According to every statistical measurement, if Alfred Morris carries the ball a lot on Sunday night, the Skins will win. The "run Morris" theme has come from every nook and cranny of Redskin Nation all week long. That's always the default in this town when the team isn't doing well. Get back to the basics; run the ball dammit!
Whether it's been Portis or Morris in recent years, run it down their throats has always been the Redskin way. Going back to the days of Riggo and the Hogs and before that Brown and after that Byner, when in doubt it's back to our roots......NFC East slobber knocker football. Nostalgia is great but bringing it back in the present can be dangerous.
The slobber knocker approach doesn't work anymore. If you can't throw the ball, you can't win in today's NFL. It's not just today's NFL, it's been this way for a long time. Teams throw to get a lead and run to protect it. Nobody lines up and just runs it on every play anymore. Trying to run the ball "down their throats" on first, second, and third downs is a formula for punts, not points. It doesn't work for most teams. Okay, maybe, maybe the 49ers can run it down someone's throat with their o-line and Frank Gore but most teams can't. A balanced offense where run or pass is a legit possibility on any down, particularly first down, is what works for the masses.
Specific to Kyle Shanahan's offense in Washington, play calling that keeps the other team guessing has always been the key to a successful day. They just aren't good enough up front to line it up and play smash mouth football. Smash mouth comes in the 2nd half with a lead and the other team wilting. Getting that lead for this team has required balance and deception in recent years. Yes, the Shanahans love to run the ball and they've been good at it but to do it well requires doing both (running and passing) well.
So for those hoping the game plan on Sunday night should start, continue, and end with Morris, Morris, and more Morris, I would be surprised if you get your wish.
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).
QB--Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins
RB--Evan Royster, Tim Hightower, Alfred Morris-- Helu Jr to IR? Just a guess but I'm still not 100% sure on Hightower's health either. I think it's overly optimistic to think Morris would make it through waivers and be available for practice squad.
TE--Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, Niles Paul, Logan Paulson-- Cooley or Briscoe? My gut says Cooley for now.
WR--Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Brandon Banks, Aldrick Robinson-- still convinced there's no chance Banks gets cut. Still not ruling out Briscoe as a 7th receiver over a 4th tight end.
OL--Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Wil Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Maurice Hurt, Willie Smith, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus--I think Black has a chance but I've got him out for now. Compton to the practice squad.
NT--Barry Cofield, Chris Baker
DE--Adam Carriker, Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins, Darrion Scott-- a hunch on Scott over Golsten.
OLB--Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson-- Wilson or White?? White's injury couldn't have come at a worse time...edge to Wilson for now.
ILB--London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson-- Robinson over Kehl but it's close.
CB--DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford, Kevin Barnes-- I know Griffin has looked shaky but he's a vet and there's not enough pushing him.
S--Brandon Merriweather, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes, Tanard Jackson, Reed Doughty-- Doughty survives again. Bernstein to the practice squad.
K-Graham Gano-- gut says they stick with Gano although a couple of missed kicks in the final 2 preseason games would be lethal.
Four more games down, only three left in this season that almost never was. While the Redskins can only hope to play in a game of this relevance in the next year or two -- the Giants, Ravens, 49'ers and Patriots all took care of business, with two teams making a statement (Patriots, Giants), the 49'ers providing us a game to remember for the ages, and the Ravens hanging on for dear life to beat a valiant Texans squad - a team that should give you a little glimpse of what the Redskins hope they can turn into.
The Texans proved that if you BUILD A TEAM, you can still be extremely competitive without a superstar at the Quarterback position, and you can even withstand two critical injuries at that one position, while losing your stud receiver for 8 games.
It has taken Gary Kubiak (Kubiak was not the original coach) and the Texans a long time to get to this point, because they did it the WRONG WAY when they launched the franchise. When you take a guy like David Carr and surround him with very little talent (Offensive line & defense to start, Redskins WR Jabar Gaffney was Houston's 2nd franchise pick) you often are set back years and that is exactly what happened to Houston.
You can have Jesus Christ (no offense, Tim Tebow) at the helm -- but if you don't have the right talent and enough of it surrounding him - you are done-ski. When teams will learn this, I have no idea.
Thankfully, while not the popular route with the fan base that doesn't think of common sense items like this -- Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, along with their scouting department, seem to realize that you need so much more than just a guy who you think is a 'franchise' guy.
Finishing up on the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans -- a couple of thoughts. Ed Reed had a brilliant interception to basically end things, but landed awkwardly and his status has to be a major concern for the Ravens heading to New England and Tom Brady.
I would be really worried about the Patriots ability to sneak in some big chunk runs, despite being limited in talent at the running back spot. Arian Foster is terrific, but with a limited option (T.J. Yates) throwing the ball -- Foster (27-132, TD) ripping off some of the runs he did (28 yards off the left edge, 19 yards right up the middle to name a few) was a sign that clearly the Ravens defense is not what it used to be. Yates was ok (17-35, 184, 2 INT) but as you would expect -- made some big mistakes including a bad telegraphed INT in the first quarter to Lardarius Webb, who had Yates passing attempt to Andre Johnson in his eyes the entire time.
As for the Ravens offense - I really liked a couple of the throws Joe Flacco made to Anquan Boldin - hooking up in some tight windows, while also finishing off a touchdown drive on a nice pass to Boldin - a ball that was thrown only where Anquan could catch it. Flacco also sold a 3rd/1 tight run formation for a touchdown after a terrible turnover on a punt by Houston's Jacoby Jones.
Bottom line, the Texans made 3 huge mistakes and still had a chance to win the game -- I would be worried about that if I was the Baltimore Ravens.
**New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
What else can you say about the Giants - who the Redskins left for dead a week before Christmas, only to be resurrected by Rudolph and Santa's elves to smash the Jets, Cowboys and Falcons in consecutive weeks all at Met Life Stadium.
This was a true test. Lambeau Field in January, the # 1 seeded Green Bay Packers and all-world QB Aaron Rodgers.
Once again, the Giants proved that you win games in many ways. Eli Manning has been fabulous for the most part, but it takes two to tango and then some. Hakeem Nicks is just fantastic, using his size and speed to shield and wall off defenders for two touchdowns.
The back breaker was the hail mary at the end of the half, which was a perfect example of Nicks size and bodyshielding ability, but the more impressive score was Nicks' 66-yard catch-and-run as he bounced off of Charlie Peprah, spun away from Tramon Williams and raced to pay dirt.
It also helps that the Giants front-seven is simply insane. Just when you think you have your hands more than full with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora -- linebacker Michael Boley -- who many Giants consider the heart and soul of the defense, had two huge sacks.
Boley had a monster sack on 4th down, and also a key take down of the elusive Aaron Rodgers on a 3rd down. The 4th down sack, came a play after Rodgers missed a wide open Jermichael Finley for a first down that would have put the Packers in great scoring position. The other sack -- Boley jacked up James Starks in pass protection, shed his block and brought down Rodgers.
Just because Boley was outstanding, it did not mean that Umenyiora was a non-factor. Umenyiora made perhaps the defensive play of the year on the first drive of the 2nd half, with the Giants up 10. Rodgers had just completed a big play to Donald Driver for a 16-yard gain on 3rd/5, and had momentum.
Green Bay dialed up a perfect play call for a "SLUGGO" or a slant-and-go, should have been a relatively easy six points for the Packers, but Rodgers fake pumped to sell the slant, and by the time he could reload again - Umenyiora who missed half the season -- swatted the ball out of Rodgers right hand and forced the turnover, while taking away a potential easy six.
Greg Jennings had a drop in the end zone for what could have been another touchdown for the Packers over Antrel Rolle, as the Packers had several other key drops throughout the game, including Tom Crabtree on a critical 3rd down.
Green Bay also was terribly sloppy with the football from the start, fumbling their opening kickoff return, andit never got any better, although they did catch a few breaks. On the Packers opening kickoff return, Reggie Cobb fumbled and it appeared that the Giants would have the ball in great field position. The call was a fumble, which was incorrect (a bad sign on a terrible day for the officials, there were a few other terrible calls) and was overturned on review. A bad precedent was set however.
A couple of series later, Greg Jennings would clearly fumble the football before his knee or elbow were down, it was somehow ruled down by contact, before fumbling and the call was upheld. It was as clear as you are ever going to see, and the only thing I can think of is Grant's calf was down. FOX's Mike Pereira did not point that out, and I have never heard of the calf being a marker, but hey - I only watch the games. The non-reversal led to a touchdown for the Packers.
John Kuhn had a true fumble (no dispute or blown call), Ryan Grant had another critical fumble that led to a Mario Manningham touchdown, after the Rodgers-Umenyiora incident and the dropped passes all added up to the perfect storm for the Giants.
A note on the officiating - besides the call that outraged everyone, officials also call a personal foul on Osi Umenyiora for a late hit/UNR to Aaron Rodgers. The hit forced an incompletion on third down, which would have forced the Packers to punt. Umenyiora hit Rodgers square in the back (legal and not late) and his momentum of the collision, forced his helmet to 'ride' up Rodgers back and for the two to bump helmets. I can't see how the NFL would fine Umenyiora when they slow it down.
We mentioned the other fumbles (one called incorrect on the field, then reversed & the Jennings fumble) but on one particular 3rd down incompletion to Jake Ballard of the Giants in the Packers end zone, officials missed a clear defensive pass interference call and also an illegal hands to the face by one of the Packers lineman trying to get to Eli Manning. It happens, but two clear fouls on one play? I saw both live at regular speed, so I don't buy the excuse.
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
What else can you say in this game - other than Tom Brady is GREAT and Tim Tebow STINKS. That's being kind. This is a family friendly website.
Tebow is a fraud at this level. He CAN NOT get appreciably better. He will never be anything more than a 50/50 prop bet and that is being kind.
Trust me, John Fox sees it. John Elway knows it. The entire 'smart' free world can seperate his relative unique ability for what he is as a passer - and that is a JOKE.
I'm DONE. For now.
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49'ers
WOW, what a game! One that we will always remember. Who can forget Drew Brees spinning it to the three different targets (Sproles, Graham, Colston) for over 100 yards each. Brees throwing the ball 63 times, because the Saints had no running game with an injury on the first drive of the game to Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram already done for the year.
Brees did make a couple of mistakes..a big interception to Dashon Goldson and one to Tony Brown. Quite honestly, he was outplayed by Alex Smith, who was nearly perfect.
Smith, the former # 1 overall pick who has played under a different coordinator in just about every year he has been a pro, threw for 299 yards, along with three passing touchdowns and who could forget his 28 yard rushing touchdown on 3rd/8 around left end, with Joe Staley leading the way in space on a cut block from the left tackle spot.
Of course, the play that will be burned in everyone's memory - will be the game-winning touchdown to Vernon Davis who was popped as he crossed the end zone line. Great play, but it was so many other big plays leading up to that final throw and hook-up. Don't forget -- about Davis on a go-route up the left sideline beating Malcolm Jenkins (who had a rough day). Or the first touchdown of the day to Davis who broke free of a bad tackle attempt by Jenkins, and ran to pay dirt.
For those criticizing former Redskins defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, for playing tight coverage on the final drive...please....you don't suddenly change the way you have been playing for years - because you are scared of Vernon Davis.
Many of you are upset that they won because of how it affects draft position but the truth is they played today like they've played since the Miami game....competitively.
The Redskins are 5-9 on their way to another non-playoff finish but this season's result was oh so close to being better. If you put aside the stretch of "no-chance-to-win" football they played with John Beck at quarterback which resulted in three ugly losses, the Skins have had a chance to win every other lost game this year except the Philly game at home. Both losses against Dallas were games they led in the 4th quarter. They led against the Jets with 4 minutes left, had a chance to tie New England in the final 30 seconds, and they were down one point in the 4th at Miami. I'm not suggesting that they are much better than their record says they are but I'm simply suggesting that there is every indication from recent performance that they'll have chances to win games down the stretch.
The good, bad, and more.
1. Defense. One of the best days of the year for the defense. Here's the list of reasons why...a) 10 pts allowed b) 3 interceptions c) solid coverage all day long d) 3 sacks and multiple hurries e) huge hits all day long. Don't need to single one out on a day like today but of course if I did, Fletcher!
2. Corners. Best day of the year for the Skins' corners.
3. Wide Receivers. Not one dropped ball and plenty of plays after the catch.
4. Rex's short memory. He's just not fazed by the interceptions he throws. It's as if he doesn't remember them at all. His TD throw to Moss was perfect.
5. First-half 3rd down conversions. 6 of 9 in the first half on third down was the main reason they were able to overcome Rex's early picks.
6. Darrell Young. He's terrific as a blocker, effective as a short-yardage runner, and not bad as a pass receiver. They're better with him.
7. O-Line. A nice job overall, especially on third down in the first half.
1. Not enough points. They could've and should've scored more. And perhaps if the game had been closer in the 2nd half they would have had more of an urgency to score versus running clock.
2. Safeties in coverage. Doughty and Gomes is not the pair you want in coverage although Doughty is effective at the line of scrimmage as a run-stopper.
1. The Nicks drop in the first half was huge.
2. Terrible challenge by Coughlan on the Atogwe inteception.
3. I had no problem with the decision to go for the 4th and 1 late in the first half and no problem with the play call. It would have been a 49 yard field goal and they were having success on 3rd and 4th and short.
4. If Gano had made the OT field goal against Dallas, the Redskins would be a game out of first place with two left and they would own tiebreakers over both Dallas and the Giants.