Here we go again. We've been here, done this before.
There were Norv Turner's final few hours in December of 2000 which included the absurdity of Eddie Murray attempting a field goal from a distance he told the coach he couldn't make in a 9-7 loss to the Giants. Hours later, Norv was fired and Terry Robiske (aka Robinski according to Deion) took over with a little help from Pepper Rogers.
The next year ended with no "gleam men". Marty Schottenheimer had changed the entire culture of the organization in less than a year but despite an 8-3 finish with Tony Banks and Kent Graham at quarterback, he knew his final hours in a monsoon at Fed Ex against the Cardinals were numbered. His team won that game but he was fired the next day because at least one person in the ownership group didn't like him. Like that should’ve mattered. His 2001 team was as well-coached as any Skins' team in the last 20 years and he was on the verge of turning the Skins into winners again.
Then you had the 2003 snap shot of Steve Spurrier bundled up in the sleet and rain at Fed Ex Field during a late-season 27-0 loss to Dallas. He looked so unhappy and cold. Coaching any team north of Myrtle Beach was never going to be an option for him again even though he had two years left on his contract...."5 and 11, not too good."
The debacle of Jim Zorn and "swinging gate" against the Giants on a Monday night in 2009 with a former Bingo Caller in the booth calling plays was pure comedy.
And then there was today. A 2-time Super Bowl-winning coach seemingly positioning himself to get out of town with a planted story about wanting to leave a year ago because of the quarterback's relationship with the owner. Whether true or not and it's hard to believe that it is true doesn't really matter. He's gone. Add the embarrassment of a borderline unprofessional performance from his team on a snowy Fed Ex Field in front of hearty few; this day fits perfectly with those mentioned above.
This organization has been a freak show for a while now. Sure there have been a few moments here and there. Joe Gibbs 2.0 included two thrilling late-season runs to the playoffs. Last year's first division title since 1999 felt like an organization that had reached a good place. I was convinced the franchise had finally found solid ground. Good culture, franchise QB, division champs....it's still hard to fathom that a franchise could fall apart so quickly in less than 12 months. I mean seriously. How the hell did we get from division title and the feel-good of the win over Dallas to where we are now in less than a year? Even the Shanahai haters didn't predict this.
On another note, I don’t believe that Mike Shanahan had made up his mind that he was going to leave before the playoff game against Seattle. That story makes no sense. His personal popularity among the fans had just reached its highest point. It's ridiculous if he thinks anyone would believe that he had decided to quit after beating Dallas to win the division. There is a perfectly reasonable motive for the story if it came from the coach. He wants the "not my fault" narrative to reign. But that's not fair. He was given a lot of autonomy to do the job and if he got persuaded to do things like play a quarterback that wasn't ready or trade for Donovan McNabb, that's on him.
I certainly buy that at some point since that playoff game against Seattle he’s thought about leaving. For eight months he had to deal with a marketing campaign that pushed for his starting quarterback to come back earlier than he should have. He had to deal public and private suggestions from the QB’s family about his offense and his son’s play calling. Then he was pressured and perhaps even manipulated into playing Griffin in the opener against his better judgment. But he had the power to stop all that and didn't.
He wasn't leaving last January. But it's obvious now that this season and the future of this coaching staff was compromised the second Griffin took the field unready to play in the opener against Philadelphia. And that decision and everything that came after it lays at the feet of the head coach. He's a good coach and he'll coach somewhere else, maybe even next year, but it certainly appears to be over here.
What many of us didn't think about when he came up with the slogan "Operation Patience" is that it wasn't a rehab motto for him; it was a warning to us. Maybe he knew all along this would be a slow go when the games finally began. Maybe "Operation Patience" was a heads up that we'd have to wait a few games and deal with Robert while RG3 worked his way back into a groove.
It's just that we never thought we'd have to wait. Why would we have thought it when we were brainwashed for eight months with his "All In For Week One" inculcation.
But now we have to deal with reality even though current reality has a wide range of possibilities. Those possibilities range from not completely healthy to refusing to run last year's offense. In the middle of that reality range are things like rust, the brace, lack of confidence, and any other "lack of" you can think of.
I think it's a mix of everything.
He doesn't look totally football healthy. I know Doc Andrews cleared him and medically I'm sure the knee is healed and ready for certain types of football activity. It just doesn't seem like it's ready for the type of football activity he engaged in last year. Remember that activity? The kind that included using his legs to carry the ball for lots of yards, first downs, and points.
Rust is definitely part of this and it should be. He didn't participate in mini-camps, OTAs, or preseason games. Additionally, for the majority of training camp, he didn't take a snap during meaningful 11 on 11 work.
The brace is restrictive. In fact, that's what it's supposed to be, restrictive. Pierre Garcon told me today, "Robert obviously can't run as fast as he did last year because of his knee brace."
Then there's the question of whether or not he's willing to run last year's offense. More specifically, the 50-series part of the offense. The 50-series, as Chris Cooley explained to me, is the "read-option" series. It gives RG3 the option of keeping the ball and running into open green fields after sticking the ball into Alfred Morris' gut and removing it. Could it really be that he said no to the thing that propelled the offense, the team, and him to great heights?
The irony of the read-option is that people read too much into it. It wasn't used as much as people think and when it was used, Robert didn't usually keep the ball and run with it. The threat of it however was without debate anymore, the single biggest reason for the success of the offense and hence, the success of the team. I don't like to think about him not wanting to run this part of the offense. It would be the ugliest of all the potential realities. It would reflect delusion at best, insubordination at worst. It would also speak to a coach who has less power than I thought.
More than anything else though, he lacks confidence. He's playing tentatively. Last year's RG3 made plays. So far this year, Robert hasn't made any. With or without him being a threat to run, he's just not making plays. Not once during the competitive portions of the first two games has he extended a pass play by escaping the pocket and throwing to an open receiver. Not once have we seen him maneuver in the pocket to create more time and make a throw that matters. He looks like he's thinking more than playing. He looks unsure of himself.
Confidence can be such a tenuous thing when trying to get it back. He looked so sure in July and August but September has brought doubt. Sometimes confidence is distantly elusive and other times it can be a play away from snowballing into major swag. That one play could be a 3rd and 10 scramble for 15 yards that leads to a play-action throw to Garcon for a touchdown and a 7-zip first quarter lead. One play may be all that's needed. One play could spark Robert back into RG3.
While I wasn't thrilled with his self-promotional spring and summer, it didn't overshadow what he's capable of during the fall and winter. And what he's capable of is being the best player on the field on Sundays. No other player on the roster this year or for the last 30 years can claim that.
No matter what the reality is right now, I'm willing to wait for great. For how long? I'll let you know after Sunday's game against Detroit.
I think it's really hard for fans to learn a lot about a team's regular season prospects during the preseason but with Skins' camp opening up this Thursday, here's a short wish list.
1. RG3 returns to form. His health is obviously the #1 storyline entering camp and it'll be dissected by all forms of media moment by moment. His rookie season was so spectacular before the injury against Baltimore that I'd love to see him progress without any physical limitations in his second season. His rehab has been described so optimistically by so many people that expectations are for a full recovery in time for the season opener. We'll find out how right they were in 6-7 weeks.
2. they can get through camp with no serious injuries. While many will try to figure out how well guys like RG3, Orakpo, Davis and Merriweather are performing coming off surgeries, chief among wish list items for the coaches is getting as much of the roster through 40+ practices and 4 preseason games without any new ones.
3. the rookies can play. Players will tell you that it doesn't take long to figure out if a new guy can play.....let's hope guys like Amerson, Reed, Thomas, Rambo, Jenkins, etc., prove they were worth drafting. The salary cap penalties of the last two years have made drafting well even more important than usual. Griffin III, Morris, and Cousins lessened the pain of an $18 million hit last year; this year's group needs to do the same.
4. Forbath is for real. He went 17-18 last year with little expected, expectations are much higher now. While you don't learn much about offense and defense in preseason games, you can learn a lot about a kicker. A good solid 4-4 on field goals with no missed PATs in the preseason would keep his confidence and momentum rolling.
5. for no more RG3-related extracurricular drama. It would be nice if we don't hear from people close to him about how they think RG3 should run less or hear from Dr. Andrews about how superhuman he is or hear, see, or read anything controversial from places like Twitter and Instagram.
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.