. With two WRs and two tight ends among the top five grades for the offense, Washington showed the depth and breadth of talent they boast around Kirk Cousins.

Top defensive grades:

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, 82.6
LB Su’a Cravens, 82.1
DE Trent Murphy, 77.7
OLB Preston Smith, 77.2
S Will Blackmon, 76.7

Big time plays in big moments

Since he entered the league at the start of last season, Preston Smith has converted more than 20 percent of his total pressures into sacks and his knack for the big play was evident again today against Minnesota. His zone drop in the fourth quarter outfoxed Sam Bradford and his fourth down sack clinched the game, immediately exploiting Jake Long’s departure. This year’s second-round pick LB Su’a Cravens turned in his best game of the season so far with two pressures and a defensive stop which came beating a WR block on a pin-pull play to tackle Ronnie Hillman deep in the backfield for a six-yard loss.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback grade: Sam Bradford, 47.4

Bradford dinks and dunks and comes up short

Sam Bradford’s average depth of target in this game was 5.3 yards — his lowest of the season with only eight passes attempted 10 or more yards downfield and three of those completed. That approach worked up to a point for the Vikings, keeping the pass rush off Bradford with short quick passes and receivers gaining after the play but in the crunch Bradford couldn’t deliver. A bad misread led to an interception for Preston Smith and Bradford was lucky not to throw an interception to Mason Foster earlier in the game as well. The Vikings have yielded some dividends from getting the ball out quicker on shorter passes the last two weeks but at the crucial moments their team — and this week, their quarterback — have come up short as their slide continues.

Top offensive grades:

WR Stefon Diggs, 88.0
C Joe Berger, 80.2
RT T.J. Clemmings, 80.0
RG Brandon Fusco, 75.9
LT Jake Long, 74.0

Diggs puts on a show on his return home

Playing an NFL game in his home state for the first time in his career, Stefon Diggs put on a show for the Vikings. He dominated CB Kendall Fuller, putting up 106 of his 158 receiving yards against the rookie from Virginia Tech including the 36-yard gain that sparked the Minnesota offense in the second quarter. Diggs also added value as an open field blocker keeping the path open for Kyle Rudolph on his receiving score, running Fuller into the endzone as Rudolph tied the game.

Top defensive grades:

DT Linval Joseph, 83.4
LB Anthony Barr, 78.7
DT Tom Johnson, 78.2
CB Terence Newman, 78.1
DT Shamar Stephen, 73.0

Joseph stands tall while others fall off tackles

Nose tackle Linval Joseph is setting himself up as the most consistent player on this defense as the other stars from a year ago fail to find the kind of form they showed last season and early in the Vikings five-game winning streak to start the season. Joseph was a disruptive force in the middle of the defense against run and pass, but with Eric Kendricks knocked out of the game early he didn’t have the support in run defense from those around him to make Washington one-dimensional. S Harrison Smith has missed as many tackles in his last three games (seven) as he did in the entirety of the 2015 season.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Stefon Diggs

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.

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