Washington-Minnesota Box Score (ESPN)
I pin this loss on two relatively obvious factors.
Christian Ponder's turnovers gave Washington easy points.
As far as moving the ball goes, the Viking offense didn't play notably better or worse than it has played all season. But the Vikes would have lost to the Jags, 49ers, and Lions as well if in any of those games Ponder had both a fumble that gave the opponent the ball on the six and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Quarterbacks throw interceptions. Good quarterbacks throw interceptions. Great quarterbacks throw interceptions. Great quarterbacks make those interceptions rare, and great teams have the talent to overcome those interceptions. The Vikings are a good team this year (I think?), but not so good they have a significant margin over most of their opponents. They had that margin last week against Tennessee. But most weeks, the Vikes won't have a talent and execution margin high enough to overcome key turnovers. They didn't this week. And they will need to avoid those turnovers to control games in the future.
The Vikings didn't know what the %$#@ Robert Griffin III was doing.
Griffin's numbers (17/22 for 182 yards passing, 13 for 138 rushing) obviously show his production and efficiency. But there was really no point in the game when the Vikings seemed to know if Griffin was handing off, running, or throwing. Alfred Morris didn't do much, but off the play-fake Washington spun the Vikings around in circles. There were throws from the pocket, design QB runs, rollouts, and scrambles. Defenders just didn't seem to know what to do, and when they did seem to know, they weren't quick or fast enough to get to Griffin in time.
The Vikings have forced pocket passers to struggle mightily this season, but the two rookie QBs that bested them both showed mobility and creativity that the Vikings couldn't deal with. The good news for the Vikings is that such QBs are pretty rare, and mostly don't show up on the rest of the 2012 schedule.
Coming off the ledge
The Vikings just lost on the road to a well-coached team with a dynamic quarterback. It wasn't entirely unexpected, nor is it entirely disastrous. We know more about this team now, its strengths and limitations.