Week 15: Redskins improve to 8-6 with a 38-21 win at Cleveland on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 16, 2012).
1. The Skins now control their own destiny.
The Skins, Giants and Dallas are tied atop the NFC East at 8-6. But the Skins, thanks to their wins at the Cowboys and over the Giants, would win the division thanks to the first tiebreaker for a three-way tie atop a division (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs). The Skins will win the division if they win their final two regular-season games.
The Skins have won five consecutive games for the first time since the five-game winning streak that ended the 2005 regular season. That streak was extended to six games with a 17-10 playoff win at Tampa Bay on Jan. 7, 2006.
2. The Skins won despite playing without rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
RGIII was inactive due to the grade-one sprain of the LCL in his right knee suffered on a fourth-quarter second-and-19 13-yard scramble in the Week 15 overtime win over Baltimore.
RGIII practiced in limited fashion on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
RGIII said after the game on The Official Redskins Postgame Show on ESPN 980, “I’m healthy right now” and said that he and backup quarterback Rex Grossman “were giggling like little girls” at how well the Skins’ offense performed.
RGIII enters Week 16 ranked: • First in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.27)
• Second in the league in passer rating (104.2)
• Sixth in the league in completion percentage (66.4)
• First in the league in yards per carry (6.7)
3. Rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins was terrific in his first NFL start.
Cousins completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns, a pick and a passer rating of 104.4.
Cousins went 1-for-6 with a pick over his first seven pass attempts but went 25-for-31 and two touchdowns over the rest of the game.
Cousins was especially effective on play-action passes, going 15-for-19 for 229 yards and two touchdowns. • First-quarter first-and-10 54-yard touchdown pass to receiver Leonard Hankerson. Cousins made a great throw off a play-action bootleg. This was the first instance of the Skins making use of play-action bootleg in this game, the result was great and Cousins never looked back.
• Fourth-quarter first-and-10 32-yard completion to receiver Joshua Morgan thanks to a great throw off play-action. Three plays later Cousins connected with tight end Logan Paulsen on a third-and-four 10-yard completion off play-action. Four plays later was running back Alfred Morris’ first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 38-21 lead.
• Third-quarter first-and-10 17-yard completion to receiver Santana Moss off play-action. Two plays later Cousins connected with Moss on a second-and-four 20-yard completion off a play-action bootleg. Four plays later Cousins, with corner Dimitri Patterson in his face, fired a third-quarter third-and-goal two-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Hankerson off play-action.
• Fourth-quarter third-and-six 15-yard completion to Paulsen thanks to a perfect throw off a play-action bootleg. The drive resulted in a Cousins game-ending kneel-down.
• First-and-10 15-yard completion to receiver Pierre Garcon off play-action on the first play of the fourth quarter despite defensive end Jabaal Sheard (juh-BAHL SHEERD) coming at Cousins off having blown through right tackle Jordan Black. The drive resulted in running back Evan Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Third-quarter first-and-10 17-yard completion to Garcon off play-action. Garcon did commit a 15-yard taunting penalty after the reception. The drive did result in a punt.
• Second-quarter second-and-six 16-yard completion to Garcon. Cousins fired a perfect strike off play-action. The drive did result in a punt.
Cousins captained a Skins attack that went 6-for-10 on third downs in the second half off going 1-for-5 on third downs in the first half. The Skins enter Week 16 25th in the NFL in third-down efficiency (34.3 percent; 58-for-169). Quality Cousins third-down throws not already chronicled included: • Third-and-six 19-yard completion to Paulsen on the final play of the third quarter. Four plays later was a fourth-quarter third-and-two six-yard completion to Garcon thanks to a great throw. Three plays later was Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Second-quarter third-and-nine 25-yard completion to Royster. The drive resulted in kicker Kai Forbath’s (KY FOHR-bath’s) second-quarter 44-yard field goal.
Cousins also displayed his mobility. • Second-quarter second-and-four 17-yard scramble off a play-action bootleg. The drive resulted in Forbath’s second-quarter 44-yard field goal.
• Fourth-quarter first-and-10 six-yard scramble off a play-action bootleg. Two plays later was Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
Bad plays for Cousins included: • First-quarter third-and-10 interception. The ball was tipped by corner Sheldon Brown, who had tight man-to-man coverage on Garcon. Safety T.J. Ward caught the ball and returned it 37 yards. Cousins did make the tackle on Ward.
• First-quarter third-and-five incompletion intended for Royster. Cousins was in the shotgun and had time, but his throw was short thanks to him not stepping up in the pocket. The drive resulted in a three-and-out.
• Second-quarter third-and-eight incompletion intended for Hankerson, who Cousins threw behind. The next play was Forbath’s 44-yard field goal.
• Third-quarter second-and-nine 10-yard intentional-grounding penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt.
4. The Skins’ defense enjoyed perhaps its best game of the season.
The only other game that you could argue was better was the Week 11 31-6 rout of Philadelphia.
The Skins held the Browns to 21 points.
The Skins had two third-quarter picks and now have 26 takeaways this season off totaling just 21 takeaways all of last season and 27 takeaways in 2010. The Skins haven’t had 30 takeaways since the 2003 season.
The Skins had two fourth-quarter sacks.
The Skins held the Browns to 4-for-12 on third downs.
The Skins held Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson to 11 carries for just 28 yards, though he did have two touchdowns.
The Skins held Browns rookie receiver Josh Gordon to just three receptions for 27 yards on eight targets, including no receptions on two targets in the second half.
Linebacker Rob Jackson was outstanding. • Jackson had a second-and-nine pick (thanks to a poor throw by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden) and then a 17-yard return on the opening drive of the third quarter. The ensuing Skins drive resulted in Morris’ third-quarter second-and-goal three-yard touchdown run.
• Jackson had a fourth-quarter second-and-three sack-strip on which he took off Weeden’s helmet. The ball was recovered by the Browns. The next play was rookie receiver Travis Benjamin’s 69-yard touchdown reception.
• Jackson tipped the ball on a first-quarter first-and-10 Weeden incompletion that was intended for Gordon. The next play saw Jackson tackle Richardson on a one-yard run. The drive resulted in a punt.
• Jackson and nose tackle Barry Cofield teamed to tackle Richardson on a second-quarter first-and-five carry for a one-yard loss. The drive did result in Richardson’s second-quarter third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.
Linebacker London Fletcher, who was questionable with his sprained left ankle, played in his 238th consecutive regular-season game and led the Skins with seven tackles. • Fletcher had a third-quarter first-and-10 pick (thanks to a poor throw by Weeden) and then an eight-yard return. The ensuing Skins drive resulted in Royster’s fourth-quarter four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Fletcher impressively tackled Richardson for a six-yard loss on a first-quarter second-and-nine reception. The drive resulted in a three-and-out.
• Fletcher and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins teamed for a tackle on a first-quarter second-and-10 Richardson carry for no gain. The drive resulted in a punt.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had two of the Skins’ six passes defended and finished with three tackles. • Kerrigan tipped a third-quarter third-and-nine Weeden incompletion on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.
• Kerrigan came into the Browns’ backfield to bat the ball down on a first-and-10 Weeden incompletion on the Browns’ first drive, which resulted in a punt.
• Kerrigan tackled Richardson on a second-quarter first-and-10 one-yard carry on a drive that ended with the end of the half.
• Kerrigan tackled fullback Alex Smith on a second-quarter second-and-six one-yard reception. The drive did result in Richardson’s second-quarter third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.
Safety Reed Doughty stood out. • Doughty tackled Richardson on a one-yard carry on the first play of the third quarter. The next play was Jackson’s second-and-nine pick.
• Doughty tackled Richardson on a third-quarter second-and-eight carry for a one-yard loss. The drive resulted in a three-and-out.
• Doughty came in unblocked on a safety blitz and hit Weeden on a first-quarter first-and-15 completion to tight end Jordan Cameron for two yards. The drive resulted in a three-and-out.
Corner DeAngelo Hall tied for second on the Skins with six tackles and shined in coverage. • Hall provided very good coverage on a third-quarter third-and-three Weeden incompletion intended for Gordon on a drive that resulted in a turnover on downs.
• Hall provided tight coverage on a first-quarter third-and-11 Weeden five-yard completion to receiver Greg Little on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.
• Hall tackled Smith on a third-and-nine seven-yard reception on the final play of the first quarter. The next play was a punt.
Cofield had a fourth-quarter third-and-one sack for a seven-yard loss on a drive that resulted in a turnover on downs. He also teamed with Jackson to tackle Richardson on the second-quarter first-and-five carry for a one-yard loss. The drive did result in Richardson’s second-quarter third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.
Bad moments for the Skins’ defense included: • Corner D.J. Johnson getting scorched by Benajmin on his fourth-quarter third-and-seven 69-yard touchdown reception
• Receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs breaking through an attempt at being tripped for a tackle by Johnson on a second-quarter first-and-10 direct-snap 16-yard run. The drive resulted in Richardson’s third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.
• Richardson running through linebacker Perry Riley and then plowing across the goal line on his first-quarter first-and-goal six-yard touchdown run.
• Little being wide open on a second-quarter first-and-10 30-yard reception. The drive resulted in Richardson’s third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.
• Cameron being wide open on a third-quarter first-and-10 28-yard reception. The next play, though, was Fletcher’s third-quarter first-and-10 pick.
• Corner Josh Wilson getting beat by Little on a third-quarter first-and-10 12-yard reception. The drive did result in Fletcher’s third-quarter first-and-10 pick.
• Wilson getting beat by Gordon on a second-quarter third-and-nine 10-yard reception. The drive did end with the end of the half.
• Wilson getting beat by Gordon on a first-quarter first-and-10 incompletion thanks to an overthrow by Weeden. The drive resulted in a punt.
Defensive end Stephen Bowen had just a 38-percent playtime percentage due to a torn upper-left biceps.
The Skins enter Week 16 ranked: • Last in the NFL in opponents’ third-down efficiency (44.4 percent; 83-for-187)
• 30th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest passing yards allowed
• Tied for 28th in the league in sacks (25)
• Sixth in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed
• Tied for 13th in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.2)
• 23rd in fewest points allowed per game (25.0)
• Sixth in the NFC in takeaways (26)
The Skins are tied for second in the NFC with a turnover differential of plus-13 (26 takeaways versus 13 giveaways).
5. Skins pass catchers helped Cousins’ cause.
Garcon had six receptions for 65 yards on 12 targets and recovered Moss’ fumble on a fourth-quarter third-and-eight seven-yard reception. The next play was Morris’ first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 38-21 lead. Other quality plays from Garcon included: • First-and-10 15-yard reception on the first play of the fourth quarter. The drive resulted in Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Fourth-quarter third-and-two six-yard reception. Three plays later was Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Third-quarter first-and-10 17-yard reception. Garcon did then commit a 15-yard taunting penalty after the reception. The drive resulted in a punt.
• Second-quarter second-and-six 16-yard reception. The drive did result in a punt.
• A first-quarter second-and-eight deep incompletion intended for Garcon should have resulted in a pass-interference penalty on corner Joe Haden. The drive resulted in a three-and-out.
Moss had five receptions on 57 yards on six targets. He had two big catches on the third-quarter drive that resulted in Hankerson’s third-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception: a first-and-10 17-yard reception and a second-and-four 20-yard reception on which Haden bounced off Moss in an attempt at a shoulder tackle and rookie safety Tashaun (tuh-SHAHN) Gipson, perhaps anticipating Haden making the tackle, ran across Moss and out of bounds. Moss did have a fumble on a fourth-quarter third-and-eight seven-yard reception on a receiver screen, but the ball was recovered by Garcon.
Morgan had four receptions for 60 yards on four targets, including a fourth-quarter first-and-10 32-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Morris’ first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 38-21 lead.
Paulsen, who had totaled five receptions over his previous four games, had four receptions for 47 yards on five targets. Three of his receptions came on third downs. • Fourth-quarter third-and-four 10-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Morris’ first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 38-21 lead.
• Third-and-six 19-yard reception on the final play of the third quarter. The drive resulted in Royster’s four-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 31-14 lead.
• Fourth-quarter third-and-six 15-yard reception on the drive that resulted in the Cousins game-ending kneel-down.
Hankerson was targeted three times and had two receptions: a first-quarter first-and-10 54-yard touchdown reception and a third-quarter third-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception. The 54-yard touchdown reception saw Hankerson bobble but then catch the ball in the vicinity of three Browns, fall down, get up and run into the end zone.
Royster had two receptions for 30 yards on four targets, including a second-quarter third-and-nine 25-yard reception on which he beat linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in coverage and then broke through an attempted tackle by him. The drive resulted in Forbath’s 44-yard field goal. Royster did have a drop on a first-quarter third-and-eight incompletion on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.
6. Morris struggled when it came to yards per carry, but his presence was invaluable.
Morris had 27 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged just 3.2 yards per carry but helped Cousins go 15-for-19 for 229 yards and two touchdowns on play-action passes.
Morris’ fourth-quarter first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run saw him run through Gipson.
Morris had runs of six and 11 yards on the seven-play 60-yard third-quarter drive that resulted in Cousins third-and-goal two-yard touchdown pass to Hankerson.
Morris enters Week 16 third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,322) and tied for 11th in the league in yards per carry (4.7).
7. Cobra Ky remains perfect on field goals but continues to struggle on kickoffs.
Forbath’s second-quarter 44-yard field goal made him 15-for-15 on field goals of 50, 20, 43, 45, 48, 45, 47, 25, 25, 48, 33, 48, 49, 34 and 44 yards over nine games with the Skins.
Forbath did see all seven of his kickoffs returned and now has seen just 13 of his 50 kickoffs with the Skins result in touchbacks.
8. The Skins’ coverage units continued to shine.
Cribbs entered the game fourth in the NFL in yards per punt return (12.8) and tied for sixth in the league in yards per kickoff return (27.7). But the Skins held him to averages of 7.5 yards on two punts returns and 27.3 yards on seven kickoff returns.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander crushed Cribbs on a first-quarter 25-yard kickoff return. Alexander also pressured Weeden on a second-quarter third-and-10 nine-yard completion to receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (mass-uh-KWAH). The drive resulted in a three-and-out. Alexander did suffer a pinched nerve in his right shoulder but returned to the game.
The Skins enter Week 16 fifth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per punt return (6.6) and 14th in the league in fewest yards allowed per kickoff return (23.8).
9. The Skins’ offensive line had a rough game and then lost a key backup to suspension.
The Skins, who have enjoyed the same starting offensive line through all 14 games this season, saw two offensive linemen leave the game due to injury. Center Will Montgomery suffered a grade-two sprain of his left MCL. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus suffered a concussion.
Morris’ average of 3.2 yards per carry was his lowest since the Week 6 win over Minnesota (2.9).
The Skins allowed two sacks and enter Week 16 tied for 16th in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed with 31. • Polumbus was beaten by Sheard on a first-quarter third-and-six sack for a nine-yard loss on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.
• Defensive end Juqua (juh-KWAY) Parker made his way through left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger on a second-quarter first-and-10 sack that resulted in a 12-yard loss and a Cousins fumble that he recovered. The next play was a Royster minus-one-yard run that ended the first half.
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger committed a second-and-five five-yard false-start penalty on the game’s opening drive, which resulted in a three-and-out. He also committed a second-and-quarter fourth-and-one five-yard false-start penalty. The next play saw the Skins punt. The Skins announced on Tuesday (Dec. 18) that Lichtensteiger is the winner of the team’s 2012 Ed Block Courage Award for his comeback from tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee in Oct. 2011.
Right guard Chris Chester committed a fourth-quarter second-and-seven five-yard false-start penalty. The drive did result in Morris’ first-and-goal eight-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 38-21 lead.
We learned on Monday (Dec. 17) that the NFL had suspended Black for the Skins’ next four games (regular season and postseason) without pay for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Black’s suspension is the third drug-related suspension of the year for the Skins and the sixth in the last two seasons.
10. Miscellaneous Notes:
The Skins had six accepted penalties and entering Week 16 are tied with the Cowboys for last in the NFL in fewest accepted penalties with 111.
Rookie corner Richard Crawford had two punt returns in his second game as the Skins’ primary punt returner: a first-quarter 13-yard return and a second-quarter five-yard return.
Royster had the Skins’ lone kickoff return, a 22-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Punter Sav Rocca averaged 42.6 yards and 39.6 net yards on five punts. He’s dealing with a torn meniscus in his right knee and enters Week 16 25th in the NFL in yards per punt (44.1) and tied for 22nd in the league in net yards per punt (38.1).
Inactives for the Skins included RGIII, receiver/returner Brandon Banks, receiver Dezmon (DEHZ-mihn) Briscoe, rookie offensive tackle Tom Compton, rookie guard Adam Gettis, and linebacker Roderick Muckleroy
Rookie guard Josh LeRibeus (luh-REE-biss), a 2012 third-round pick, was inactive for the 10th time in 14 games this season.
The Skins remained without: • 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)
• 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)
• Safety Tanard Jackson (indefinite suspension due to a third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy)
• Corner Cedric Griffin (four-game suspension without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances)
• Rookie linebacker Keenan Robinson (torn pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 12 win at the Cowboys)
• Tight end Fred Davis (torn left Achilles suffered in the Week 7 loss at the Giants)
• Running back Roy Helu Jr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 26 due to turf toe; he also had dealt with tendinitis 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)