Redskins continue to be comfortable in close games
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) After the Washington Redskins allowed the Minnesota Vikings to score 20 consecutive points at the end of the first half Sunday, coach Jay Gruden had to shut the door in his office at halftime to cool down.
Once he regained his poise, so did his team. For the seventh time this season the Redskins had a game decided by one score, and after beating the Vikings they're 4-2-1 in those situations.
This time it was the defense shutting out Minnesota for the final 30 minutes while the offense got the job done, but Washington is comfortable playing football on the razor's edge between winning and losing - mostly because there has been more winning than losing.
''We have a pretty good resolve in this locker room,'' linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. ''We know every game is going to be close. You rarely have a game where you just beat a team 40-0. We know most games we're playing are going to be close, and you have to have that mindset going into every game that you have to play for a full 60 minutes.''
Enduring a bad six minutes like the Redskins did against the Vikings might not work so well against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (4-5) on Sunday night. Either way, it's a good bet that the Redskins (5-3-1) won't get blown out or blow the Packers out of the building in a reprisal of the NFC wild-card game last season.
The Redskins' recipe in close games has included a defense that gets better as games go on, effective offense even in light of red zone struggles and a kicker who ranks among the NFL's most relied upon.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins said coaches, and specifically Gruden, are behind Washington's success in the close games that are part of a close league. Cousins pointed to Gruden's time in the Arena Football League as one reason the head coach knows about clock management as well as adjustments.
''He does a very good job of managing the game in coaching situations,'' Cousins said. ''Any time you have young players in certain positions, it's going to take time. You don't just snap your fingers and get exactly what you want. I think we are all growing together. I don't think we are an old, veteran, experienced team by any means, and there's still a ways to go.''
The Redskins converted a touchdown on only one of four trips to the red zone against Minnesota and allowed two Vikings touchdowns on the other side of the ball. Gruden said the team will continue to patch up the red zone issues but didn't voice much worry about them because the points keep coming.
''I think there are sometimes where going down there and kicking field goals isn't a bad thing in close games,'' Gruden said Monday. ''I would rather do that than force an interception down there.''
Cousins was almost picked off at the goal line in the first quarter, but two Vikings linebackers collided and the ball fell between them. Cousins found receiver Jamison Crowder for a touchdown on the next play.
As for Hopkins, Gruden likes how his kicker rebounded back after missing a 34-yarder in overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30 in London.
''He's been excellent all year,'' Gruden said. ''He gave us no reason to believe that he wouldn't do otherwise then to bounce back. It was great to see it, though.''
NOTES: Gruden hasn't ruled out WR DeSean Jackson playing against Green Bay after missing the Vikings game with a left shoulder injury. ... RT Morgan Moses aggravated a sprained left ankle in the victory but returned and is expected to play.
This is a corrected story. A previous version had the Packers' record listed incorrectly.
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