The Vikings put up a fight before falling to Washington 26-20, and Everson Griffen was twice a part of the effort on big defensive plays.
Late in the second quarter, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins handed off to running back Chris Thompson on their first possession of the drive. Thompson gained seven yards but was then stopped by Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who forced a fumble. Griffen showed awareness on the play, immediately tracking the loose ball and falling on top of it.
Griffen's fumble recovery enabled Minnesota's offense to take control of the ball at Washington's 33-yard line. The Vikings finished the drive with a pass to Adam Thielen for their third touchdown of the quarter, a score that gave Minnesota the 20-14 lead.
Two quarters later, Griffen showed up again to give the Vikings another shot. This time, Griffen had moved inside to defensive tackle from his usual position at end. With three defensive ends – Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter and Griffen – on the line for the play, Griffen was able to break through and pressure Cousins, who was then sacked by Hunter.
The play was Minnesota's lone sack of the game.
"They [threw] quick and short routes, didn't allow us to get to the quarterback like we needed to," Griffen said after the game. "They [made] it hard for us, but we need to find a way to make it easy. That's by executing better and doing your assignment better."
Griffen expressed frustration that the Vikings defensive play wasn't enough to stop Washington from handing them their fourth consecutive loss.
"We have to watch the tape and we have to figure out something," Griffen said. "We have to get back to playing us. We're giving up too many big plays; we're not tackling good. We just need to get back to us and do what we do."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said there were some specific things the team worked on as a defense throughout the week, and he will be looking at the tape to see how and when those things played a role in Sunday's loss.
"These guys were a handful because of a lot of things that they do and the skill that they have," Zimmer said. "I think some of it has been, we got eaten up a little bit on the outside today."
Zimmer said he can't ignore the team's current situation, but he emphasized that the Vikings won't be "sticking our heads in the sand." Even after a string of losses, Minnesota is tied with Detroit for the division's best record at 5-4.
"I'm concerned, obviously, but I still believe. I believe that, if we do a couple things there and a couple things there, we're going to win games," Zimmer said. "It doesn't look like that right now, but the big thing is, if we don't have fight, we have no chance. And we have guys that will fight; we're just not playing well enough right now."
As one of four season-long team captains, Griffen feels the weight of bringing his teammates together to fix problems and pull the Vikings out of their current slump.
"This is a team game. We have to come together as a team on all phases and figure out what it is," Griffen said. "The offense, they did a good job putting some points up for us, and it's time for the defense to come in and start executing again and eliminating big plays. It's a team effort, and we have to figure it out."
View game action photos as the Vikings take on the Redskins at FedExField on Sunday.