The Redskins have turned the ball over 28 times this year and at least once in their last 26 games. If they continue that trend, they'll lose 40-something to single digits today. It's a longshot that they can hang in there but here's how they do it. To pull off the shocker....
1) Rex has to be great. If Rex can play like Dan Orlovsky did last week, then maybe just maybe. Orlovsky went 30-37 for 353 yards against the Pats 32nd-ranked defense. Rex has to be good which means no more than one bad play.
2) Brady has to be off. It's rare but the Skins' D needs rare today.
3) Gano makes the big kick. If the Redskins are to pull of an upset, Gano likely will be called on for a big field goal attempt. Unlike three weeks ago against Dallas, he needs to make it this week.
This was a loss that seems from a distance to fall on the coaching staff and in particular, the play-calling mind(s). With the ball and up 10-7 in the first half, the play-calling turned from run-pass balance to pass-pass unbalance. 14 of their final 16 offensive plays in the first half were passes after 9 runs and 7 passes were called to start the game.
Fast-forward to the critical sequence of the game following Brandon Banks’ punt return got the Skins to the Jets’ 31 with 9:26 left. The play-calling became far too conservative with the game on the line at that point. What the Jets did when they got their opportunity was take a deep shot to Holmes which proved to be the game-winner. The Redskins never took a shot, settled for the field goal, and any momentum they had off the Banks’ punt return was lost.
The good, bad, and more.
1. Punt Coverage. Exceptional all day and the one turnover the team got was on punt coverage. I would have listed kickoff coverage as well but the short Gano kickoff after taking a 16-13 lead was a costly play.
2. 2nd Half Defense (Until the Very End). I know they ultimately gave up 34 points but the defense kept them in the game until late in the 4th quarter. They held the Jets to 266 yards and they held New York to 38 total yards and 3 points on the Jets’ first 6 possessions of the 2nd half.
3. Roy Helu’s Running. Helu did another nice job running the football when he got chances. Two straight 100-yard days. The fumble turned out to cost them nothing.
1. Play-Calling. Too much throwing with the running game working early. Too conservative with a chance to take control of the game after the Banks’ punt return with 9:26 left. Additionally, the lack of running the ball after the 2nd quarter hurt their pass protection.
2. Pass Protection. Not very good especially once the run became a non-priority. Jamal Brown struggled for sure and Helu whiffed a few times in protection as well.
3. Not Enough First-Half Pass Rush. Sanchez wasn’t touched in the first half on the Jets’ two scoring drives.
4. Rex Grossman. He was inaccurate when he had time and couldn’t extend the play when he didn’t. His lack of mobility and playmaking ability when the play breaks down is his biggest limitation. He was lucky he wasn’t picked off 3-4 times.
5. Clock Management. It’s been bad...it got worse today. For starters, they didn’t need to take as many timeouts as they did at the end of the first half. If they HAD scored a touchdown earlier instead of settling for the field goal, they would have left the Jets with too much time to do something on offense. Secondly, down 27-16, they chose to use two timeouts on offense rather than save them for defense after the made field goal. An absolute terrible decision which led directly to the need to attempt an onsides kick. Thirdly, the Skins’ hurry-up offense is too slow! Why can’t they get to the line of scrimmage and run a play quickly??
6. Graham Gano’s short kickoff. A killer play after taking a 3-pt lead. It was bad enough that they weren’t more aggressive on the preceding offensive possession but to follow it up with a short kickoff and allow the big return was a very costly play.
1. Terrible miss by referee on the running-into-the punter call on Rocca’s 2nd quarter punt. Should’ve been a roughing-the-punter 15-yard penalty which would’ve put the Skins in Jets territory with a 10-7 lead.
2. Ryan Kerrigan gets held a lot without calls. I thought he got held in the end zone on a play that would’ve resulted in a safety.
3. The Skins’ tricky onsides kick formation tricked nobody including the referees who called an illegal formation.
4. Santana Moss had two drops including one that may have scored. That one could’ve cut the lead 27-22 or 27-24 with time left.
The Redskins are a different team than they were a month ago. I’m not saying they’re a good team....they’re just not the worst team in the league which you could’ve argued reasonably during the stretch of losses to Carolina, Buffalo, and San Francisco. They are clearly a more capable team offensively since Rex’s return and they’ve got some genuine confidence after winning a game last week and nearly winning two weeks ago.
I think they have a very good chance to beat the Jets if they do the following.
1. Stop the Jets Running Attack. The Jets rushed for an average of 6 yards a carry last week against the Bills and that set up play-action which Sanchez is good at. LT is back, Shonn Green will carry the bulk of the load, and Joe McKnight will get an occasional carry. If the Skins can shut down the run and make the Jets one-dimensional, they’ve got a shot to be successful defensively.
2. Get Red Zone Stops. The Jets were 4 for 4 last week in the Red Zone. All four scores were touchdown passes. The Redskins are probably going to end up with a bad matchup or two in the red zone especially if they choose blitz pressure. Sanchez can burn them by quickly finding the likes of Keller, Holmes, Burress, and Tomlinson. Keller in particular is a problem in the red zone. A safety matched up on him isn't good but it might be better than Kerrigan or Fletcher or Riley which would be worse. The Skins have to make plays defensively in the red zone and force the Jets to kick field goals.
3. Let it Loose on 1st and 2nd down. The Redskins have done a nice job the last two weeks getting first downs on first and 2nd down with nice chunk pass plays. Last week, 19 of the Skins’ 22 first downs in the game came on 1st or 2nd down. Facing third downs to keep a drive alive are always better avoided. The Skins did that last week. So did Buffalo against the Jets last week. The Bills moved the ball through the air on early downs. If the Redskins can do the same thing, they'll move the ball and the running game with Helu will be easier.
It was a win and as a fan I’m happy about it but there was so much that seemed to go so wrong in the process.
The good, bad, and more.
1. Resilience. Down 17-7 in the 4th quarter with seemingly nothing going right, the offense made some plays and the defense jumped on board to manufacturer momentum when it seemed like there was none to be had.
2. Good Rex. Back to this again I guess. He makes throws and he almost always errs on the side of being aggressive. The touchdown pass to Armstrong was a great throw and a chance you have to take in the NFL, especially on 3rd and 19. Rex is limited in so many ways but he’s fearless. On this team right now, they have near-zero chance to be competitive without him.
3. Roy Helu. He’s their best back even though he seems to occasionally miss chances for big plays, particularly on screens. His 28-yd touchdown run was one of the Skins’ best plays of the year.
4. Pass rush late in the game. There was no pass rush for most of the game but two huge sacks and multiple pressures in the final 10 minutes were major contributors to the win.
5. Perry Riley. He appears to be out of position occasionally in pass coverage but he’s an aggressive tackler and very effective against the run. Looks like a nice upgrade over McIntosh.
1. FG and PAT team. What a joke. The interior part of the line just collapsed under the pressure of Red Bryant. I thought they might choose to go for the 4th down with 1:09 left instead of lining up for a kick that seemed like a huge risk at that point.
2. Penalties. Too many today even though the P.I. on Josh Wilson that set up a Seattle field goal seemed like a terrible call. The block in the back on Terrence Austin and the Gano kick out-of-bounds after taking a 20-17 lead were among the worst of the day.
3. Tackling. Not good enough for the majority of the game.
4. Bad Rex. I think Shanahan said that his deep ball to Moss was the right read. Really? That seems impossible to believe considering Moss appeared to be triple covered! Additionally, Rex’s near-disaster fumble late in the game after getting the ball knocked out of his hands by Sellers was a sloppy play and could’ve easily cost them the game.
5. Clock/game management. Bad timeout called by the Skins on defense late in the first half when they should’ve been focused on getting to the half tied at 7-7. They had no chance to get the ball back in good field position with what would’ve been a no-timeouts-left situation. Additionally, not sure why Shanahan took the ineligible receiver penalty on Seattle late in the game. He opted for 3rd and 7 instead of 4th and 2. It worked out for them but I’m not sure if two plays to get 7 yards is harder than one play to get 2.
6. The woofing/trash talking. From Fred Davis’ 15-yd penalty early to all of the talking from a team that had lost 6 straight is so aggravating to watch. Trash-talking when you’re losing is bad form to say the least.
1. The Redskins failed to win the turnover battle for the 12th straight game.
2. The Skins dropped two pick-6’s. One by D-Hall and one by Josh Wilson.
3. The Skins got away with what should’ve been a P.I. on Landry late in the game. He grabbed Baldwin before the ball got there. Seattle would’ve had 1st and 10 at the Skins 25 down 20-17.
4. One of the biggest “hidden yardage” plays of the game was Sav Rocca’s 51-yard punt with no return and an ensuing 15-yd penalty on Seattle for a net gain of 66 yards. It came with 2:34 left and instead of Seattle starting that drive in good field position down 20-17, they started from their own 18.
5. I read the negative tweets during the game about Jim Mora Jr but I liked him. With the exception of Fox showing his college pictures which was a waste of time at a key point in the game, his analysis was spot-on and came with little concern about who he was insulting (e.g. refs, coaches, players). He ripped Shanahan for a bad timeout right before halftime, he ripped the officials for bad calls, and he ripped the Redskins FG team for being high-schoolish. I thought he was pretty good.
The season feels like it's ending but there are still 6 games left. The Redskins played much better last week and had a chance to win the game but couldn't close the deal. On the road in Seattle is never easy and the Seahawk defense will make sure of it today. Seattle is underrated defensively. The momentum the Skins offense appeared to gain against Dallas will be tough to sustain today. The Skins' defense can keep them in it but they have to get off the field on third down which has been a problem.
The Skins can win if...
1. They stop the run. They've done it very well for two consecutive weeks and I think they'll do it again today.
2. They get off the field on third down. The Skins' defense has allowed 16 of 31 on third down the last two weeks and 12 of those were 3rd and 6 or longer. Third and long this week against Tavaris Jackson needs to result in stops and/or turnovers.
3. Rex Grossman protects the ball. I don't expect much from the running game so the pressure will be coming early and often. Rex is going to get harassed and hit. He must minimize the damage of those hits. Picks and fumbles equal loss. The Skins haven't won the turnover battle all season long. If they lose it today they're in trouble again.
For those that wanted entertaining games but losses the rest of the way to improve draft position, you got your wish. For those that hate to lose, that one hurt. Graham Gano's two missed field goals cost them, obviously. His first miss changed the momentum of the game at the time and the second cost them a win. How many third-and-longs can a defense give up in two weeks? The answer is 12. That's too many. Overall, Miami and Dallas have combined to go 16 of 31 on third-down against the Skins' defense the last two games. Twelve 3rd and 6 or longers completed for first downs. Ouch. Tony Romo was the difference on third down today....he was the difference in the game.
The good, bad, and more.
1. Rush defense. Superb for the 2nd straight week. Held Dallas to 2.8 yards per carry. I'd like to give the defense even more credit for what felt like a very good defensive effort but they gave up too many third-down conversions.
2. Pass protection. Maybe this is in my "good" column because it wasn't disastrous but considering there was no threat to run the ball, the o-line and backs held up pretty well.
3. Rex. He wasn't perfect, but to complete 60% of his passes with no threat of a running game is pretty good. It was his best day since the opener against the Giants.
4. Brandon Banks. Had his biggest impact-day of the season. Three punt returns for an average of 32.3 yds. per.
5. Kerrigan, Rocca, Fletcher, and Wilson before he got hurt. #91 is a beast and a playmaker. Rocca's 64 yd. punt following the Grossman-fumble replay-reversal changed field position and gave the Skins a chance to get back into the game. Fletcher's leadership and tackling is the most reliable thing on this team. Wilson is the team's best cover corner although that's not saying much.
6. Kick coverage. Always a given with Danny Smith's teams.
1. Gano. His first miss killed momentum, his 2nd cost them the win.
2. Running game. Non-existent. They're not going to run the ball against good rush-defenses. I'm not even sure why they try.
3. Third-down defense. Too many conversions for Dallas. The 3rd and 15 in overtime was essentially game-over. Romo had a lot to do with it but once again, Hall solo on Bryant turned out the same way it did in Week 3.
4. Anthony Armstrong. He's just not very good but then again, none of their receivers are very good.
5. Decision to leave Hall on Bryant in OT. Not sure why they think Hall can cover without help because he can't.
6. No turnovers. The Redskins have yet to win the turnover battle this year.
1. The field goal looked good to me.
2. Shanahan's decision to call the timeout before the game-winning kick in OT probably cost them 5 yards. Dallas didn't have a timeout and the playclock was about to run out.
3. Bad decision to challenge Fred Davis fumble in first quarter. They were almost in a position at the end of the first half where they may have needed that timeout.
4. No-brainer decision to challenge Rex's fumble on the 3rd and 1 QB sneak. Although, I actually thought it might not be overturned. Didn't look totally indisputable on replay to me. The ensuing Rocca punt and Dallas penalty on the return changed the momentum of the game in the first half.
5. Some bad officiating again this week. The P.I. on Josh Wilson in the first half was a terrible call as was the hold on Polumbus. I also thought there could've been more holding calls on Dallas in pass protection against Kerrigan and Orakpo.
On any given Sunday is the expression...here's how the Redskins make today one of those Sundays.
1. Win the turnover battle big. Translation, they need to finish plus-3 or better. They need the defense to score and set up multiple scores.
2. Run the ball a little bit. That would be more than they've run it the last few weeks and it would help.
3. Bend don't break defense. Don't give up the big play and easy score. The defense can't gamble today or Romo and Dex Bryant will explode for big yards and big points. Play vanilla and tighten up in the red zone. Hold them to field goals like they did in week 3.
Five straight losses for the Redskins after a 20-9 loss in Miami.
The good, and more.
1. Run Defense. For the first time in month, the defense did a good job against the run. You hate to see the 18-yd touchdown run by Bush in the 4th quarter but they did a nice job overall at least compared to their results the last 4 games.
2. Leonard Hankerson. A big target had 8 catches for 106 yards before getting hurt.
3. Ryan Kerrigan. He's their best defensive playmaker.
4. Perry Riley. Aggressive and high energy. He probably missed some plays that only the coaches will identify but he made a ton of plays also.
1. 3rd Down Pass Defense. Too many wide open receivers allowed Miami to go 8-14 on 3rd down. The Redskins don't have one decent cover corner. Along with quarterback and o-line, corners should be an offseason priority.
2. Rush Offense. Non-existent. Makes it hard on the entire offense.
3. Red Zone Offense. Zero for 3.
4. Rex 4th quarter INT. Backbreaking but not unusual.
5. Landry Finger-Wagging After Opponent's First Downs. Nobody on the field seems to know less about what's going on than Landry. It's a shame because he's a physical talent.
6. Lack of Hurry-Up Offense. Why no hurry-up down two scores with 5 minutes left? Just don't understand the Skins' consistent lack of urgency in these score/time situtations.
7. Gano's Misses. Two misses when your offense can't score touchdowns is hurtful.
1. Rex is much better than Beck but still nowhere near good enough to overcome the Skins' deficiencies on the o-line and at wide receiver. He underthrew Fred Davis on what could've been a touchdown pass and his inteception in the 4th quarter cost them a chance to take the lead. I'd still start Rex the rest of the way.
2. Skins could've had two more turnovers but didn't get a good bounce of the ball. The first Kerrigan sack/strip and the Miami punt return that was briefly on the ground.
3. The officiating in the NFL this year is horrible. The Skins first timeout in the first half was taken because the referree spotted the ball incorrectly after a penalty and then forgot to reset the playclock. A holding penalty on Trent Williams early in the third was a phantom. A neutral zone infraction called on Kerrigan was just pathetic.
Stop with the talk about Mike Shanahan being run out of town if John Beck doesn't turn out to be a home run at quarterback. I know Shanahan said something about staking his reputation on his two QBs this year but do you really think that he'll quit or be fired if his rep takes a hit?
Mike Shanahan has five years to build a winner and he'll get all of them if he wants them despite what Jason Reid implied at the end of his column in the Post today. He has five years to win something whether Beck, Grossman, or Jurgenson is forced to play quarterback. And don't think that this season is being viewed as some sort of "rebuliding" campaign. He wants to win and win now. Intending to win now and building something at the same time are not mutually exclusive.
Shanahan has been building since he got here. He's building a new culture, a new roster, and a new way of doing business. And it's all good. The Redskins have gone from practice when you want to practice the way he wants. For the first time in forever, they are utilizing the draft and not overpaying free agents. Add to that, the product on the field is well-coached. Sure the roster still has limitations and the biggest limitation is at the most important position but remember this. Shanahan inherited a house with dead fish in the basement. it's going to take a while to rid the smell. He's trying every deodorizer he can to get rid of the stink but some of it is still lingering. It'll be totally gone soon enough. In the meantime, don't rush him. Remember, it was impatience that killed those fish in the first place.
Let's cut to the quarterback-decision chase. Before the season, the decision came down to this....Rex’s experience was chosen over Beck’s mobility. It’s time to try mobility. All four of Rex’s picks weren’t his fault but with protection issues and now injuries to the offensive line, this team needs someone who can make plays with his legs. Beck is that guy. Don’t assume Beck will be the silver bullet answer but for now, he needs the chance to prove he might be.
The good, bad, and more.
1. 2nd Half Defense. Okay, they couldn’t come up with a stop at the end of the game but they did a much better job getting the Eagles off the field in the 2nd half. They held the Eagles scoreless in the 2nd half and gave the offense chances. I thought Fletcher, McIntosh, and Kerrigan were very good for the most part.
2. Sav Rocca. Still punting his you-know-what off.
3. Graham Gano. 2 for 2 on field goals and every kickoff out of the end zone.
1. Rex. 4 picks, could have had 2 more. His worst throw of the day was the underthrow to Gaffney. The play where you could see that Rex was not only off but gun-shy was the 3rd and 3 throw away on the first drive of the 2nd half. He was so concerned about making a bad play that he never gave himself a chance to make a good play.
2. Running Game. Non-existent, in part because they got behind and were forced to throw.
3. First half 2-Minute Offense. Bad management of the clock. They had plenty of time and looked panicked. The hurry-up false start penalty with 1:18 was so unnecessary. They had plenty of time to get what they wanted and instead went back 5 yards.
4. Penalties. Trent Williams had two penalties in the first 3 minutes of the game that really hurt. The 15-yarder on Orakpo on the Vick play in the end zone changed early momentum. The delay of game penalty in the 4th quarter cost them a chance at 3 pts.
5. End-of-Game Run Defense. They had to stop the run to get the ball back and instead McCoy got two first downs with everyone knowing he was going to run it.
1. The spot on the Eagles’ run that was ruled short of the first down right before the 2-minute warning was awful. And what was Brian Billick talking about when he said he thought it was better for the Redskins if the Eagles had gotten a first down on that play? It would have been three knees/game over at that point.
2. Orakpo’s 15-yard roughing the passer was questionable at best. If the call was for helmet-to-helmet then why didn’t the ref announce it that way. Also, why not intentional grounding on that play?
3. I thought Atogwe’s interception should have been called “momentum-carried into end zone” and hence a touchback.
4. Injuries to the o-line are now a major issue and another reason Beck's mobility should get a chance.
5. Philly's screen and sprint-draw killed the Skins all day.
6. Rex’s post-game presser was a disaster. He should have taken more blame. Explaining each pick one at a time was just too much and blaming Fred Davis for one of them was the wrong move even if he was right. They’re still 3 and 2. Lots of season left.