Prior to changing his name to Yasiin Bey and making bizarre, less interesting music, the artist formerly known as "Mos Def" reigned as a king in hip-hop's Backpack Boom Bap Renaissance of the late 20th century. On his 1999 debut album he penned a record titled "Mathematics" that contained the following passage: "numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings/But you push too hard, even numbers got limits." In a football sense, it's simply a more verbose way to crystallize the famous Bill Parcells idiom, "you are what your record says you are."
Despite compiling nearly 400 yards of offense, scoring a season-high 30 points, winning time of possession and winning the turnover battle, the mathematics determined that the Skins are now 4-5, dropping their third game in four weeks. Washington now finds its season on the brink of mortality, facing a 12-day stretch where they will play three contests, two of which are on the road. Who and what contributed to this particular loss, exactly? I'm glad you asked! Welcome to the ninth of sixteen #SundaySlices recaps, where we cut up the game to assign fame and blame, based on the outcome, into delicious pie chart form. Try not to make a mess.
(These are the players/coaches/etc. who are not in the pie, because they did not contribute to the loss)
-Maurice Harris. Fresh off the practice squad, into the fire. Harris probably made Washington's catch of the year in the first quarter and earned his call-up for that alone. Prediction: Terrelle Pryor Sr. will soon find himself not even dressing on Sundays.
-Vernon Davis. With Jordan Reed once again showing the durability of Samuel L. Jackson's forever broken character in Unbreakable, Davis stepped up with a team-leading seven grabs and 76 yards. He is the favorite blanket to Kirk's Linus.
-D.J. Swearinger. He attempted to be a one-man Justice League in the second half, grabbing two picks, defending two other passes and being a menace in the run game. On an afternoon when many on the defense came up short, he stood tall with his braids swinging and fists pounding.
FedEx Field: 5%
Cyber Monday is right around the corner for holiday shopping, so when ordering your gifts online, remember: don't use FedEx. You can't anymore. It doesn't exist. The Vikings and their fans burned it down and sailed away. The worst home field "advantage" in the NFL once again shone bright...purple. Also, Danny boy, it's been almost 20 years now, you're telling me you haven't figured out how to keep the field in good condition? That game was played on green concrete.
Josh Doctson's cleats: 5%
First and goal from the 3-yard line. Minnesota had just scored 21 unanswered points in the time it took for the dozen or so Skins fans who were actually in attendance to wait in line for a 24 oz. cup of piss...I mean...Bud Light. Doctson feigns indifference on a run fake and then abruptly cuts to the pylon. Nothing but space and a touchdown to come. He then slips, falls, the ball sails by, the Skins don't get a TD and Kirk references the play twice in his postgame presser. So yeah, it was a big moment.
Jamison Crowder: 5%
Statistically, Crowder had a decent day, grabbing four passes for 76 yards, including a 36-yard hookup on a dime from Cousins that setup the play mentioned in the slice above. However, those four completions came on ELEVEN targets. Jamison may have been a Pharcyde fan as a youth, which would explain why he had the song "Drop" playing in his Beats headphones before the game. But, he didn't muff a punt, so baby steps.
The Edge Rushers (minus Preston Smith): 15%
Kerrigan and Galette are getting most of the venom here. Case Keenum rented an AirBnb in the pocket yesterday with a "Do Not Disturb" sign hanging from the door. The entire defensive line gets some of this slice as well, as pressure up the middle helps the edge rushers get home, but save some Preston Smith pressures (he was Pro Football Focus' highest-rated LB for the Skins Sunday), this unit did next to nothing, tallying zero sacks. Difficult for the secondary to do their job when the lack of pressure makes them put in for overtime every snap.
Josh Norman: 15%
Never a good thing when your top cornerback leads the team in tackles, many of which were the "after a long catch/trip their ankles" variety. Norman's mouth may have written some checks that his game could not cash. He, along with Breeland, was torched by Vikings WRs Adam Thielan and Stefon Diggs all day. There was either a lack of communication among the defensive backs as a unit, misunderstanding of the game plan or they just simply chose to have a bad day all at once, but giving up 300+ yards and four TDs to a third-string quarterback is inexcusable.
Kirk Cousins: 15%
While it is still unclear whether Kirk took my letter to heart last week, people who know, know...that the Captain was not good enough Sunday. Cousins committed a turnover for the fifth straight week. Maurice Harris bailed him out on an overthrow for a TD. For as much as he complained about Doctson slipping in the endzone, he omitted that he overthrew a wide-open Doc later in the game. He overthrew Chris Thompson, who still made a great adjustment and catch, on a drive that ended in a FG. He threw off his back foot for a backbreaking turnover before halftime. He also led the offense to a 30-point outburst, which was the most the Skins have scored this season, as well as, the most Minnesota has given up. The Skins punted once all afternoon. They also went for it five times on fourth down. This was the kind of uneven, inconsistent effort that confuses fans and haters alike.
The Coaches: 40%
Life comes at you fast, Jay and Greg. Heroes in last week's #slices, to now being one of the main ingredients of this week's losing dessert.
The biggest gripe for many Skins prognosticators was with the play calling. Personally, I think Jay is one of the top callers in the league. When you watch the games closely, you notice that on nearly every play in the pass game, someone is open. I'm not gonna arm chair QB second-guess Jay Gruden. But, when it comes to game theory, clock management and the ability to shift concepts on the fly? Well, this coaching staff is not without their warts.
The defense gave up over 100 yards on the ground and 300 yards through the air, but what was most-frustrating was Manusky and the defense's inability to create pressure up the middle. There were injuries on the line, obviously, and the Vikings have a formidable offensive line, but they were missing pieces, also. It seemed as the game went on and it was obvious that the usual four-man fronts were not going to suffice, the Skins were apprehensive about sending blitzers to disrupt Keenum or jam up running lanes.
On offense, it's difficult to criticize Gruden's X & Os, with Washington finally cracking the 30-point mark for the first time all year, but sometimes you have to win a shootout and pick up the other side of the ball. We need to discuss the two-minute offense. Down 11, with two possessions lasting nearly 6:30, the Skins went a total of 84 yards and scored three points. The offense moved with the sense of urgency of a turtle versus sloth marathon through molasses while wearing cinder block Nikes. I don't know if it's an endurance issue, a communication issue or just an indifference at the worst possible time, but when you play as many one possession games as Washington does, you better be proficient at being efficient.
As for the fourth downs, I have no issues at all with where and when Gruden decided to go for it. My issue is that he didn't go for it more, namely on 4th and goal from the three after the Vikings had just ripped off three straight touchdowns. I'll save my rant about the team's third-down woes this season (37.1% conversion rate, 22nd in the league) for another missive. I dropped out of Calculus senior year in high school, so let's hope Jay's affinity for "mathematics" is closer to that of Mos Def's, and some wins start adding up.
#SundaySlices will return following Sunday's game vs the New Orleans Saints, where Washington will play its hundredth straight division leader (approximately). If you have any slice suggestions, send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter.