This is a list of things about the Skins' 2012 season that I want to remember when we get to free agency, draft, and beyond.
1. RG3's Spectacular Season. The whys and hows of his injury will dominate the offseason discussion but let's not let it totally overshadow the greatest rookie season in franchise history. His debut game in New Orleans was stunning. The final drive in Tampa, the 76-yard game-clinching run against Minnesota, and the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter in East Rutherford were breath-taking early-season moments. The 7-game season-ending win streak featured 8 touchdown passes in back to back wins over Philly and Dallas, a clutch go-ahead touchdown pass against the Giants in a huge Monday night win, and two clutch throws on the final drive against Baltimore on one leg. He threw 20 touchdowns against just 5 picks with a 102.4 QB rating.....as a rookie! Oh and by the way, he rushed for 815 yards while leading the league in yards per carry at 6.8. The list of eye-popping plays he made during the course of the season are too numerous to mention but how's the 88-yarder to Garcon in the opener, the 4th and 10 to Paulson the first Giant game, the 76-yard TD run against Minnesota, the 30-yard go-ahead TD pass to Moss in the first Giant game, and the TD pass to Moss just before the half on Thanksgiving in Dallas for starters.
2. Pierre Garcon's Impact on W's and L's. With Garcon the Redskins were 9-2, without him they were 1-5. He was a difference-maker for sure.
3. Alfred Morris. He was the perfect zone-stretch and zone-read runner. He set the franchise record with 1,613 yards with the perfect combination of vision and power. His 33 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in the NFC East title game against Dallas in the season-finale is one of the franchise's all-time great individual performances.
4. Santana Moss Wasn't Done. The 33-year old led the team with 8 touchdown catches and was third on the squad with 41 catches.
5. The Offense Was Top 5 and Could've Been Better. They finished 5th overall, 1st in rushing averaging 169.3 per game, 4th overall in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and it could've been better if their defense didn't rank towards the bottom. Imagine that offense with a defense that gave them the ball back quicker.
6. Offensive Innovation. Mike and Kyle Shanahan introduced the NFL to the "Pistol". The "Pistol" was nothing more than a formation that allowed them to more effectively run their traditional zone-stretch offense while also threatening defenses occasionally with the lethal "Read-Option". Once the Shanahans introduced RG3 as a run-threat out of the "Pistol", the offense became nearly unstoppable. The most overrated talk during the season was how many times RG3 ran from the "Pistol" while underrated was what the threat of him running did to defenses. Separating truth from fiction, the "Read-Option" was not only the most effective passing offense the Redskins ran, it was the safest and cleanest pocket for RG3. He barely got hit on throws on the "Read-Option" and his primary receiver was almost always open. By midseason, San Francisco and Seattle were among the teams copying what the Redskins were doing.
7. Turnover Margin. The Skins ranked 3rd in the league at +17 and led the league with just 14 giveaways. A big reason for their 7-game season-ending win streak was 15 takeaways and a plus-10 margin.
8. Defense Got Better. 28th overall isn't good and leaves a ton of room for improvement but after the bye at 3-6, a defense that couldn't stop anybody started to and a team that couldn't generate any pass rush got some. Jim Haslett deserves a lot of credit for figuring out how to take a defense decimated by injuries and suspension early (see Carriker, Orakpo, Merriweather, Jackson) and turning into a competitive group by the final month of the season.
9. Penalties' Good and Bad. The Redskins were penalized an average of 7 times a game (5th most in the league) but just 2.7 times per game in their last 3 games (best in the league).
10. Danny Smith's Comeback. From two blocked punts in the first two games to a very good rest of the year. Fans wanted him fired early but his punt coverage team finished 8th while his kickoff coverage team finished 12th. Brandon Banks was ineffective but the move to Richard Crawford on punt returns worked.
11. Kai Forbath. Nobody can explain the move to Cundiff at the end of the preseason but the final outcome was a good one after Cundiff predictably failed. Forbath set an NFL record by making 17 straight field goals to start his career....he finished 17-18, missing his final attempt of the season into the wind and on the sand at Fed Ex.
12. Fed Ex Turf. A total disaster late in the season and a total embarrassment in the playoff loss to Seattle.
13. Biggest Offseason Needs. Safeties, corners, and another playmaker on offense are my top 3 priorities. Big decisions regarding Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo.
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.
I've been accused the last few days of describing Seattle as the best team since the '85 Bears. I don't believe that at all but I do believe they are the best all-around team in the NFL right now. If every playoff game this year were played on a neutral field, I think Seattle would be the favorite to win the whole thing. They have a very good defense, very good offense, and very good special teams. They've won 5 in a row coming into the postseason by an average score of 42-10. They're excellent but....so are the Redskins, and the Skins are playing at home. I like the home team's chances.
The Skins beat Seattle if...
1. they match Seattle's physicality. Seattle tries to be physically intimidating on both sides of the ball. The Redskins are really physical offensively with their run-game in particular and have been much more physical defensively in recent weeks.
2. RG3 is closer to 100%. The Skins can beat weak teams like Dallas and Philly with a less-than 100% RG3 but he needs to be right against Seattle. His explosiveness could be the deciding factor if he has it.
3. they stop the run. Slowing down Marshawn Lynch is a must. Seattle likes to do some of the same things the Redskins do offensively like running the read-option with their quarterback but it all starts with Lynch. If the Redskin defense can't keep him around 4 yards per or less, they're in trouble because they won't get off the field enough.
4. they don't lose the turnover battle. I'm not sure they have to win it, but they can't lose it. Seattle has been as effective as the Skins at taking the ball away (31 total takeaways on the season for both teams) but the Skins have to continue to do what they've done all season long....protect the football. Amazing they have a league-best 14 total turnovers in 16 games.
5. they don't give up the big play. Seattle can strike quickly with any part of their team. Leon Washington is as dangerous as any kick returner in the league. They've scored off of blocked kick returns, interception returns, and fumble returns. Lynch, Wilson, Rice and Tate are all big-play guys on offense. The Redskins were vulnerable to the big play earlier in the season. If they can keep their recent trend of not giving up the big play they'll be in good shape.
Nothing has been debated more this year than the Redskin' offense with RG3 and nothing has been described incorrectly more often than the Redskin offense with RG3.
For starters, many have lauded the Shanahans for having the flexibility to install the offense RG3 ran in college. Except of course that they didn't. RG3 ran the "spread" offense at Baylor. The Redskins aren't running the "spread". The "spread" RG3 ran at Baylor used 4 and 5 wide receiver sets consistently and they threw it deep often. The linemen took wide splits with draws and screens used as a major part of the approach. Yes, the "spread" at Baylor included plenty of read-option plays but the offense RG3 ran at Baylor has very little in common with the offense the Redskins are running right now.
Secondly, I've read and heard many people refer to the Skins' "pistol offense" but it's really not an offense for them at all....it's just a formation. So when someone suggests that the "pistol offense" won't work or isn't sustainable, their premise is incorrect. Most of what the Redskins run when they line up in the "pistol" formation is their traditional base offense. The majority of their "pistol"-formation plays this year have been traditional plays like their zone-stretch runs, bootlegs, play-action passes, pitch sweeps or pitch power runs. So when someone suggests that their "pistol offense" isn't sustainable, that someone is actually suggesting that what they've been running for years isn't sustainable. That makes no sense. Why would Mike Shanahan scrap the offense he's been running for 15 years? I think that those that suggest "unsustainability" really don't understand what they're referring to as unsustainable. By the way, the primary reason they use the "pistol" as a formation for their base-offense is because it presents RG3 as a run-threat and RG3 as a run-threat enhances everything they call. The irony is that so many people make a big deal of his infrequent designed runs when the more important benefit has been the effectiveness of his much more frequent non-runs.
Lastly, many believe that the read-option the Redskins run isn't sustainable because RG3 can't run that much without getting hurt. This is not an unreasonable position but it implies that he runs a lot from the read-option and that just isn't true. Contrary to what most believe, most of their read-option plays this year have not resulted in an RG3 run. He runs more on traditional quarterback runs like scrambles out of the pocket than he does on read-option runs. Most of their read-option plays have resulted in runs by the running back or passes by RG3. As a matter of fact, their read-option passing game has been incredibly successful and is actually the pass-offense that has been the safest for RG3. He rarely gets touched on read-option throws. The read-option pass rarely results in the quarterback getting hit because the pass rush hesitates on the read-option fake and the throw is made so quickly. The read-option passing game is actually analagous to say a quick 3-step drop pass attack except the fake to the back creates an even safer and cleaner pocket. So the notion that the read-option is going to get him killed isn't entirely accurate. It's actually a much safer pass attack than passing from a traditional drop-back pocket. The results this year say the same thing. He hasn't been touched on read-option throws while their traditional drop-back pass plays have resulted in the two hits that got him hurt.
Redskins versus Cowboys. The two names in the same sentence have a distinct ring to it and all credit goes to George Allen. I enjoy all of the stories of the rivalry before Allen arrived in 1971 but the meat of what we still chew on today was cooked in 1971.
Before Allen got here, there was dispute over league inclusion and song rights and there were even some wild and memorable games but the greatest sports rivalries are built on the backs of games with stakes. Starting with his first year as coach in Washington, nearly every game had division and/or playoff ramifications until he left 7 years later. Those games and the hype that surrounded each and every one of them laid the foundation for what became an NFL treasure for over 20 years.
Consider this. During Allen's seven seasons in DC, the Redskins and Cowboys played 15 times and in all 15, both teams played with winning records. In fact, during the Allen-Tom Landry 7-year war, both teams ended each season with a winning record of at least 2 games over .500. Much more impressively is this fact. All 15 games were played with either a) first place in the division on the line, b) wild-card playoff hopes at stake or c) the Super Bowl on the line in the '72 NFC Championship game. That's unprecedented importance. No other division rivalry in the history of the game since the merger has had a run like that one.
Many of the Allen versus Dallas games are of legend and you could easily argue that the majority of the memorable games in the series were played from '71-'77. There was the first one. A rainy Cotton Bowl was the scene in October of '71 for the Skins' shocking 20-16 upset of the heavily favored Cowboys. It was Washington's first win over Dallas in 4 years and it was the jab that started the fight. It was so stunning that thousands of Skins' fans greeted the team when they arrived at Dulles late that night. It was not just the opening salvo in what would become a heated rivalry; it was the true beginning of the love affair between the DC area and the Redskins.
December 31, 1972. NFC Championship Sunday. Redskins 26, Cowboys 3. The Redskins defense dominated and Billy Kilmer's two touchdown passes to Charley Taylor were more than enough. RFK shook like it had never shaken before and DC celebrated New Years Eve with burgundy and gold champaign glasses.
Ken Houston meets Walt Garrison. One of THE moments of the rivalry. The first-ever Monday night game between the Skins and Boys came on October 8th, 1973 and it ended with Houston stopping Garrison at the 1-inch line on 4th and goal with less than 30 seconds left.
Clint Longley on Thanksgiving, 1974. Staubach knocked out and the rookie Longley comes in and throws two touchdowns as Dallas roars back from down 16-3 in what was the first of seven Thanksgiving matchups between the two teams.
In 1975, 5-1 Dallas at 4-2 Washington. A classic back and fourth game that went to overtime, the first OT game in Skins' history. A Ken Houston pick early in the OT sets up a Kilmer sneak from the 1 and a 30-24 Skins win. Later that year, with wildcard hopes on the line for both teams, each sporting 8-4 marks, the Skins jumped out to a 10-zip lead at Texas Stadium before four turnovers helped Dallas to 31 unanswered which put the Cowboys into the playoffs, and the Skins out.
The 1976 season-finale was all about the Redskins needing a win to clinch a playoff berth and Dallas needing a win to clinch home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Former Cowboy Calvin Hill scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the 4th quarter for the Skins en route to a 27-14 playoff-clinching win.
George Allen started this thing in earnest. He targeted the Cowboys and he beat them in big games with stakes. He riled it up with his loathing of everything Dallas from their uniforms, to Tom Landry, to Roger Staubach. His passion for it and the associated results created something that has existed at various levels for the 41 years since. No doubt in my mind that the origins of the emotion that most of us will feel Sunday night started with the Allen era.
A nice win with a quarterback not completely healthy and against an Eagle team that came to play. The good, bad, and more. Also, their updated playoff situation is listed below.
1. The Defense. Jim Haslett schemed up more pressure on the quarterback than in any game this year. The players also won more matchups than they have in any game this year. Five total sacks with several more hurries. Pressure was a factor all day but most importantly on three key plays. First--the Ryan Kerrigan sack/forced fumble on the final play of the 1st quarter. They were down 7-zip and on the verge of going down more. Second-the 4th and 2 sack at midfield up 20-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again, it was a Kerrigan play pushing the tackle back into Foles for the sack. Third-the final play of the game. Pressure forced the intentional grounding and the 10-second run-off...game over. The two turnovers forced in the first half were huge. I say forced because Kerrigan forced one with the sack and Cofield tipped the ball that Fletcher picked off. By the way, Cofield was very good all day as was Fletcher and Riley.
2. Offensive Playmakers. The Redskins have guys making plays after catches, during catches, and after getting hit. It's as important as anything we've seen during the 6-game win streak. Pierre Garcon makes plays. Joshua Morgan makes plays and was especially effective today. He had an incredible run on a reverse that should've been a loss. His touchdown catch and run was typical of the kinds of plays their receivers are making. Moss's touchdown catch was spectacular. Morris makes plays especially after contact. Royster had a good move on 3rd and short. Niles Paul had a nice catch and run. Attribute it to the scheme, the return of Garcon, or anything you want but the Skins have guys making plays with the ball.
3. Kai Forbath. He's money. 17 for 17 and the new record for most kicks made without a miss to start a career. His two early field goals today were important and gave the Skins some momentum.
4. Kyle Shanahan. He had a quarterback that was clearly less than 100% yet he was able to come up with a gameplan that kept the threat of RG3 as a runner in place without actually running him much. All season long I've felt the talk of him as a runner has been so overrated compared to the biggest benefit which has been the "threat of RG3 running" even when he didn't. There was plenty of pistol and even several read-option plays but he only ran on one read-option. The others were Morris runs or the read-option was used to set up passes. Kyle threw in several wrinkles....two plays stood out. On a completion to Garcon in the first half off the read-option look, Joshua Morgan was in motion than moved into the backfield prior to the snap. They've used that alot on plays where the WR ends up being a decoy on a run play or is used as the pitch back on the option but never on a quick throw off the read-option. The more interesting play was the touchdown run by Morris. That play appeared to be a fake read-option to one side with an old-school counter trey with Trent Williams pulling to the other side. The play broke wide-open for the touchdown.
1. RG3's mobility. It was obvious he wasn't 100% and we saw it early. He seemed uncomfortable on an early read-option run and later on a 4th and 2 bootleg miss.
2. A near-disaster in pass coverage at the end. Madieu Williams did a nice job on a safety blitz but was seemingly out of position (which isn't a first) and very lucky on a pass into the end zone for a wide open Maclin on the final drive.
1. Skins got lucky at the end when #86 dropped a wide-open slant for a touchdown.
2. I think Andy Reid may have gone for 2 and the win if they had scored at the end. He was in a risk-taking mode all day with nothing to lose.
3. The challenge by Shanahan on the RG3 lateral to Moss that lost 17 yards was a bit of a waste.
4. Eagle fans have complained about Reid's clock managment for years and it's easy to see why. He called quick timeouts with still over a minute left in the first half potentially leaving plenty of time for the Skins to score before the end of the half. It didn't hurt him this time but the strategy was wrong.
Skins' Playoff situation:
To Win the NFC East- Beat Dallas. They could also win the NFC East with a tie against Dallas if the Giants lose once. The Skins CAN'T win the NFC East with a loss to Dallas. A 9-7 final record would lose out to either a 10-6 Giants or a 9-7 Cowboys (common opponents).
Wildcard- If they lose to Dallas, they could still qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard but would need 3 of the following 4 things to happen. 1-the Giants to lose once (vs Balt or Philly); 2-the Vikings to lose to the Packers; 3-the Bears to lose once (vs Cards or Lions); 4-Seattle to lose twice (vs SF and STL).
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.
Another impressive win for the Skins....5 straight, good for first place in the NFC East with 2 left. The good, bad, and more.
1. Organizational win. There used to be organizational losses after losses but now there are organziational wins. Today may have been Mike Shanahan's best moment in Washington. His personnel decisions of the past few years were all over this one. As many as 11 of his draft choices from the last 3 years contributed....most in a major way. Trent Williams and Perry Riley from 2011. Kerrigan, Jenkins, Hankerson, Paul, and Royster from 2011. And none more than the one that drew the most scrutiny, Kirk Cousins, the 4th-rounder from this past draft who most thought was unnecessary. His two biggest offseason free agent acquistions (Garcon and Morgan) were major contributors and have been. His coordinators (Kyle and Haslett) were superior to the competition today. They're on a roll with a chance to do something big this year and they're young....really young.
2. Kyle's playcalling. After going 0 for their first 4 drives, Kyle realized that they had to throw it and throw it on first and 2nd down. The bootleg must have been run 15 times in this game with the quick-strike play-action throw called another 10-12 times. An amazing adjustment when he figured out that the run-game would not produce per usual and incredible that it was so effective without the running game working. After the dismal start, he got aggressive and stayed that way to the tune of 38 points. It was also interesting that they ran last year's offense much more than this year's offense. The "Pistol" formation was absent except on one play and they ran only one, maybe two read-options. Why? Not sure, but two things were clear. One, they didn't run the ball very well without it and two, they clearly thought Cousins was more comfortable running their base offense primarily.
3. Kirk Cousins. Those that didn't like the Redskins spending a 4th-round pick on another quarterback....sit down. After a shaky start 1 for 6 start, Cousins when 25 of 31 the rest of the way. His play-action throws, especially the bootlegs, loosened up a Cleveland defense that stopped the run and got good pass rush early. Cousins, like RG3, is talented. He can make all the throws, can run it a little too. But like RG3, he definitely benefits from a coaching staff that knows quarterbacks and knows offense.
4. The Defense. Cleveland is the weakest offensive opponent they've played in a while but still, the defense did a solid job all day long. There were a few plays that they'd like back (the Benjamin TD pass in particular) but it's a defense that's getting better. They stopped the run, got good pass-rush pressure, deflected multiple passes, and picked off two passes. The Jackson pick set the tone in what would become a dominant 2nd half. The Skins played everyone on defense and their freshness paid off.
5. D'Angelo Hall. I'm going to single him out because he takes so much heat from so many but he played well. He was all over the field as a tackler, as a cover-corner, as a cover-safety, and as a special-teamer on kick coverage.
6. Special teams. Rocca and Forbath solid. Kick and punt coverage very good with the exception of one kickoff return. Big hits by Alexander on Sp. teams is a given each week.
1. Another long touchdown pass allowed. DJ Johnson burned in man coverage on 3rd and 7 by Benjamin. Bad play for the Skins because they went from being in total control up 17 with 10 to go to a game that was once again in play.
2. Garcon 15-yard penalty. It wasn't the spin but the taunting with the spin that drew the flag. It'd be nice if they could make the catch, toss the ball to the ref, and get back to the huddle to get ready for the next play.
1. Casserly said that the Skins can perhaps pull in two 2nd-round choices if they choose to trade Cousins in the offseason. I don't think there's a chance they'll trade him so soon especially without another back-up they're comfortable with.
2. Martz said the decision on RG3 was made Wednesday.
2. Redskins fumbled twice and didn't lose any of them continuing a trend of now recovering 18 of their 24 fumbles.
3. I thought the challenge on the Garcon play was worthwhile. It looked like a catch.
One of the most dramatic wins in recent Skins' history. The good, bad, and more.
1. 2nd-half defense. What a turnaround after a dismal first half. Seven 2nd-half/OT possessions....3 punts, 2 turnovers, 7 total points. They got better pressure on Flacco and did a better job against the run. The two forced-turnovers were really big. Baltimore was moving on both drives. Jackson got the forced fumble with the Ravens at midfield on their first drive of the 3rd quarter. Kerrigan's pressure led to the Fletcher INT with the Ravens at the Skins' 11. After a lights-out first half, Flacco was forced into mistakes in the 2nd half that really impacted the final result. The Kerrigan/Fletcher play in particular was all on Flacco for holding the ball on what was obviously a 5 blocking 6 situation.
2. Kai Forbath's Field Goals. 14-14 for the season, 9 of them over 43 yards and a huge game-winner in OT. Now, with that said, his kickoffs aren't very good and the kick after the game-tying touchdown/2-pt conversion was so close to being a play that cost them the game. Barely into the end zone even though Jacoby Jones protested.
3. Richard Crawford. Not a bad debut. 3 punt returns for an average of 33 per. Still not sure why he didn't outrun the punter for the touchdown but what a huge play.
4. Kirk Cousins. He comes on a 3rd and 6 with the game on the line and makes a throw that draws a P.I. Then, his 2nd entrance into the game comes on a 2nd and 20 with the game on the line and he goes 2 for 2 with a touchdown to Garcon, then ties the game on a 2-pt conversion QB draw. He was a clutch quarterback at Michigan State and what a job he did under pressure today. No panic, totally under control, and a great 3rd and 5 touchdown pass to Garcon. That's why they picked him. You need at least two in the NFL, they got em in the draft.
5. RG3. It wasn't his best game but I thought he was very effective early especially with the read-option (which sliced/diced Baltimore's defense on the first two drives en route to setting an NFL first-quarter best this year with 186 total yards) but he missed a few things too. An early 3rd and 7 to a wide-open Garcon was thrown poorly. The 3rd and short option pitch to Morris was a bad pitch. Morris would've easily gotten the first down. I know this will sound nuts after the injury but I thought he could've run more on the read-option and the same from the pocket. Still, on one leg, he made two big-time throws that got them to within striking range. The 15-yarder to Moss and the 22-yarder to Garcon were monster plays on the final drive and he couldn't step into either throw. Both throws were all arm.
6. Punt team. Sav Rocca had a very good day and the punt coverage team did a very good job on Jones.
1. RG3's injury. Can't wait to hear those complaining about him running the ball blame this one on the Shanahans but as was the case in the Atlanta game, it happened on a pass-play scramble, not a called run.
2. 1st-half defense. It was bad and they were lucky it wasn't worse. They couldn't stop the run, they couldn't rush the passer, they couldn't cover. D-Hall was beaten like a drum and it looked like Madieu Williams was constantly out of position. Flacco was 10-13 and 2 of the misses were his fault. He underthrew an open Torrey Smith that could've been a touchdown. Rice and company rushed 14 times for 91 yards. They only had the ball for 12:32 yet rolled up 218 yards. Not a good half for the Skins at all but not all that unusual either.
3. Drive-killing mistakes on offense. Penalties in the first half hurt. Morris' fumble cost them 7 pts. There were key dropped passes including Moss' catchable deep ball and Garcon's dropped 3rd and 3 in the 4th quarter.
4. Skins drop-back pass protection. We've seen it all season-long but they really struggle when they're in obvious pass situations. They throw it effectively out of the read-option look and first-down play-action, not when pass is obvious and expected.
1. The Garcon spot on that 2nd qtr catch/run was correct. His knee was down short of the marker.
2. Niles Paul's fumble was correctly reviewed and overturned.
3. RG3 took a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scramble run in the 4th qtr that was missed.
4. The 3rd and short option call by Kyle was a good call, bad execution.
5. I was surprised that Baltimore didn't take a shot with 26 seconds left and one timeout in regulation and at the same time didn't understand what they were doing at the end of the first half throwing the ball with clearly no intention of trying to get into FG range.