Last week this time it was grins, giggles, and excitement about an amazing run to an NFC East Championship. RG3 was getting better, a home playoff game was underway, and Mike Shanahan had turned 2.5 years of criticism into a probable contract extension. Today, the Redskins are out, so is their prized quarterback, and Shanahan's seat is hotter than ever. What more proof do you need that the NFL is truly a week-to-week league.
My view on whether he should or shouldn't have is that either decision wasn't easy for the coach at the time. It's easy now, it wasn't then. From what we know, nobody else on that sideline tried to convince him his quarterback couldn’t go. Not one doctor nor trainer screamed to get him out. None of RG3's teammates believed it was necessary to protect their captain. London Fletcher, the most mature and senior of team leaders said he thought RG3 would make a play. RG3 himself never indicated to anyone with authority that he was in trouble. Many believe that a blind man could see how hurt RG3 was and how much risk Shanahan was taking by leaving him in there but those closest to it weren't as convinced.
There are so many reasons why those closest to the situation didn’t see it the way many of you did but the most obvious is this. In their eyes, he still looked capable of performing well enough to win. Remember, he played hurt against Philly and Dallas and played well. While he clearly looked worse against Seattle, how much worse? The talk this week of him playing as if he were a one-legged amputee is hyperbole. He didn’t look great but he wasn’t incapacitated as some talked themselves into believing.
He clearly tweaked his knee immediately before his 2nd touchdown pass in the first quarter. For the remainder of the first half, he took just six snaps in total. Six! And which of those six was obvious proof of his lameness? None is the answer. He didn't limp or wince noticeably after any of them. Did he throw a pick on a deep shot to Pierre Garcon? Yes. Was the ball so badly underthrown that it looked like a 12-year old threw it? I don’t think so. After that, RG3 took a mere 18 total snaps the rest of the game. There were indications of stress for sure but a one-legged amputee….exaggeration.
The most obvious vision of trouble was his 9.5 yard hop on the read-option play early in the 4th quarter. This was the play that convinced most of you that he couldn’t do it and more importantly, was at great risk if he stayed in the game. Two things about that play. First, his touchdown run against Dallas a week earlier and his first run against Philadelphia two weeks earlier were different-looking but not ridiculously different. Second, the play actually happened on the other sideline where it’s possible, Shanahan didn’t see RG3’s struggle to run while pulling that right knee with him. Now, if he saw it and feared from it, how could the decision to pull him from a game in which they led 14-13 with 12:45 left facing 2nd and short be easy? It may have been the right call, but is it that much of a reach to consider the decision was a tough one? I know, RG3 is "the franchise" and it was Shanahan's job to protect "the franchise" but that wasn't his only responsibility that day. He was responsible for giving 53 players and 15+ coaches/employees his best effort in order to win the most important game of the year. At that time, no matter how bad RG3 may have been hurting, he had just gone 9.5 yards to start one of the most important drives of the game. Taking him out at that point seemed obvious to some. Not to him and not to those on his sideline that thought after that 9.5 yard hobble, that's our leader. Hurt or not, he's going to lead us to victory.
For a week now, Shanahan’s critics have wanted more than just their opportunity to vent. They have demanded explanation, investigation, and in some cases, Shanahan’s head. Leaving it alone as simply a football coach making a football decision that went wrong isn’t enough. Some believe that this was selfishly motivated, irresponsible, and negligent. The NFLPA considered investigating but realized that opening an investigation about a football player playing hurt was Pandora’s Box times 10 and smartly ditched the idea.
A week after being united, Redskin fans are divided. Should he or shouldn’t he will be the question of the offseason and it might last until we know for sure that RG3 is the RG3 we saw before the Baltimore game. It might get old talking about it but those that think Shanahan “should have” are finding it hard to accept discussion about anything else. After all, if we drop it and move on, we’d have to talk about the coach that guided this team to their most successful season in 13 years. That’s a hard swallow for those that are convinced he ruined their quarterback. Almost as hard as the decision a certain football coach faced a week ago.
It was a disappointing end to an exciting season and the game that ended the season is already generating a ton of questions and discussion that will last weeks. There's time for that but first, the good, bad, and more from the loss to Seattle.
1. The start. No doubt that the Redskins were ready at the start in all phases for this game. For a quarter, they dominated. Their first two offensive drives of the game were perfection. The defense was very good at the start as well. It looked very good at 14-zip but Seattle got a few huge breaks on their 2nd and 3rd possessions of the game that probably saved them from being blown out. More on that below.
2. RG3's competitiveness. I think there are reasonable differences of opinion on whether or not he should have been pulled from the game but I don't agree with the view that the decision to keep him in the game was dumb, selfish, or irresponsible on anyone's part. RG3's big-time competitiveness and his associated confidence makes it a tough in-the-moment call to bench him if he says he's good and ready to roll. Many ripped Cutler for pulling himself in the NFC Championship a few years ago....that wasn't going to happen with RG3.
3. Reed Doughty. He has played very well recently but he was spectacular today. He had 12 tackles, 2 sacks, and a few more QB hits to go with a near-pick in the end zone. It was a memorable game for him.
4. Jim Haslett's defense. Even though ultimately the defense gave up 224 yards rushing in this game, I thought Jim Haslett's defense did everything it could to give the team a chance to win the game. Over the last month, the defense has been able to generate legitimate pass rush pressure and force key turnovers and today was no different. Five sacks, plenty of hurries, and a huge early third-quarter forced fumble at the goal line. Sometimes a coach does his best job when it's not obvious based on the numbers. Haslett got the most out of limited resources over the last month of the season.
5. Sav Rocca and kick/punt coverage. Rocca had some huge punts including a 53-yard net punt late in the 3rd qtr that finally flipped the field in the Skins' favor. Punt and kickoff coverage were solid all day too.
1. The turf. It was perfectly fit for a playoff game in the 20th century....not in 2013. Field turf should be considered if they can't keep a grass field in decent shape In December and January.
2. Not enough Morris. Whether RG3 was hurting or not, I thought Morris should've gotten more than five second half carries. To be fair, the Redskins only had a few possessions in the 2nd half in total and several of those started in horrific field position where they were trying to make a play through the air with Seattle showing 8 in the box. Still, on 7 2nd-half first-down plays before they fell behind 24-14, Morris only carried the ball on one of them.
3. Drop-back pass game. This has been a problem all season long for the Redskins. They just aren't very good when they have to throw. RG3 wasn't healthy for sure so part of their failure to throw was on his inability to step into passes and/or extend plays with his feet. It was even more apparent when Cousins came in. He had no time in pure pass situations down by 10. This is why the read-option was their most effective pass offense this year because it kept the pass rush in flux.
4. The play that may have changed the game. Down 14-zip, Seattle faced 3rd and 12 from their own 18 after Wilson was sacked by Perry Riley for a 6-yard loss. With the crowd in full throat, Wilson underthrew Zach Miller short of the sticks but instead of an incompletion and a subsequent punt, Miller made a shoestring catch and somehow was able to get the necessary first down yardage through would-be tacklers Hall and Wilson. It was just one play early in the game but if he doesn't make that catch and a first down, the Redskins would've gotten the ball back in great field position with a chance to add to the 14-nothing lead. Instead, the Miller first-down catch was the key play on a drive that ended in a Seattle field goal.
5. Leonard Hankerson hears footsteps. He's had an up and down year but one thing has been consistent....if he's going over the middle and a defender is close, he's going to short-arm it.
1. Shanahan's decision to stick with RG3. Truth is, I never felt strongly during the game that RG3 should be benched for Kirk Cousins. I thought about it but it wasn't obvious to me until he was laying on the ground after the fumble down 21-14. In hindsight, it's easy to say their chances would've been better with Cousins at some point before the 4th quarter but with that said, I never gave up on the possibility that RG3 would make enough plays to win the game. My view on this whole thing is that RG is a competitor, he's the main reason you're in this game, he's telling you he can do it, you let him go, especially considering that your team still had the lead. How much better would Cousins have made out with the awful 2nd half field position? Maybe better or maybe worse. Keep in mind, as limited as he was, RG3 still had a 3rd and 7 throw to Leonard Hankerson early in the 4th quarter that Hankerson should've caught for a first down. It would've given the Skins a first down in Seattle territory up 14-13. I understand and believe Shanahan's postgame explanation that he felt Robert had earned the right to keep playing as long as Robert felt he was up for it and the doctors weren't pleading for him to sit. I think this was a much tougher call in the heat of the game than it seems now.
2. A key play that bounced Seattle's way. Russell Wilson fumbles and instead of Madieu Williams or Rob Jackson picking it up, Lynch picks it up and rumbles for a 20-yard gain. It was a key play on their first touchdown drive.
3. Haushka was hurt. The Lynch go-ahead touchdown run on 3rd and 5 was obviously a big-time run. If the Skins had gotten a stop, I wonder if Seattle would've sent an injured Haushka out for a 45 yard FG on bad turf.
4. Seattle had some missed opportunites. A dropped pass by McCoy near the end of the first half could've been a touchdown....the fumble at the Skins 2 by Lynch on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter....Wilson missed a wide-open Baldwin in the end zone in the 3rd quarter.
5. Near-disaster on a punt return. Skins got lucky they didn't turn it over on a punt return in the 3rd qtr when the ball nearly hit Cedric Griffin and Richard Crawford.
Maybe it's unnecessary angst but the Philly game feels a bit like a trap. The Redskins are the hottest team in the NFC and it was their mid-November blowout of the Eagles that started this run. Philly has lost 9 of 10 and looked at last glance like they had thrown in the season-towel in their 34-13 loss to Cincinnati. Skins fans have already started the "We Want Dallas" chant and Vegas has upped the Skins to a 7-pt favorite on the news that RG3 will likely play.
Nobody is more familiar with playing so-called late-season meaningless games than the Redskins. They've played the "spoiler" role for years. Not always well, but consider this. Last year, they nearly derailed the Giants' playoff hopes with a December win in the Meadowlands. They nearly did the same the year before to the Giants in the final game of the year, a game that was must-win for New York.
No matter how little you're playing for, an NFC East team gets up for NFC East games. And it's this that bothers me more than anything else this Sunday. The Eagles are done but from their perspective, why not take the Redskins with them. Andy Reid's teams are 3-1 vs. the NFC East in late December games that don't matter to the Eagles. And that's the other thing. Andy Reid. This is his last home game and if his team decides to win one for the Gipper, they'll probably try to do it this week in Philly. Add to the "Reid's last home game" spin is the fact that the Eagles have had 11 days off, are getting LeSean McCoy back, and have a rookie quarterback getting comfortable and playing loose as the season winds down. Other than everything mentioned above, at Philly looks easy.
One of the biggest wins in recent memory for the Skins. The good, bad, and more.
1. RG3. He was brilliant in the first half in particular. Everything they tried worked and everything they asked of him was executed to near-perfection. There was a drop by Logan Paulson and a missed block by Paulson that led to a sack on the first two drives of the game but the first-half otherwise was a gem. He ran it well, threw it well, avoided pressure well. He's damn good and getting better.
2. The offensive scheme and Kyle Shanahan's playcalling. I've said this before and I'll keep saying it until all of the people I care about are worshiping at the same altar. The Shanahans know what they're doing with their scheme. RG3 as a run-threat out of the pistol and/or spread isn't a "college offense" about to be figured out , it's a "pro offense" that leverages the unique skills of its quarterback which might be easy to figure out but will never be easy to stop as long as RG3 is running it. I loved the playcalling today and it stayed aggressive even at the end of the half when last week they played for a field goal. I loved the aggressiveness on the drive after Dallas got it to within 28-13 when they took it down the field and scored on a gutsy 3rd and 1 TD pass to Niles Paul. Even better was the drive after the Cowboys closed to 35-28. 12 plays, great mix, field goal range, nothing stupid, field goal attempted, field goal made, game over.
3. Pierre Garcon. He IS a difference-maker.
4. Alfred Morris. He is also a difference-maker. He benefits greatly by the scheme that features RG3 as a consitent run-threat but he'd be good in any system.
5. The defensive scheme. For the 2nd straight week, Haslett had them ready to play. Yes a lot of yards and points given up by the time we got to the end of the game but the first half was a gem. Dallas had it five times in the first half and scored 3 points. The Skins were in position to make plays and made them more often than not.
6. Kai Forbath. A huge field goal to ice the game. He is 10 for 10 on the season.
7. Penalty improvement. After double-digit penalties the last few weeks, just 5 for 41 yards today.
1. 2nd half defensive execution. Too many people open althought the Cowboys made some very good plays after the catch.
2. Brandon Banks as a returner. I actually think Banks is helping offensively but his decision to field that punt in the end zone cost them significant yards.
1. I thought Cedric Griffin was pretty good in the first half.
2. The Skins' clock-management at the end of the first half was exceptional. The play call when they were down to no timeouts to roll RG# and throw to Moss where it's either a TD or an incomplete with no chance for sack was perfect.
3. Why they picked up the flag on the late hit on RG3 out of bounds I'll never know. He was clearly out of bounds when he got pushed to the turf.
1. Kai Forbath. He's 8 for 8 with 6 of the 8 from 43 or longer although his onsides kick attempt sucked.
2. Alfred Morris. Excellent runner.
3. No turnovers. Amazing that the Redskins haven't committed a turnover in 2 weeks. Even more impressive on day like today when they dominated time of possession running 76 plays with a ton of passes in obvious passing situations in the 4th quarter.
1. Defense. It's awful. It is totally incapable of making plays to get off the field and totally reliant on the other team to self-destruct. Carolina was only stopped by its own dropped passes and penalties until the 4th quarter when their urgency to work clock instead of score became a factor. The Panthers rolled up 330 yards on just 50 plays. Can't decide which is worse, pass rush or coverage. Today, it was coverage and throw in the inability to stop the run as well. Can't decide who is worse, D-Hall or Wilson. I'd say Wilson today.
2. The 4th and goal play-call. I mentioned after the Saints game that the QB sweep with no pass or pitch option is just a bad play. It's a play more than the other run-oriented looks that really could get RG3 hurt.
3. Penalties. In a game that the head coach called "must-win", 13 penalties for 97 yards is unacceptable and on him. A team that is disciplined and playing a so-called "must-win" game can't commit false start and illegal formation penalties.
4. Urgency. Where was the desperation in a "must-win" game? It wasn't obvious to see, especially on defense, but the penalties and dropped passes on offense didn't look very desperate either.
5. Pass protection. Too much drop-back passing for this offensive line. RG3 took big shots in the pocket. Surprised he wasn't hurt on an early shot he took.
6. No playmaking pass receivers without Davis and Garcon. The lack of playmakers has killed them the last two weeks. Morgan and Paulson made a few plays but there's nobody on the field that can stretch it. Aldrick Robinson short-armed the first throw of the game and was targeted two more times the rest of the way managing 1 catch for 6 yards.
7. Shanahan's clock mgt. Calling a timeout on offense on the drive that cut the lead to 21-13 cost them 30-35 seconds when they got the ball back. Instead of getting it back with 18 seconds left, they would've had close to a full minute to try and tie the game. Coaches that know how to manage the clock don't use their timeouts on offense in that situation when they have the ability to snap the ball quickly. They use them on defense to prevent the other team from running the clock out. Pretty much anybody that watches a few games a week understands this. Apparently the Shanahans don't.
8. Officiating. The inadvertent whistle was bad, the 15-yarder on Fletcher was awful, but the delay of game penalty called on the Panthers when the ref was standing under center preventing Carolina from snapping the ball was worst of all. The replacement refs weren't any worse than the crew working the game today.
1. RG3's accuracy was off today even though he had some balls dropped. I also thought that he hung on to the ball in the pocket too long on occasion instead of tucking it and making a play with his feet outside of the pocket.
2. Fletcher just isn't good enough in coverage. Teams are throwing to tight ends as quickly as they can when he drops in coverage.
3. The Redskins were effective moving the ball but not effective scoring points. They took 30 snaps on their only two drives of the first half, rolled up 146 yards, but scored just 3 points. They took 44 snaps on 3 of their first 4 real drives of the game, rolled up 227 yards, but managed just 6 points. I hated the 4th and goal call but I'm not sure playcalling was as much the issue for not completing drives as much as mistakes and execution were. The holding penalty on Trent Williams on their first drive of the game derailed that opportunity. The 4th and goal wasn't my favorite playcall but the execution of it wasn't very good either. On the 3rd quarter drive that ended in field goal, Josh Morgan was open on the slant inside the 5 for a first down but the ball was a bit behind him and he couldn't pull it in. Down 14-6 with a little momentum after the only good defensive play made all day on the 3rd and 1 stop on Tolbert, a drive that appeared to be on the move was hurt by the illegal man downfield penalty on Lichtensteiger and a 3rd down drop by Morgan which was the difference between a punt and a potential field goal attempt.
4. The Redskins only had the ball for 9 real drives in the game because they held it when they had it and Carolina held it when they had it. Also, for the 2nd straight week they played in a game that didn't have one turnover.
5. I hate the idea of labeling a pro game a "Homecoming" game. It would seem that the other team could use it as motivation.
A good win, especially considering the poor start. The good, bad, and more.
1. The offense of the first 4 weeks was back. It appeared that Kyle decided to take last week and the first two drives of today's game to rest RG3's legs. Bad idea. The threat of RG3 as a runner, especially out of the spread and pistol with option as a possibility makes everything easier. It's like a point guard who can also score in basketball. When the guy with the ball can score, the focus of the defense is on him which makes life easier for everyone else. Same idea with RG3. Everyone benefits when the defense honestly believes he might run. First two drives today, no spread, no pistol, no option potential, they got nothing. Then Kyle went to the spread and pistol with option looks and they became near-unstoppable. They scored on their next four drives and were only stopped by their own penalties. Those that think using him that way makes him more vulnerable to injury, you might be right. Those that think it doesn't work, you're wrong.
2. RG3. Brilliant. Against a good team, they can't win without him. He made plays with his arm, legs, and brain all day long. His 76-yard run for a touchdown on a key 3rd-down late will be talked about all week long but don't forget the other 10+ spectacular plays he made before that run. He was perfect on a 4th and 3 to Moss. His 3rd and 5 throw to a covered Moss kept their first TD drive alive. How 'bout the sales job on the late hit call that wasn't. His 15-yd run on 3rd and 11 early in the 3rd qtr followed by his 1st and goal check to a QB draw for a touchdown was off the charts. His decision-making was much less-risky today. After a holding penalty on Davis late in the 3rd qtr, he scrambled to the sideline and instead of taking a risk by staying in bounds and taking a big hit, he got out of bounds and avoided a hit. It was a play he couldn't make a first down on anyway. Two more things. His accuracy today throwing the ball was near-perfect. Of his five incompletions, a few of them were throw-aways and the one interception should've been reviewed. Also, his ball-handling on fakes out of the option formations, regular playaction, and bootleg are an underrated part of his game.
3. Lorenzo Alexander. Why hasn't he played more on defense over the years? He makes plays. His pass rush was tenacious and made an impact.
4. Kai Forbath. That 50-yard FG was huge. A miss and the Skins are down 9-nothing and Minnesota has great field position.
5. Madieu Williams. It's hard to give the defense much credit today but Williams made plays early that led to Minnesota field goals and his return on the interception was great.
6. Punt team/coverage. After the two blocked punts in weeks 1 & 2, this has become a strength on the team. Great hit by Niles Paul on one punt return and a nice Rocca punt downed inside the Viking 5 on another.
1. The defense. Yes they held the Vikes to field goals on Minnesota's first three drives but it's just not a good defense right now. They got more pressure than they have recently and their rush defense is solid but they just can't get off the field enough. Eli Manning is licking his chops.
2. Ability to protect/hold a lead. The Redskins led the Rams 21-6 and lost...led the Bucs 21-3 and nearly lost...and led the Vikes 31-12 today and needed a 3rd and 6 TD run from RG3 to ice the game. I thought Kyle got a little conservative on the Skins' first drive up 31-20. That 3rd and 1 pitch to Morris with RG3 under center was a play that hadn't worked all day. They were much more effective running the ball out of the spread/pistol option looks. They were on the ropes up 31-26 on 3rd and 6 before RG3 made the 76-yd TD run.
3. Officiating. I thought the unnecessary roughness call on Minnesota's Erin Henderson in the 2nd quarter was nothing more than a nice acting job by RG3. The P.I. on Josh Wilson late in the game in the end zone was just awful. The non-P.I. call on Perry Riley on the ensuing 2-pt conversion was a big miss. I also thought that the inteception of RG3 by Antoine Winfield should've been looked at longer. He didn't seem to have full possession of the ball with both feet in.
1. Skins' blocking by non-offensive linemen (see Josh Morgan, Logan Paulson, Niles Paul, Darrell Young, and Alfred Morris in pass pro) has been very good.
2. A new wrinkle for the Skins this week was the QB draw with RG3 under center that they scored on early in the 3rd qtr.
3. They won the turnover battle again but 2 of their 3 takeaways were Minnesota unforced errors. The Williams pick-6 was a horrible throw. The Hall INT at the end was Ponder desperation because of score/time. The Alexander fumble recovery was the one that may have been forced by Riley pushing Peterson into Ponder's arm. Still, no complaints about their turnover margin which is now +9 on the season.
4. Stopping Eli and the Giant offense next week starts and ends with RG3 and the Skins' offense dominating time of possession and scoring a ton of points. I have no confidence that the Skins' defense can slow Eli and company down.
Another loss that could've easily been a win. Today's loss was at least partly self-inflicted. The good, bad,and more.
1. Alfred Morris. The real deal. If the Skins could've made some third downs, he would've had a lot more than 115 yards.
2. Ryan Kerrigan. His feel, vision, and anticipation are so good and the reasons he's such a great playmaker. However, he needs to get more consistent pressure on the quarterback.
3. Run defense. They held the Falcons to 2.9 yards per carry. Falcons pretty much abandoned the run because it became clear they couldn't.
1. RG3's injury. It happened on a pass play/scramble. The hit by Witherspoon was clean. He told Shanahan he was "alright" on the way off the field, he wasn't. Let's hope he's ready for next week.
2. Not enough RG3 runs. This may seem counter-intuitive considering he got knocked out of the game with a concussion but there were opportunities on the zone-read where it looked like if he kept the ball he'd still be running. Atlanta was prepared after getting burned repeatedly last week by Newton but there were at least two plays, one on the missed FG drive and the other on the made FG drive where it looked like he could've kept it on the zone-read for big yardage. Another thing. If they weren't going to use their designed runs, how bout some more bootleg where he's outside the pocket with the option to throw or run. I think they ran one boot the whole day.
3. Third down conversions & stops. Offensively they couldn't make any, defensively they couldn't get off the field enough. Some catchable passes weren't caught in the first half by Davis and Moss in particular. It was the difference between moving the sticks and getting more carries for Morris versus giving up the ball. The Skins ran 46 total plays on offense, just 22 in the first half. That's not enough. Atlanta was 9 for 17 on third down.
4. Billy Cundiff. Just awful! There's no excuse for keeping him another week. He cost them major momentum in this game, a game the Skins may have taken control of before halftime. You just can't miss inside 40 yards in the NFL. It's not acceptable. In fact, you really can't miss inside 50. He's a godawful kicker who shouldn't have been signed in the first place and better be gone by Wednesday.
5. Pass pressure. Just not enough of it. When a quarterback drops back 52 times, you should get more than one sack. Carolina had 7 last week. One is pathetic.
6. Dropped passes. The Falcons had several, the Redskins had a few themselves. For the Skins, it cost them on third downs, especially in the first half when they managed just 22 plays in 30 minutes.
7. End of first-half. Why would you call back to back timeouts and then run the clock out on a third straight run from your own 36? Totally ridiculous to get yourself into position to complete a pass or two to get into FG range and instead choose to run the clock out. If you were going to run the clock out, why call the 2 timeouts in the first place? You just can't afford to throw away scoring opportunities in games you know will be close. It made no sense unless of course, Shanahan knows what we all know....that Cundiff would've missed a long FG anyway.
1. Skins' DBs are just too short. Fletcher in coverage is also. Teams with bigger receivers are going to eat them up. Last week it was Williams and Jackson, this week Jones and Gonzalez. Some of those catches were well-covered but it's too hard to stop guys like Jones and Gonzalez from going up and taking it away when they have a half-foot height advantage.
2. Cousins' 77-yd TD pass to Moss was clearly a blown coverage but good job taking advantage of it.
3. If RG3 can't go, first guess is that Rex gets the start next week against Minnesota. Just a guess.
4. Banks had the big kickoff return against Cincinnati but has been contained for the most part this year. Would like to see more of him on offense.
Four games, four nailbiters, this one shouldn't have been. The good, bad, and more.
RG3. I know it's only four games but it's official....he's the real deal. His two runs in the redzone in the first half are a perfect example of why the Redskins are so different offensively this year. They can score touchdowns. I know he fumbled on the first QB draw but did you see his acceleration and toughness! It's his arm, legs, smarts, toughness, it's everything. He's already the best player they've had here since....?? Now, was that penalty on Mark Barron in the first half for unnecessary roughness a BS call...for sure. It was almost like he was getting NBA superstar treatment on that play. His command and confidence are growing. The hardcount cadence drew at least one offsides penalty, may have been two. The final drive was poised and flawless...seemed that it was never in doubt. Finally, after a long wait, the Redskins have a quarterback and leader.
The offense. 474 total yards. Not nearly the total points they could've or should've had but that was a result of missed field goals and penalties. They are so hard to defend right now. RG3 threatens a defense in so many ways that preparation for the Redskins must be a bitch. Alfred Morris is a perfect fit and then some. He's a perfect zone-stretch runner. He's a perfect spread/zone-read runner. He's a perfect triple option fullback. Not bad for a 6th rounder. Thank goodness Skins' brass didn't succomb to the "do the right thing and let Donovan go" crowd. That 6th rounder back from Minnesota for McNabb is Alfred Morris. Additionally, the Skins finally have receivers who draw P.I. penalties and run after the catch. It's nice to see additional yards after a catch instead of the "catch and immediately fall down" move of recent vintage. BTW, it helped today that Trent Williams was back. He's easily a top 3-4 must-have player on this team and he led the offensive line to a very good day against a pretty good front 4.
The fullback and tight ends. Darrell Young has been and is currently a very underrated player on this team. He's a very good blocker. He can catch passes and make yards after the catch. He can run it too even though we haven't seen much of that this year. The tight ends (Davis and Paulson) have been very good the last two weeks. Paulson is a big-time blocker and Davis is catching everything and making big plays after the catch.
Ryan Kerrigan. Multiple pass deflections and a sack. Plus, a huge third-down stop on a screen late in the game with the Skins holding a 21-19 lead. He's very good, getting better, and has become a fixture on this list.
Billy Cundiff. He missed three kicks before barely making the game-winner. He looked like he was either going to cry or vomit on that final drive and actually looked terrified right before the final kick yet somehow he managed to get it through that left upright. I'd cut him and re-sign Rackers or Gano tomorrow. He can lead the league in touchbacks till the cows come home but his field goal kicking is going to cost them a game or two. The missed 57-yarder at the end of the first half really makes wonder what Shanahan was thinking in St. Louis. I know it's indoors versus outdoors but he was 3-5 yards short on that one today. His missed 31-yarder was brutal, the 41-yarder wasn't close, and I still can't for the life of me figure out why they signed him and cut Rackers and Gano.
Penalties. Too many big ones that resulted in drive killers. The clip on Montgomery killed the first drive of the 2nd half. The 15-yarder on Garcon killed the 2nd drive of the 2nd half. They got bailed out by some big calls against Tampa so things were evened out a bit but still, an offense that was humming stopped itself a few times in the 2nd half and missed opportunities to make this a no-sweat win.
3rd down conversions. They made 2 of 11and one of the two was the razzle-dazzle Banks-to RG3-to Niles Paul play. What's interesting is that it didn't really hurt them. They rolled up 27 more first downs for the game and are now near the conference lead with 98 first downs in 4 games.
1. Good clock mgt/questionable clock mgt. They did a nice job at the end of the first half being aggressive and using their last timeout to get the ball back. It gave them a chance on a long field goal attempt. With that said, they looked confused on the final play before the game-winning Cundiff kick. After the spike stopped the clock with 18 seconds left, Shanahan carried on a conversation with RG3 on the sideline as if he was in timeout mode. It cost them a frantic false start penalty and five yards. That five yards could've been the difference between win and loss. The next play was a 7-yard completion to Moss after which there seemed to be some confusion on the Skins sideline as to what to do next. They should've let the clock tick down to 3 seconds and made the field goal the final play of the game. Instead, they kicked it with 7 seconds leaving time for a potential miracle kickoff return.
2. The five yard penalty against Tampa on their 2-pt conversion was huge. It was the difference between a Skins' win and overtime.
3. It seems obvious to say that the pass coverage was bad in the 2nd half because of the numbers but I didn't think it was as bad as the last two weeks. Unlike the last two weeks, Skins' defenders were closer to making plays with the exception of that first long one to Williams that got Freeman going. I thought Freeman and Jackson in particular made some really good throws and catches.
4. Sav Rocca and the punt coverage team had a pretty good day.
5. The Redskins got bailed out of that horrible field position on their 2nd drive of the 2nd half by two huge plays. The first was the play that nearly ended in safety and the second was the next play which resulted in a late-hit on RG3 in the back of the end zone.
6. The 3rd and 9 stop before the go-ahead Bucs field goal by Wilson on Underwood was huge. Without it, the Bucs go-ahead field goal would've been a game-winning field goal.
7. RG3 needed to stick that ball out in front of the first-down marker on that key 3rd down with 3:45 left. Shanahan's challenge on that play was questionable.
8. Merriweather and Robinson getting hurt before the game....are you kidding me!
9. The Skins have won the turnover battle in all four games. They have just 2 turnovers on the season, tied for the best in the NFL.
A few things upon further review of the Skins-Bengals game.
1. RG3 took 14 legitimate hits in the game but most of them were on "called passing plays" rather than "called running plays". Here are the #'s and I'm counting only the plays where he got legitimately hit, not brushed or lightly pushed.
Hits Taken By RG3 on Called Passing Plays--11
Hits Taken By RG3 on Called Running Plays-- 3
Note- Just 2 of the 11 hits on called passing plays were outside the pocket on scramble plays. 9 of the 11 were inside the pocket where he took the significant majority of big hits on the day. It's also important to note that just 2 of the 14 hits taken by RG3 on the day were on "option" style plays. The other running play where he got hit was a QB draw. With that said, arguably the biggest hit he took all day was on an option pitch to Banks where he got nailed by Lawson after the pitch. Banks picked up 8 yards on the play.
2. The "option" style plays worked. They ran 16 "option" plays either in pistol/triple option form or spread/zone-read form. These plays were much less-risk than most thought (at least in this game) with 14 of the 16 resulting in no hit to RG3. Additionally, they worked. The 16 "option" plays produced 96 yards or 6.0 per play and were the key to their two second half touchdown drives that tied the game. It's also important to note that they didn't go exclusively to these plays. They were mixed in with their typical zone-stretch running plays, bootlegs, drop-backs, screens and QB draws/sweeps.
3. The biggest risk with "option" plays is fumbling. They put the ball on the ground twice, losing one of them. If you watch Navy, Air Force, Ga Tech among others, they fumble it a lot running the triple option.
4. Santana Moss should've been penalized 15 yards for a post-play slap to PacMan Jones' head. After getting nailed by Jones on a quick bubble screen, Moss got up and slapped Jones in the head. The ref was right there and didn't call it. Jones went ballistic. It would've knocked the Skins out of field goal range right before the half if it had been called.
5. Richard Crawford had a tough day. The entire secondary was riddled but nobody looked as lost in key moments than the rookie. He got beat on the Hawkins touchdown in the 4th quarter badly and he appeared to be completely lost on a couple of plays that Dalton didn't take advantage of including a potential TD pass before the Bengals kicked a FG in the first half. Additionally, he was lucky he wasn't flagged for a late hit out of bounds in the first half.
6. The Bengals clock management was pretty bad too. For some odd reason, they let the Skins run the clock down to 36 seconds before kicking a the field goal that made it 24-10 at the end of the first half. They could've easily called a timeout and gotten the ball back with roughly 1:10 or so with still one timeout left before halftime. Instead, they took a knee after the kickoff. Additionally, on their final drive of the game, they could've burned another 10 seconds of the clock on 2nd and third down before they punted. The Skins would've had 1:37 when they started from their own 2 instead of 1:47.
7. The Bengals were on the ropes at the end and were bailed out by Carlos Dunlap. The Skins had first and 10 at the Cincy 19 with 29 seconds left. They had scored on their previous drive and were in the midst of a potential game-tying drive that started at their own 2. RG3 was brilliant on the final two drives completing 11 of 13 while scrambling for another 34 yards. They were on the verge of tying the game and forcing overtime (or maybe Shanahan would've gone for 2) when Dunlap made the play of the game forcing Rg3 from the pocket and sacking him for a loss of 15. The play wasn't easy as he first flushed RG3 from the pocket and then reached out and got him to stumble to the ground. It was a great play and for all intents and purposes, ended the game.
8. The 4th and 1 decision to punt still bothers me especially after seeing what Pittsburgh and Kansas City did. The Steelers went for 4th and 1 from their own 29 in a tie game with 3+ minutes left. The Chiefs went for 4th and 1 at the Saint 43 in OT with the game tied. Both teams converted and in Kansas City's case, it led to a winning field goal. Also, while not the same situation, Shanahan said he would've gone for the 4th and 1 in St. Louis on the Josh Morgan penalty play but didn't yesterday.
The Redskins deserved to lose the game, period. The entire game was an illustration in lack of discipline....both sides. The good, bad, and more.
1. RG3. The Rams clearly came out with the intent to rattle and rookie-ize him. They didn't. Without him, the Skins would've lost the game by three touchdowns. He made a few throws he'll want back but he made plays all day long with his arm and legs. If there's one nitpick, I wish he would've run more.
2. London Fletcher. It's tough to give anyone on the defense credit after it was torched to the tune of 452 yards and 31 points but Fletcher's forced fumble late was as bad-ass as it gets. It came on the play after he was drilled post-whistle without a penalty. Unlike Morgan who got emotional and did something stupid, Fletcher got emotional and made a play to give his team a chance to win.
3. Alfred Morris. He had a much better day running the ball than last week.
1. Defense. Not sure why they played so much zone coverage but it didn't work. Amendola is no Calvin Johnson but the Skins made him look like Megatron today. 452 yards for the Rams and 7 of their first 10 third-down conversions. Bradford was great but they made it easy for him. Unlike last week when everyone was covered, nobody seemed covered today. The Rams ran it well too and they did so without Jackson for most of the game. They lost Carriker early, Orakpo a bit later, and their absences hurt. Still, bottom line, a big step backwards for the defense today.
2. Special Teams. Two punts blocked in two games is a problem.
3. Discipline. Not much of it when it mattered the most. Josh Morgan's play will go down with Westbrook's 15-yarder against the Giants back in '97. No matter what happened to provoke it, the response cost his team a chance to win the game.
4. Officiating. They must have gotten the worst of the replacements to work this game. It was a crew that was lost from the beginning and because of it, the game was out of control. The Rams provoked early and often and got away with it. Here's a short list of the worst of the blown calls. A) Fisher should've been flagged for an illegal challenge on the Jackson non-fumble. B) On the next play, Jackson was ruled short of the goal line (very close call) and because of it, Jackson lost his cool, got penalized incorrectly, and got benched by Fisher. C) Fred Davis was defenseless and defender led to the head-no flag. D) Offsides call on Bowen late in the game was clearly a false start. E) Fletcher was drilled post-whistle, no call. In addition to the blown calls, the officials seemed confused on things like resetting the playclock in certain appropriate situations. And even more than all of the already-mentioned, they just couldn't minimize all of the post-play woofing, chirping, pushing, shoving. It seemed to happen on nearly every play with no ramifications and it led to a feeling of on-the-verge-of-mayhem all game long.
1. So many big plays before the Morgan penalty down the stretch. Here's the list. A) The dropped Aldrick Robinson deep ball could've set them up for a late lead. B) The 66-yard punt by Hekker with a minus-3 return was huge. It totally flipped the field. Instead of potentially starting near midfield or closer, the Skins started that drive from their own 21. C) The hit on Fred Davis would've been flagged by the real refs and given the Skins a big first down. Instead, they punted the ball 2 plays later. D) Fletcher's hit and forced-fumble on Richardson gave them a chance to win the game. Too bad Morgan's play flushed it down the toilet.
2. It was nice to see them score a defensive touchdown. I think it was the first since last year's opener against the Giants.
3. 62-yd field goal decision. I know it was 4th and 16 but Cundiff just hasn't been good from 50+ in his career. He's made just 1 of this last 8 from 50+ and has made just one 50+ yarder in the last six years. The odds of making 4th and 16 may have been better.
4. Despite the FOX announcing team of Myers/Ryan pleading for Fisher to use the challenge flag early on, I think Fisher was for the most part correct. #11 didn't get both feet in on a play ruled out of the end zone. It didn't seem as clear to me that Jackson made a first down on a 3rd and 2 that was marked short. The Jackson 3rd and 1 run that could've been a touchdown wasn't obvious on replay.
5. Garcon was missed but so was Steven Jackson.
6. Who was Orakpo yelling at after getting injured?
7. Bowen was a beast for the 2nd straight game.
8. Shanahan's icing the kicker move backfired. He missed the first kick, made the 2nd.