LANDOVER, Md. - Early in the third quarter of Saturday's game, Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Joe Webb showed the Washington Redskins defense that he possessed the one asset that's proven to be their kryptonite all season long.
Much like Michael Vick and Cam Newton before him, Webb was able to navigate his way around Redskins defenders using his legs, breaking tackles and using his shiftiness to make others miss in the open field on his way to a nine-yard touchdown run.
It was a score that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, as Webb accounted for scores on three straight drives in the second half, helping to lift the Vikings to a 33-26 victory over Washington.
The athletic backup for the Vikings once again highlighted one of Washington's biggest weaknesses on defense: stopping mobile quarterbacks. Signal callers that can hurt you both with their arms and legs are supposed to pose a challenge to any defense. But for whatever reason, the Redskins have had an even tougher time solving them this season.
This season, three of the top five yardage totals allowed have come against the Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, all of whom have mobile quarterbacks on their rosters. Minnesota and Carolina each put up 33 points against Washington, accounting for two of the four times this season they've yielded 30 points or more.
"It's tough," said nose tackle Barry Cofield. "It provides a different dynamic with the quarterback carrying the ball. In those situations, you may give up a play or two, but you can't give up the big play. You got to make tackles when you get the opportunity."
The problem for the Redskins is that when given the opportunity to make those plays, they've floundered. Much like Panthers did in Week 7 with Newton, the Vikings ran the option with Webb in the game, keeping the Redskins defense on its heels.
"I thought [Joe] Webb came in and did some things well with the football," Mike Shanahan said of Minnesota's altered attack. "[They ran] the counter options and keeping the ball alive, which wasn't what they had been doing [with Ponder in the game]. He made some big time plays, made some big time throws and kept us off balance."
"[The option]'s something we didn't prepare for during the week," linebacker Brian Orakpo added. "Usually when we know what we're going to face during the week, we prepare for it. [Webb] came in and started optioning the ball, running stuff with the quarterback naked [bootleg]."
Webb's appearance came after the Redskins knocked out Vikings starter Christian Ponder, as he left with concussion like symptoms. With star running back Adrian Peterson already out of the game due to a knee injury, Ponder's absence looked to be a boon to the Redskins defense.
But that was far from the case. It was clear the moment Webb came into the game that the Redskins defense was not ready. Every time they thought he'd throw, he would take off for a big run. Each time they thought they had him contained in the pocket, he'd unload a pass downfield to an open receiver.
"It was kinda overwhelming," Orakpo admitted, "and we just couldn't adjust that quickly."
"He's a mobile quarterback, definitely," said rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. "We just didn't play well. We didn't execute. We had guys out of our gaps, and that's why they hit the big plays."
It's pretty clear if the Redskins defense is to take that next step, they must be able to have an answer for the league's dual-threat quarterbacks. Their wins this season have come against the likes of Eli Manning (twice), Kevin Kolb and Sam Bradford. Those aren't exactly guys that scare you with their legs.
"If you're gonna have an athlete back there in certain schemes, they're going to make some plays," Cofield explained. "So when you have an opportunity to make a play, you can't falter, and that's what we did."
Cofield and the rest of the defense will get their chance to atone for Saturday's poor performance, as they'll go against an Eagles team that totaled 422 yards against them in Week 6.
And it'll be Vick -- perhaps the king of all mobile NFL quarterbacks -- that they'll have to do it against.
For more Redskins coverage, please visit Hogs Haven, SB Nation's Redskins blog. For the perspective from the other side, please check out SB Nation Minnesota and Daily Norseman, SB Nation's Vikings blog.