Week 12: Redskins improve to 5-6 with a 38-31 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving (Nov. 22, 2012).
1. What a difference five days make.
The Skins have gone from 3-6 and in the midst of a three-game losing streak to now 5-6 and very much in the NFC’s playoff mix.
The Skins recorded their first victory in seven all-time games at the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
The Skins improved to 16-27 in regular-season games under head coach Mike Shanahan.
2. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III shined bright in his first nationally-televised game.
RGIII completed 19 of 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns, a pick and a passer rating of 131.8. He fired three touchdown passes in a 28-point second quarter. RGIII had seven carries for 29 yards.
RGIII had eight touchdown passes over his first nine games. He now has eight touchdown passes over the last two games.
Impressive plays for RGIII included: • Late-second-quarter 11-yard completion to receiver Joshua Morgan despite heavy duress that included defensive lineman Jason Hatcher getting heavy push on left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and then getting a hand on RGIII’s helmet. Two players later, RGIII fired a perfect back-shoulder throw while running to his right to receiver Santana Moss for a six-yard touchdown.
• Gorgeous throw on a second-quarter 68-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Aldrick Robinson, who blew by two Cowboys defensive backs thanks to his speed and the zone-read play-action.
• Second-quarter third-and-two nine-yard completion to Moss, who caught a bullet of a throw between linebacker Ernie Sims and rookie corner Morris Claiborne. Two plays later, RGIII capably handled a bad shotgun snap by center Will Montgomery and connected with receiver Pierre Garcon for a 19-yard reception off zone-read play-action. One play after that, rookie running back Alfred Morris had a one-yard touchdown run.
• The final play of the third quarter: 14-yard zone-read option run on which he ran by Claiborne, who had been being blocked by Garcon. This play perfectly illustrated the effectiveness of the zone-read option, as linebackers Bruce Carter and DeMarcus Ware sandwiched Morris, who didn’t have the ball, clearing space for RGIII. Two plays later, RGIII got blasted by an unblocked Ware but delivered the ball to Morgan for what proved a 13-yard reception.
• Fourth-quarter third-and-one 29-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open tight end in Niles Paul. Fullback Darrel (duh-REHL) Young had a key pass-protection block on Ware on the play.
• Fourth-quarter 23-yard completion to Moss. Three plays later, the two hooked-up for a third-and-one four-yard completion pass play. Six plays later, kicker Kai Forbath (KY FOHR-bath) connected on a 48-yard field goal that gave the Skins a 38-28 lead.
• Second-quarter third-and-four eight-yard completion to receiver/returner Brandon Banks
• First-quarter third-and-four six-yard completion to Garcon
• First-quarter nine-yard zone-read option run on which he ran past a diving linebacker in Anthony Spencer
Even some bad from RGIII turned out to be good. He threw behind Garcon, but he made a great catch and run for a second-quarter 59-yard touchdown reception.
RGIII did all of this despite being the victim of three sacks and seven quarterback hits.
RGIII is second in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.21), fourth in the league in completion percentage (67.4) and fourth in the league in passer rating (104.6).
Bad plays from RGIII included: • Throwing behind Garcon on a first-quarter third-and-13 incompletion
• Throwing low on a third-quarter incompletion that was intended for receiver Leonard Hankerson
• Throwing a fourth-quarter pick that was intended for Morgan, who wasn’t open. The interception was a result in part of Ware, who was being blocked by Morris and tight end Logan Paulsen, pushing Paulsen back into RGIII.
3. Morris was terrific again.
Morris had 24 carries for 113 yards, including the second-quarter one-yard touchdown run.
Impressive runs from Morris included: • Second-quarter 16-yard run on which Montgomery had a good block on Carter and Lichtensteiger had a nice block on Hatcher. The next play was RGIII’s six-yard touchdown pass to Moss.
• 15-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Four plays later was RGIII’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Paul.
• 10-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Morris dragged safety Danny McCray, who had Morris by his right ankle, for extra yardage. One play later was RGIII’s 68-yard touchdown bomb to Robinson.
• Second-quarter seven-yard run on which Carter essentially had to ride Morris before completing the tackle. Three plays later was RGIII’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Garcon.
• Second-quarter seven-yard run. Two plays later was his one-yard touchdown run.
• Fourth-quarter six-yard run on which Morris took off Claiborne’s helmet.
Morris also had a great pass-protection block on safety Charlie Peprah on Garcon’s second-quarter 59-yard touchdown reception, taking off Peprah’s helmet. The play also was a result of a play-action fake to Morris.
Morris is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (89.3) and is 13th in the league in yards per carry (4.7).
The Skins lead the league in rushing yards per game (163.5).
4. The Skins’ defense was very mixed.
The Skins forced three more takeaways in winning the turnover battle, 3-1, and now have 22 takeaways this season. The Skins had 21 takeaways all of last season and haven’t had 30 takeaways since the 2003 season. The Skins now are third in the NFC with a turnover differential of plus-12 (22 takeaways versus 10 giveaways).
The Skins had two sacks and 10 quarterback hits. • Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a fourth-quarter sack for an 11-yard loss and came in unblocked and batted a first-quarter pass for an incompletion.
• Defensive end Stephen Bowen teamed with linebacker Perry Riley for a third-quarter third-and-six sack for a seven-yard loss. Bowen twisted with nose tackle Barry Cofield on the play.
• Cofield had three of the Skins’ 10 quarterback hits and teamed with linebacker Rob Jackson for a tackle of running back Felix Jones on a first-quarter one-yard carry.
• The Skins are 26th in the NFL with 20 sacks.
Jackson also had a solo tackle of Jones on a second-quarter two-yard carry.
The Skins held the Cowboys, who were without running back DeMarco Murray, to just 11 carries for just 35 yards. The Skins are third in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (89.2) and tied for 11th in the league in fewest yards allowed per carry (4.1).
Linebacker London Fletcher, who was listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle, played in his 235th consecutive regular-season game. • Fletcher had a third-quarter pick that he returned 10 yards. He was covering tight end Jason Witten but then abandoned him after he curled. Fletcher finished with two passes defended and also had a heavy hit on receiver Miles Austin on a first-quarter third-and-11 incompletion in the end zone. Austin likely wouldn’t have caught the ball anyway, but Fletcher’s hit made sure of that.
• Fletcher and safety Madieu (muh-DEE-oo) Williams did fail in attempted tackles of Jones on his fourth-quarter third-and-six 10-yard touchdown reception. And Fletcher did get beat by Witten on a second-quarter second-and-six six-yard reception. Fletcher left the game for good in the second half due to the ankle.
Corner DeAngelo Hall had a mixed game: • Hall got beat by rookie receiver Cole Beasley on a second-quarter second-and-three nine-yard reception. But two plays later, Hall generated a pick that he returned 27 yards, though Hall may have been guilty of holding Beasley prior to the pick. Hall now has 19 picks over 63 games with the Skins.
• Hall failed in an attempted tackle of Beasley on a fourth-quarter 12-yard reception but tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-quarter red-zone incompletion and recovered the Cowboys’ late-fourth-quarter onside kick, which he returned 43 yards before sliding at the Cowboys’ 2 as opposed to scoring a touchdown in order the ensure an RGIII kneel-down at the archrival Cowboys.
• Hall finished with two passes defended and allowing five receptions for just 36 yards on eight targets according to Pro Football Focus. But the NFL fined him $35,750 for two infractions, bringing his fine total for the season to at least $65,750.
Corner Josh Wilson was beat by receiver Dez Bryant on a second-quarter third-and-two 11-yard reception but then forced a fumble with his helmet. But Wilson had a number of negative plays, giving up seven receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets according to Pro Football Focus. • Wilson tried to make a play on the ball but failed on Bryant’s third-quarter 85-yard touchdown reception.
• Wilson committed a first-quarter 14-yard pass-interference penalty on which he didn’t turn his head around
• Wilson and Williams failed in attempted tackles of Jones on his third-quarter 33-yard reception.
• Wilson got beat by Bryant on his fourth-quarter 11-yard touchdown reception, though the coverage was good. The ball was just in the perfect spot.
Safety DeJon Gomes recovered the fumble that Wilson forced and returned it 13 yards. Gomes also tripped receiver Dwayne Harris for a tackle on a first-quarter four-yard reception. Gomes did freeze on Harris’ fourth-quarter 36-yard reception and was the victim of a great block by Harris on Bryant’s third-quarter 85-yard touchdown reception.
Williams had missed tackles on the Jones fourth-quarter third-and-six 10-yard touchdown reception and the Jones third-quarter 33-yard reception but had a heavy end-zone hit on Bryant to prevent a touchdown bomb in the game’s final minute.
Corner Cedric Griffin knocked the ball away from Witten on a second-quarter incompletion. But Griffin got beat by Harris on a first-quarter third-and-eight 17-yard reception and on a third-quarter 14-yard reception.
Riley had half of the third-quarter third-and-six sack and a tackle of rookie running back Lance Dunbar on a third-quarter reception that went for minus-four yards. Riley also had a tackle of Jones on a second-quarter one-yard run. Riley did get beat by Witten on a first-quarter third-and-four six-yard reception
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander got beat by Witten on a third-quarter third-and-13 15-yard reception. Alexander did have two quarterback hits.
The Cowboys trimmed a 22-point fourth-quarter lead to a seven-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Cowboys went 8-for-17 on third downs. The Skins are tied for 28th in the NFL in opponents’ third-down efficiency (43.2 percent).
Quarterback Tony Romo completed 37 of 62 passes for 441 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. He fell to 5-1 on Thanksgiving. The Skins are 31st out of 32 NFL teams in fewest passing yards allowed per game (301.4).
Rookie linebacker Keenan Robinson suffered a torn pectoral muscle and was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday, when the Skins signed free-agent linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. He was a fourth-round pick of Cincinnati in the 2010 NFL Draft.
5. Skins receivers made plays.
Garcon, who was listed as questionable with the injured toe on his right foot, had four receptions on six targets for 86 yards, including the second-quarter 59-yard touchdown reception. RGIII’s pass was behind Garcon, but he made an outstanding leaping catch with his arms extended above his head, and then outran corners Mike Jenkins and Brandon Carr en route to the end zone. The ball may have been picked off by Carr if not for the catch. Garcon also had a second-quarter 19-yard reception, a first-quarter third-and-four six-yard reception and a seven-yard run on the final play of the first quarter.
Moss had four catches on five targets for 42 yards, including the second-quarter six-yard touchdown reception on which he did a great job of keeping both feet in bounds. He now has seven touchdown receptions over the last nine games. Moss also had two big receptions on the 11-play, 50-yard, fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Forbath’s 48-yard field goal to give the Skins a 38-28 lead: a 23-yard reception and a third-and-one four-yard reception despite the ball being tipped by Spencer.
Morgan had five receptions on six targets for 48 yards, including a second-quarter 11-yard reception on which he plowed forward for yards after the catch despite having Carter and Sims on him. Two plays later was RGIII’s six-yard touchdown pass to Moss. Morgan also had a first-quarter 17-yard reception on a screen on which left tackle Trent Williams had a good block on McCray and Young had a nice block on Claiborne.
Hankerson’s lone catch was a big one: a 12-yard reception on the 11-play, 50-yard, fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Forbath’s 48-yard field goal to give the Skins a 38-28 lead. Hankerson ran through an attempted arm tackle by McCray on the play. Hankerson also drew a second-quarter five-yard pass-interference penalty on Carr. The next play was Morris’ one-yard touchdown run.
The lone time that Robinson was targeted resulted in his second-quarter 68-yard touchdown reception. The play came immediately after he was called for a five-yard false-start penalty.
6. Pass protection was again a major issue.
The Skins allowed three sacks and seven quarterback hits and are tied for 17th in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed with 26.
RGIII’s fourth-quarter pick was a result in part of Ware, who was being blocked by Morris and Paulsen, pushing Paulsen back into RGIII.
Hatcher had a third-quarter sack of RGIII for an eight-yard loss on which Lichtensteiger tripped over Ware, who had crossed with Hatcher.
Spencer blew by Paulsen for a first-quarter sack for a seven-yard loss. Paulsen moved toward the outside, while Spencer came toward the inside. Paulsen also had a drop on the opening drive of the game but did block two Cowboys on Morris’ second-quarter one-yard touchdown run.
Hatcher and Ware crossed in beating Lichtensteiger and Williams on a first-quarter third-and-10 that resulted in a 12-yard intentional-grounding penalty on RGIII.
A third-quarter third-and-six RGIII incompletion saw him under major pressure, as Ware got push on Williams and Spencer got push on right tackle Tyler Polumbus.
Williams committed a fourth-quarter five-yard false-start penalty. He did suffer a deep left-thigh bruise early in the game and revealed on Monday that he was playing at about 60-percent health.
7. For at least one game, penalties were not a problem for the Skins.
The Skins entered this game with an NFL-worst 88 accepted penalties but had just five accepted penalties. • RGIII had the first-quarter 12-yard intentional-grounding penalty.
• Wilson had the first-quarter 14-yard pass-interference penalty.
• Robinson had the second-quarter five-yard false-start penalty.
• Paul had a third-quarter five-yard false-start penalty on special teams.
• Williams had the fourth-quarter five-yard false-start penalty.
The Cowboys entered this game next to last in the NFL in fewest accepted penalties with 83 and had seven accepted penalties.
8. Forbath remains perfect, and thanks to a massive kick.
Forbath’s fourth-quarter 48-yard field goal was huge in that it gave the Skins a 38-28 lead, making the game a two-possession game.
Forbath now is 10-for-10 on field goals of 50, 20, 43, 45, 48, 45, 47, 25, 25 and 48 yards over six games with the Skins.
Forbath did see just three of his seven kickoffs result in touchbacks and now has seen just 12 of his 32 kickoffs with the Skins result in touchbacks.
9. Banks continues to have a bad season on returns.
Banks foolishly returned a first-quarter punt out of the end zone. He hesitated in coming out, then did so but generated just a seven-yard return. He also had a third-quarter six-yard punt return and now is 24th in the NFL in yards per punt return (6.8).
Banks totaled just 40 yards on two kickoff returns and now is 23rd in the NFL in yards per kickoff return (24.1).
Banks did have a second-quarter third-and-four eight-yard reception.
10. Miscellaneous Notes:
The Cowboys lost Austin, Carter and corner Orlando Scandrick to injuries during the game.
Punter Sav Rocca averaged 45.2 yards and 41.8 net yards on five punts, placing two inside the 20. He’s dealing with a torn meniscus in his right knee, struggled over the final three games of October but now has punted well in each of the last three games. Rocca is tied for 25th in the NFL in yards per punt (44.0) and is tied for 18th in the league in net yards per punt (39.4).
The Skins were too slow in getting to the line of scrimmage and running a play after a third-quarter third-and-10 Morgan reception that initially was ruled for 10 yards but then was ruled via replay a nine-yard reception thanks to a successful Cowboys challenge.
Inactives for the Skins were receiver Dezmon (DEHZ-mihn) Briscoe, rookie corner Richard Crawford for a fourth consecutive game (and he did not play for a fifth consecutive game), rookie guard Adam Gettis, quarterback Rex Grossman, guard/tackle Maurice Hurt, corner Jerome Murphy and defensive end Doug Worthington.
Rookie guard Josh LeRibeus (luh-REE-biss), a 2012 third-round pick, was active for a third consecutive game and for the fourth time this season.
The Skins remained without: • Safety Brandon Meriweather (torn right ACL suffered in the Week 11 rout of Philadelphia; Meriweather missed the previous nine games due to an injured left knee)
• Tight end Fred Davis (torn left Achilles suffered in the Week 7 loss at the Giants)
• Linebacker Brian Orakpo (torn left pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 2 loss at Saint Louis)
• Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (right quadriceps tendon tear suffered in the Week 2 loss at Saint Louis)
• Running back Roy Helu Jr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 26 due to turf toe; he also had dealt with tendonitis in both Achilles)
• Right tackle Jamal Brown (hip problems; was kept on the physically-unable-to-perform list past the deadline of Nov. 27, ending any chance of him playing this season)
• Safety Tanard Jackson (indefinite suspension due to a third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy)