Another season-saving win. Avoiding 0-4 with a win in Oakland was big; avoiding 1-5 with the big win over Chicago was absolutely necessary; today's 30-24 OT win over the Chargers gives them a chance to get back into things over the next few weeks. The good, bad, and more.
1. Goal-line stand. Let's start there because without it, they would've lost the game 28-24. It was a tough situation because the Chargers had 1st and goal at the 6-inch line with 2 timeouts left meaning that they had the option of throwing or running. They chose to throw it twice which seems surprising until you realize that they barely ran it all day long.
2. Offensive game plan and play calling. A great game called by Kyle Shanahan who didn't seem to let any of the criticism about the lack of Morris runs last week deter him from calling the right game for the team rather than for his critics. Six of the first 8 plays of the game were passes when the whole town has been screaming to run Morris on every play. The Shanahans believe in taking what the defense gives you and the Chargers came out with the intent of stopping the run and Kyle called a game that early on used the pass and a couple of triple-option plays to set up easier running lanes for Morris.
Their first 4 first downs of the game included 2 passes and a triple option pitch to Jordan Reed. The Chargers were kept off-balance all day long thanks to excellent play calling and some seldom-used twists like Darrell Young carrying the ball, more triple option, and a few empty backfield sets.
Two specific play calls show that despite recent mishaps in similar situations, Kyle stuck to his aggressive guns. When they got the ball back up 21-14, he went read-option throw to a wide-open Moss over the middle. The ball was poorly thrown and fell incomplete but this was similar to last week when everyone thought he should run Morris over and over. The play was open and should've worked. The other play was the first play after San Diego had cut the lead to 24-21. I'm sure everyone including San Diego was thinking here comes Morris yet he goes play-action and a perfect throw to Garcon for 26.
3. Read-Option. The Redskins ran a ton of it today and Morris, Young, and the passing game totally benefited from it. Robert didn't keep it much except on the triple-option plays but the threat that he would keep it set up the other stuff. The new twists to the read-option game will keep teams guessing in the coming weeks. The blocking scheme looked different and Moss, Morgan, Reed, and Hankerson have all been pitch options on triple-option plays this year. Young as a full-back run-threat in the backfield as part of the "Pistol" formation with Griffin and Morris is a new twist as well. The Skins ran 21 read-option style plays for 180 yards. Morris was 8-55 yds on read-option style runs while RG3 went 7-8 for 84 yards on read-option/play action passes.
4. Offensive execution, especially on 3rd-down. Last week in Denver at 21-21 in the 4th quarter, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson had opportunities to make catches that could've changed the game but they dropped the ball. Today, Garcon made at least 3 brilliant catches while Griffin made very good throws at key moments, especially on 3rd-down. The Redskins went 12 for 17 on 3rd downs for the game. RG3 was 8 for 9 on 3rd-down throws, 7 of them for first downs. He also ran 10 yards for a 1st down on 3rd and 9.
5. Pierre Garcon. Money game for the guy who said last week "we suck at passing". 7 catches for 172 yards and at least 3 of them were incredible grabs. The deep ball on 3rd and 12 early in the 3rd quarter that he caught was amazing. There was P.I. on the play but he didn't need it with an incredible catch.
6. Alfred Morris. He was great today and really benefitted from the read-option success.
7. RG3. For starters, he made great decisions most of the day on read-option plays. I remember just one read that should've stayed with Morris and it would've been a big run but other than that play, he was very good in the read-option game. He missed a few throws but made a ton of good ones including clutch throws on 3rd down. Among the missed throws....1) overthrowing a wide-open Santana Moss early in the 4th quarter and 2) a throw behind Pierre Garcon on 2nd and 19 late in the 4th quarter on a drive that could've ended the game. Garcon made the catch for a 16-yard gain but a good throw would've been a first down.
With that said, Robert made big throws and perhaps the biggest run of the game. He went 8 for 9 on 3rd down, 7 of those for first downs. His 10-yard run on 3rd and 9 with the score tied at 14 was a monster play....he paid for it with a big hit. Some would prefer he run it out of bounds short of the sticks and punt....he's just not wired that way. It was a big drive, a big play, he knew it, he went and made a play even though he took a big hit.
8. Darrell Young. 3 touchdowns and a new option out of the read-option that other teams must now prepare for.
9. Jordan Reed. Big catch and move-the-sticks run in OT on 3rd and 8.
1. Special Teams. 2 blocked field goals in one game are really hard to do but they managed to do it. Josh Morgan on punt and kick returns is a total disaster and if he's back there next week I'd question who he has pictures of. He makes horrible decisions as a punt returner when he doesn't catch punts he should catch. He let two hit the ground and one of them nearly bounced back and hit one of his teammates. Also, on the kickoff at the end of regulation after San Diego tied it, I don't think he knew that he had to go back and down the ball in the end zone. It was laying there and could've been recovered by San Diego until someone yelled at him to go down it.
2. Pass rush. I heard a lot of complaints after the game about Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan getting held all day long but that sounds like excuse-making to me. Both looked like they were handled most of the day. You can tell they play with high energy but they don't get consistent results. Obviously Kerrigan is a major play maker for this team but he needs more consistent pressure. Orakpo just isn't consistent enough. In fact, Rob Jackson still looks like a better play-maker than Orakpo. Jackson had the team's only sack. Bottom line, 1 sack and 4 QB hits aren't enough. They got close a few times but this team doesn't get enough pass rush....period.
1. The Biggers INT was huge. He benefited from a clear mix-up between Rivers and Brown but that play kept the Skins from falling behind by two scores early.
2. Refs were bad all day long...until the end, thankfully. There was on offensive P.I. called on San Diego's Keenan Allen in the first half without any contact. Chris Chester got called for holding on a play early in the 3rd quarter that wasn't close to being correct. The defenseless hit on Garcon in overtime was a bad call. I thought Woodhead fumbled on the play in the 4th quarter that Shanahan challenged. In overtime, Morris had a run that appeared to spotted poorly. It looked like he got 10, they gave him 9. At least they got the Woodhead play at the goal line at the end right.
3. Chargers' DE Lawrence Guy created a 10-point swing by himself. He blocked a short field goal and tipped an RG3 pass that was picked off in the end zone for the first score of the game.
4. Too many close calls on delay of game for Skins' offense. Cooley talks about tempo all the time and it looked like their tempo was too slow at times. They had one delary of game penalty on a big 3rd and 1 late in the 3rd qtr.
5. Niles Paul's 24-yard kickoff return looked better than anything Morgan has had all season long.
6. The 2 early San Diego Scifres punts to the Skins' 1...an example of great special teams play and it led to a 7-nothing Chargers' lead.
7. No "Turbo" offense today.
8. David Amerson can make plays, good and bad. He had a great pick and he got beat on occasion. Typical for a rookie corner with talent.
9. Hankerson stepped up and had a nice game. No drops, that's encouraging.
10. Skins ran 38 snaps from Pistol for 233 yards, 180 of those yards coming on read-option style plays. 2 of those snaps were no plays because of penalties.
1. Robert plays well. Yes, it's everybody as everyone told us this past week but RG3 erased subpar performances last year by "everybody". He played his best game of the season against Chicago and the offense followed his lead to 500 yards and 38 points. He played his worst game against Denver and the offense was bad. He's the difference-maker. When he plays well, the Skins can compete with almost anybody. When he doesn't, they usually lose.
2. they don't forget Alfred Morris. The play calling last week in Denver was ravaged by many fans and media members. I didn't think it was that bad. Morris got the ball on 6 of 8 third quarter snaps which set up perfectly the play-action they ran on 1st and 10 with the score tied at 21-21 in the 4th quarter. Morgan and Robinson didn't make catches that could've and should've been caught so Morris didn't get the ball on a drive where he should've gotten it. The play calling was good, the execution wasn't. With that said, I thought Morris could've gotten more opportunties when the Skins fell behind by 10 with still 11+ minutes left in the game. He's averaging 5.2 yards per carry....best in the league right now. He seems to get better with more carries. I'd like to see him a part of every drive.
3. the defense stops 3rd-downs. The Skins are 3rd in the NFC in 3rd down defense; the Chargers are 2nd in the league in 3rd down offense. If Rivers and Co. convert third downs consistently, it could be a long day.
The Redskins (2-5) start to the 2013 season has been frightening. For many reasons. Opponents have been dressing up in their costumes (uniforms) and stealing candy way too easily.
On this Halloween 2013, we look at a dozen hot button issues and problems facing the Redskins as they head into November and a span of two games in five days.
1. Robert Griffin III's inconsistency as a passer
Griffin III overall is (158-268) for 1,878 gross passing yards, a 59% completion rate with nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He is averaging 7.01 yards per attempt, and has a quarterback rating of 79.2. He already has more interceptions this year (8) than he did last year, but in fairness - three of them are probably not his fault. Josh Morgan did not catch a pass on a 4th down conversion attempt in Green Bay. In Dallas, Santana Moss slipped in the end zone and went down, leading to a pick in the back of the end zone. In Denver, Pierre Garcon slipped out of his break and went down.
Excuses? Maybe, but more than reasonable cause and effect in my eyes. Griffin still needs to be sharper, and the receivers need to help him out - which they have not in many ways but no matter who is at fault, it has to change.
There's been way too much miscommunication with burned timeouts, mis-timed snaps and bad fake read option plays. The Redskins have 26 drops according to ProFootballFocus.com. Way too many mistakes. It needs to stop, like now.
In his first seven games last year, Griffin III was (133-189) for 1,601 gross passing yards, and a 70.3 % completion percentage. He had seven passing touchdowns and three interceptions in that span. He averaged 8.47 yards per attempt in his maiden voyage through the NFL.
Remember how good you felt, despite a really tough loss in New York against the Giants? Think about this. That loss felt similar in a lot of ways to the one in Denver because of a wasted opportunity. The Redskins turned the ball over four times in that game, and five times overall last Sunday. Of course, the ending of the game was very different for many reasons.
Call me crazy, but (2-5) this year feels somehow worse than (3-6) did last year. One thing is similar. The Redskins will play the quick turnaround tango (San Diego, @ Minnesota) just like they did last year (Philadelphia, @ Dallas).
2. Robert's relationship moving forward with Mike and Kyle Shanahan
You hear so many things about this dynamic, but I am often left to think this. I think ideally it hasn't worked out like both sides hoped that it would, but losing and frustration doesn't help that. What also doesn't help is the scrutiny that both sides are under. It leads to frayed nerves. I call it "competitive friction" and I still believe that the two sides could work it out if they find someway to get past the current issues and start winning consistently, a lot of the tension or friction will subside.
That being said, a decision likely needs to be made by all parties involved early this upcoming offseason on the future, with Mike Shanahan entering the final year of his contract. Nobody wants to go through a lame duck situation.
I think it would be wise for all parties to strongly consider a one-year extension for Shanahan in the early off-season assuming that the Redskins show some signs of progress the rest of the way. I believe they will.
3. Do they have any wide receivers that can help Pierre Garcon?
Maybe not a wide receiver, but Jordan Reed is a hybrid target with wideout skills. They lined Reed up wide quite a few times and he responded with eight catches for 90 yards. That's 17 catches for 224 yards in the last two weeks. Imagine where they would be without him.
The bottom line is they need Santana Moss to be the Moss of last year. He only has four catches for 62 yards in the last four games combined. Not catching a touchdown pass on a key 3rd down Sunday was symbolic of the lack of production in recent weeks from Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan.
Since Week 4, in the last four games the trio has only 15 catches combined for 195 yards and one touchdown.
4. What can they do to get the passing game on track?
Clearly, the passing game is not as effective without the threat of the run - which the Redskins really did not have from Griffin's perspective on Sunday.
They had it the two previous games (@ Dallas, Chicago) and the passing game was still a mixed bag. Sure they are connected to some degree, but the bottom line is -- Griffin running well does not automatically equal success as we found out in Dallas.
Here's a question. How about mixing in a natural screen to a running back or two? Without going through the All-22 of every game and because I take horrible notes, I believe the last natural running back screen that I can find was in Dallas. It was an Alfred Morris drop that really hurt momentum in the red zone.
Roy Helu Jr. had a 14-yard catch on a arrow route concept near the end of the first half in Denver, but it wasn't a 'natural' screen.
Sure they run the occasional tight end screen and the bubble screen to the wide receivers but I need to see more of the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb-Brian Westbrook design than we see. It helps defeat a pass rush and I believe strongly gets a quarterback into a rhythm.
5. Why does Alfred Morris have so few carries?
Morris is averaging only 15.4 carries per game (7 games) this year, with an average per carry of 5.2 (108-565, 4 TD). Last year, thru seven games Morris has 138 carries (30 more) for an average of 19.7 carries per game or a difference of 4.3 less per game from 2012 to 2013.
Clearly early season defensive woes contributed to this, but so has play-calling. It seems like as soon as Morris has a series in which he doesn't rip off 5 plus yards per carry, Kyle Shanahan gets antsy. Especially as the opponent takes the lead by even a manageable margin.
My guess is that Kyle Shanahan wants a chunk play in a chunk league, and presses just a bit.
6. The offensive line. Offensive or miscast?
The Redskins are passing an average of 39.57 times per game. Last year after seven games, it was an average of 28.28 times per game. You do the math. An offensive line that is undersized and based on athleticism is not built to pass block 40 times per game or handle 320 pound defensive tackles with speed and strength. That's a performance issue ultimately, but it is a design issue and a coaching decision in my eyes more than anything.
7. Is this the right coaching staff?
Well...I believe it is but they have to be more creative and less stubborn. Case in point, with the offensive line. Or the lack of screens. Or the inconsistent commitment to what the offense is built for.
The franchise is in much better shape because of Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen and their staff. It would be easy to blow it apart and bring in a fresh face to perhaps get the organization over the top - but call me crazy - stability still counts for something.
8. To extend or not to extend?
I would do it, as I mentioned above assuming that the team doesn't completely tank down the stretch. I would not a long term extension however. The real question is - if you choose not to extend, what happens next year. Is Mike Shanahan willing to go through that uncertainty or does he accept a settlement and a guy like Jon Gruden comes here? Remember that affects a good deal of the staff, but I do believe that if Gruden was the choice - there would be more of a stable atmosphere than anybody else.
Bruce Allen and Gruden have worked together and won a championship together. Raheem Morris was on Gruden's staff. Jim Haslett and Gruden have a good relationship. Perhaps even a guy like Sean McVay stays. It would be real interesting if another name, like Baylor's head coach Art Briles is brought in.
9. Can Haz and the boys save the Skins?
Speaking of Jim Haslett, he's not looking so bad these days huh? With a patchwork unit, Haslett put the clamps on Peyton Manning for three quarters, Jay Cutler for a half and Tony Romo's Cowboys to only 213 yards of offense. That's not all that bad, and oh by the way - Haslett's defense has generated five touchdowns this year for Washington.
10. Will Brian Orakpo ever become dominant?
No. He won't, but he needs to keep making impact plays. He was involved in one last Sunday as he recovered the fumble from Manning as he was hit by Ryan Kerrigan. He has been in the right place at the right time the last two weeks, including his interception return against Chicago. Now he needs to create more plays.
11. Will DeAngelo Hall maintain his excellent All-Pro level?
I think he can. Three touchdowns already, and has taken on some of the upper level elite like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and DeMaryius Thomas. Hall is playing aggressively and smart. The Redskins are mixing coverages, and if he had any help from his safeties - he might even be better than he has been. I said it before Denver and will say it again - he's been the best player on the Redskins all year. Nobody is all that close in my eyes, with apologies to Ryan Kerrigan. Hall has been a big time difference maker.
12. Will the special teams continue to be a liability or will it slowly keep improving?
Outside of one shanked punt by Sav Rocca, most sane and rational fans will realize that the unit overall was terrific in Denver. Sure they allowed a Devin Hester 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, but clearly improvement has been made. They even got a bulldozing punt return from Josh Morgan.
A bonus "bakers dozen" question because more is better than less.
13. Do you or I care about the never ending name change debate?
No - with all due respect to my fellow members of the media that want to tirelessly chase this story. I care about football and not politics. I believe you do as well.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Up 21-7, the Skins gave up 38 unanswered in a 45-21 loss. The good, bad, and more.
1. D'Angelo Hall. He's making more good plays than bad plays this year. Clearly, this is the best year he's had since becoming a Redskin. He had two more picks and another touchdown today...his 3rd TD of the season.His 2nd interception was a spectacular play.
2. Alfred Morris. He should've gotten the ball more today....more on that below.
3. 1st-half defense. Holding Denver to 7 pts in a half deserves high praise. The D was great early in the 3rd quarter as well forcing two key turnovers and scoring its 5th touchdown of the season.
4. Sav Rocca's 1st-half punting. 4 punts in the first half was supposed to mean an early death for the Skins but it didn't happen in part because Rocca's punting was really good in that first half. With that said, it didn't last. His 15-yard punt with the score tied at 21 was awful.
5.Pierre Garcon.His one-handed catch was incredible.He may have gotten a bad spot on that play.I thought it was a first-down and worth a challenge.
1. The offense. 7 punts and 5 turnovers. After rolling up 500 yards and 38 points against the Bears, the offense generated one drive of note. That drive was a good one but it also got a gift in the form of a 12-men on the field penalty that led to a touchdown instead of a field goal. So why was the offense bad? In order....1) Robert wasn't much of a run-threat in the run-game and that we know is trouble, 2) Robert didn't play well, 3) key drops on a key series at 21-21 in particular, 4) Kyle got away from the run with the game still in the balance & didn't find ways to get Robert outside the pocket as a passer first, runner 2nd, 5) O-line pass protection is bad, especially in the interior, and 6) the Skins still don't have enough playmakers.
2. RG3. One of the worst games of his young career. This loss wasn't ONLY ON HIM (see above and below) but he missed big opportunities in the passing game during both halves and appeared to make a couple of bad decisions on read-option plays. This was a game that required him to make plays but he didn't make any. He wasn't much of a read-option run-threat and he didn't make any plays with his feet on pass plays whether it be by stepping up into the pocket and making a throw or extending a play outside the pocket and making a throw. One thing we've seen now too often over two seasons is his inability and/or unwillingness to step up and create more time with his feet "in-the-pocket". He tends to keep backing up when there's pressure rather than stepping up.
3. Drops. Several drops but none more important than the two on first and third down on the drive at 21-21. The first down pass to Morgan was a bit behind him but he needs to make that play. That's a 25+ yard gain on a play-action pass with the box stacked looking for Morris. The 3rd-down drop by Robinson is THE PLAY more than any other in the game that hurt. Everyone will want to point to play calling in the 4th quarter but Kyle didn't drop those passes at 21-21 when they had to throw against a stacked line of scrimmage looking for Morris. Those drops were drive-killers and they eliminate the chance to get back to Morris after they drop their safety out of the box.
4. Some of the play calling. Just to get the facts out, they didn't totally abandon the run in the 2nd-half as some may think. They ran Morris on 6 of their 8 third-quarter offensive plays. Their first drive of the 4th quarter they faced a Denver defense with the line of scrimmage stacked to stop the run and Morgan and Robinson dropped big-gain passes. Just one catch on either of those two passes and Morris would've likely gotten carries on that drive and the game may have stayed competitive the rest of the way. With that said, down 28-21 on their next offensive drive, Morris carried it just once before the RG3 fumble....and then down 31-21 after the RG3 fumble with still 11:14 left in the game, they went with 3 straight passes.
Additionally, I'm surprised that when they did throw, they didn't either get Robert out of the pocket or go with more empty/5-wide quick throw plays. It seemed like there weren't many adjustments to the interior pass protection issues. Also, the Skins don't seem to have a traditional screen game that can sometimes help against pressure.
5. Interior offensive line. A rough game for Lichtensteiger and Chester in particular. They've struggled at times this year.
6. RG3's pocket hits. He took a beating in the pocket today. Maybe the worst he's taken.
1. The 3rd and 7 neutral zone penalty on Kerrigan was one of those potential difference-making mistakes.If the Skins get a stop there, it’s 21-10, not 21-14.The Skins had a chance if they had gotten a 4th and 2 stop after that but Moreno ran for 5 yards.
2.Josh Morgan's 34-yard punt return was the biggest of the year but he made a mistake by fielding it at the 6.
3. Robert had a triple-option keeper opportunity on their long 2nd-quarter touchdown drive with Hankerson as a pitch option that may have scored if he kept the ball.
4. Also on that 2nd-qtr touchdown drive, Robert threw to Reed when Morgan was open in the flat after faking reverse in the opposite direction and Garcon was open in the end zone.Robert doesn’t see the whole field consistently enough.
5.Peyton Manning went 45 minutes between legit snaps from midway through the 2nd quarter until the first drive of the 3rd quarter.
6.Vickerson’s 15-yard late hit on Robert was a stupid penalty committed by the same guy who did the same thing to Andrew Luck last week.
7.Denver’s “natural” pick plays in the passing game are so precise and make pass coverage difficult.
8.Ryan Kerrigan with another forced fumble….his 3rd this year, the 9th of his career.
9.Peyton Manning got called for holding when he tried to keep Orakpo from recovering the fumble forced by Kerrigan.
10.Robert got cleared to play after getting hurt….Shanahan did the correct thing and kept him out.Game was over.
11.Kirk Cousins threw two picks in relief.
12.Some thought Kirk should’ve been given a chance when Robert was struggling early in the game…I never considered it.
A season-saving win....lots of good, bad, and more.
1. RG3. His best overall game since pre-injury last year. I know that many don't like it but the offense is obviously a much better unit when he's a part of the run game. He had more read-option keepers than he's ever had in a game. He took some unnecessary risks and corresponding hits on some of those runs but he played the game like it was do or die. I'm sure there are many different opinions on that. He's still struggling at times as a passer but he makes up for some of those mistakes with his ability to make "off-schedule" plays as a runner or passer. He was clutch all day. When they had to have a drive to answer Chicago, he led several including the game-winning drive where he went 5-7 for 58 yards (1 drop by Moss) and two huge 3rd-down throws to Garcon (on the run towards the sideline) and Reed.
2. Jordan Reed. We've seen his potential in glimpses through the first five games but today was his breakout moment. He's a big target and he gets open. His hands are solid and he makes yards after the catch. Nine catches on nine targets for 134 yards including four on third-downs was a huge difference in the game.
3. Morris and Helu. Both backs made plays and the mixture of both in the game plan makes the Skins harder to defend. Still amazing how many yards Morris gets when it appears there's nothing there. Helu did the same on a few carries. Helu is a nice red-zone option because of his versatility as a runner or pass receiver.
4. 1st-half defense. They held the Bears to 46 yards on six drives and scored another touchdown on the Orakpo pick 6. By the way, nice play by Reed Doughty on that play. The D's performance in the first half should've led to a bigger lead at halftime but bad Special Teams and an RG3 pick helped Chicago to 17 points.
5. Trent Williams. I thought he was clearly the best of the offensive lineman on a day when the rest of the O-line allowed a ton of penetration.
6. Hurry-up. They used it several times and were effective each time. It really helped the running game in particular and seemed to set up big bootleg plays.
7. Luck. They got lucky for the first time this year. Let's count....1) Reed may have fumbled on the early catch where he got hurt....Skins did a nice job of going hurry-up and snapping the ball before the Bears could challenge. 2) Morgan's fumbled kickoff was thankfully recovered by Niles Paul. 3) The TD pass to Robinson should've never been thrown and should've been picked off by Tillman 4) The Gould missed FG was a close-call that went Skins' way. 5) Bears' onsides kick penalty could've gone either way, it went Skins' way. 6) Matt Forte seemed to get out-of-bounds on the next-to-last play of the game but the ref rolled the clock forcing the Bears to call their final timeout. The next play was sack/end of game.
1. Special Teams. Another bad performance overall. There were a few good plays including the Gumbs hit on kickoff coverage but there were a ton of rough ones. In addition to Hester's 81-yard punt return (which was punted well), Josh Morgan's decision not to field a punt at the 12 cost them 11 yards and ultimately 3 points. On the flip side, he fielded another punt at his own 5...wrong decision on that one too. Additionally, he fumbled a kickoff return. Bad day for Morgan on Sp Teams. They almost got caught on a surprise onsides kick but a questionable penalty bailed them out. The Redskins currently rank in the bottom 3 in the league on kickoff coverage, punt coverage, kickoff returns, and punt returns. The good news, no missed field goals and no blocked punts.
2. RG3 took too many unnecessary hits on runs. This was a guy playing like he did last year and not worrying about things like sliding or getting out-of-bounds. I love him in the run-game because it makes this offense so much better but he didn't need to take as many hits as he did today.
3. Drops. At least 4 drops by my count including 2 by Moss, 1 by Hankerson, and 1 by Garcon. May have been more.
4. 2nd-half defense. It allowed 313 yards, 21 first downs, and 24 points in 30 minutes. McCown's running ability against man-coverage in particular led to some big plays that Cutler may or may not have given them. The Bears have a ton of weapons and guys like Marshall, Jeffery, Forte, and Bennett made a ton of plays.
5. Some of the play calling. It's hard to criticize the play calling when the offense scored 38 pts and rolled up 499 yards but I didn't like the 3rd and 3 QB rollout to Robert's left....a play that resulted in a big loss. Additionally, I hated the 2nd and 12 reverse call to Robinson that lost another 11 yards in the 2nd quarter. That was a drive where they had decent field position and a 17-10 lead and they came out with that play. That drive should've been a spot to take control of the game early and they tricked their way out of that opportunity. Additionally, I hated the 2nd and 12 reverse call to Robinson that lost another 11 yards in the 2nd quarter. That was a drive where they had decent field position and a 17-10 lead and they came out with that play. That drive should've been a spot to take control of the game early and they tricked their way out of that opportunity.
6. Clock management....again. A terrible timeout by Mike Shanahan with 1:03 left in the game could've easily cost them the game. It's really troubling to watch because the goal for the Redskins during that final drive should've been touchdown and as little time left for the Bears when they got the ball back. That timeout on a 1st and 10 at the Chicago 19 resulted in the Bears having more time on the clock after the Skins touchdown and an additional timeout that they wouldn't have otherwise had. It made no sense especially when you consider that the Skins were in hurry-up mode already and they had plenty of time. More than a minute left is plenty. Less than 40 is when you start thinking timeout in that situation. The other thing is that if for some reason they had missed a game-tying FG, they wouldn't have been able to get the ball back with two timeouts. With 3, they could've forced a punt and had time to try and tie it again.
1. Merriweather on the verge of a fine and possible suspension after two 15-yard penalties.
2. Skins ran more read-option QB keepers than ever before. RG3 took a lot of risks on runs attempting to get extra yards which led to some hits.
3. Skins ran one triple-option play in the 2nd quarter. It's the first one of those since the Cincinnati game last year.
4. I was surprised that Bears took a knee at the end of the first half. The ball was at the 35 with 20 seconds left. That's 2 completions for FG range. Gould has great range even though he would've been kicking into the wind.
5. The 15-yard late hit on Orakpo was questionable.
6. The Replay-review of Hankerson catch and run on the sideline was correct call.
A bad loss in so many ways. We'll count them below in the good, bad, and more.
1. RG3's mobility improved. Easily the most mobile and active as a runner he's been all season. Still not at pre-injury speed but faster and more willing tonight than at any point this season. Also showed elusiveness in the pocket at times, especially in the first half. I actually thought he had more opportunities to run from the pocket, especially in the first half.
2. Defense. Won't get much credit but they held Dallas to 309 fewer yards than they had against Denver last week. The Cowboys really only had one impressive drive of the night (their first drive). of Dallas' 4 touchdowns, Special teams scored one and set up another, and a turnover set up their third. Skins' D played well enough when they were out there to keep them in the game.
3. Pierre Garcon. It may not show in his #'s (6 catches for 69) but it always shows in his effort and toughness. He was doubled much of the night and still got open on a few plays that could've been big had Griffin made better throws.
3. D'Angelo Hall. Had a couple of very nice plays in coverage and a huge hit on Witten.
4. Jordan Reed. Impressive as a pass receiver and runner after the catch.
1. Special Teams. The Redskins have the worst Special Teams in the league right now. That unit cost them a chance to win the game tonight. Two big returns allowed, no return yardage themselves, lots of penalties including one on the Special Teams coach, and a momentum-changing missed field goal makes for an atrocious night. I wouldn't be surprised if Keith Burns gets fired this week. They can go back to the schemes they ran last year under Danny Smith.
2. Outcoached (Penalties/Clock Mgt.). They are poorly coached on Special Teams for starters and the game was essentially lost there. Beyond that, this was a bad night for Mike Shanahan. Specifically, his team committed 12 penalties for 104 lost yards after a bye week. The decision to punt it to Harris after a penalty with potentially tired players after running down to cover the punt the first time was a bad move. Harris hurt them last year so they should've known he was capable.
Overall though, the penalty fiasco pales in comparison to the amateur handling of the clock at the end of the first half and in the 4th quarter as well. Not taking the timeout after Jordan Reed's catch and run for a first down to the Dallas 17 with 37 seconds left was a major gaffe. Shanahan's explanation after the game made no sense. I won't even transcribe it because it's so muddled and incorrect. Bottom line, at the end of a half or game when you're trying to score a touchdown first, FG second, the goal should be more plays versus less plays. The more plays you have, the better chance of scoring a touchdown. Shanahan's strategy of wasting 18 seconds by not calling a timeout with 37 seconds left ensured that he would have no less than 3 fewer offensive snaps. Then, amazingly, with 9 seconds left from the 17, they ran a QB draw. The risk was that if RG3 got close to scoring but didn't, the play could've lasted 9 seconds and run out without a FG attempt.
In the 4th quarter down 31-16 with less than 8 minutes left in the game, huddling and wasting 25-30 seconds of the clock in between snaps is puzzling. No team in the league would've been huddling in that situation. The score math clearly says scoring faster is better than scoring slower. It's the AT&T commercial...."when losing 31-16 in the 4th quarter, is it better to score fast or score slow?" Any of those adorable children in those ads can answer that question.
One more debatable coaching call was whether or not Shanahan should've challenged the very early 3rd and 1 run by Murray....it looked short on the replay. It may have been worth it.
3. RG3's arm. He had a bad night throwing the football. It's not that there were receivers open all night long but he missed badly on several throws and the ball wobbled worse than a Billy Kilmer pass at times.
4. Offensive line. It's not very good this year. Part of that has been on Robert's reduced mobility through the first five games but it's gotten pushed back a lot more this year than last. 3rd and more than 6 is typically a problem.
1. Despite some bad football on Sp Teams in particular, I still really thought they were on the verge of taking control of the game when they were on the move down 21-16 late 3rd/early 4th. The missed FG was a big momentum swing and it left Dallas with great field position. To that point in the 2nd half, the Cowboys had only run 8 offensive snaps and just 33 for the game. The defense was fresh and the pressure was turning back on the Cowboys until the missed FG.
2. Did the Sundberg injury cost them a better shot at the 48-yd FG? The snap was a bit off.
3. The punt that hit the Cowboy in the butt didn't seem to be a "blocked into the ball" situation. Murphy was engaged but not intentionally pushing or blocking the player into the ball.
4. Losing a game when Dallas was clearly undermanned due to injuries makes the loss even more painful.
5. The two unnecessary roughness penalties on Barry Church were bad calls.
6. Romo's TD throw to Williams was an incredible play.
7. Moss' slip was the reason for the RG3 INT into the end zone.
1. they stop the run. The Cowboys averaged 67.5 yards per game on the ground in the two meetings last year against the Skins.....Washington won both. The Cowboys have tried to be more balanced this year even though they threw it for 506 last week against Denver. Stopping Murray and making Romo have to make a living on 3rd and long is the only way the Skins have a chance of forcing a few punts and keeping Dallas under 28.
2. the offense dictates the context of the game. Last year, the Redskins put early and constant pressure on their opponents with its offense. The offense was even money to move the ball and score points on most of its drives. That threat of scoring on every possession put a lot of pressure on not only their opponents' defense but their opponents' offense to match the Skins' O. Let's not let the bye week allow us to forget that this year's Skins' offense has 1 touchdown in the first half of its first four games. If that continues tonight, they have no chance.
3. they get some subtle breaks. The Redskins need a few questionable calls to go their way and maybe a few bounces of the ball too. A Griffin fumble deep in his own territory recovered by Montgomery or a Morris fumble that bounces out of bounds are subtle plays that impact significantly the probability of winning. Add to that, a couple of offensive holding penalties on a Dallas first and 10 play that goes for 15 yards but gets called back is the difference between 1st and 20 and an eventual punt or a defense that is on its heels and in trouble. These calls are often the difference between having a chance to win a game on the road versus getting blown out.
Gut feel that the Redskins come off the bye ready to roll while Dallas feels the after-affects of last week's epic 51-48 loss to Denver.
The Redskins got their first win of the year, 24-14 in Oakland. The good, bad, and more.
1. Game's biggest plays made by Skins. This game wasn't a gem by NFL standards....these 3 big plays were the difference between win and potential loss. In order they were....1) David Amerson's pick 6. Down 14-3 with the Raiders on the move again, David Amerson stepped in front of Moore and made a monster play. Who knows if the Redskins would've generated enough offense today to win. I thought at the time that it was a game-saver and given that they won today, it could prove to be a season-saver. 2) Janikowski's missed 52 yd FG midway through the 3rd quarter was a big play in the game. It easily gave the Skins their best field position of the game and they took advantage of it by marching 58 yards for their first offensive TD of the day and their first lead in the 2nd half this year. 3) Kerrigan's sack/forced fumble on Flynn in the 4th quarter. Oakland had made a first down for the first time in the 2nd half and had great field position. It set up the Skins 2nd offensive TD and their first 2-score lead of the season.
2. Defense. After a shaky start, it shut the Raiders out on Oakland's final 12 drives covering nearly 3.5 quarters. The D generated 7 sacks, scored a touchdown, and had a sack/forced fumble.
3. Pass rush. A lot of the credit for the 7 sacks and the many pressures goes to the Redskins' D but a lot of it was that Matt Flynn is incapable. Flynn stunk. I'm not sure how the Skins would've fared against Pryor but they wouldn't have sacked him 7 times.
3. Brian Orakpo. He had his best day of the season. Not only did he get to Flynn twice, he had a near-pick early in the game and a wicked stop on 3rd and 1 on Jennings in the 3rd quarter.
4. Ryan Kerrigan. He makes plays that help win games and he does it a lot.
5. Up-tempo offense. Down 14-zip and looking like the season was teetering on the brink of disaster, the Skins' O went up-tempo and it caught Oakland by surprise. It didn't produce a touchdown but it did produce a meaningful field goal and it started the process of changing momentum after getting behind 14.
6. Raiders stink. The Oakland defense is legit but with Flynn, they just weren't capable on offense. Add to that, the Raiders committed a couple of potential game-changing penalties including the offsides on Helu's catch and maybe fumble. Their clock/game management was amateur. How come they didn't take a timeout at the end of the half with the ball at midfield and take a shot. They just let the clock run out. Then, down 10 points, they went for it on 4th and 1 when the field goal was the right choice. I knew they'd go for it when they went for the play-action on 3rd and 1 but getting it to 24-17 with 3:23 left and two timeouts out left was the right strategy.
7. Morris YAC. Morris always gets more yards than it appears he should.
1. Special teams. The Redskins had some bad plays on special teams today and several near-misses. There was the blocked punt and the fake punt. There were a couple of bad punts. There was consistent lost punt yardage because Thompson let the balls bounce and roll rather than getting up and fielding them. Thompson almost didn't get out of the way of one of the punts inside the 10. Murphy nearly got knocked into a punt that was still rolling on the ground....a punt that Thompson should've fielded. Skins need a new punt returner. If for nothing else then to save them field position by catching the kicks.
2. Pass protection. Is it Robert's responsibility to recognize pressure more consistently or is it that the O-line that isn't doing its job. Only the coaches know for sure but it would seem that 3rd and more than 6 can be a problem if Robert is going to stay in the pocket. Too much pressure today and some bad throws either because of it or at least influenced by it.
3. No timeout on fake punt. We've seen the Skins through the years call timeouts for less serious situations, why not a timeout when the Raiders shifted into an offensive formation on 4th and less than 1.
4. Did Robert look like he got nicked up on the 11 yard read-option keeper? Garcon's holding penalty nullified the play but it looked briefly like Robert hurt himself.
1. Rg3's game was mixed. He missed throws including a potential deep TD pass to Moss. He made some curious decisions including throwing to Fred Davis deep when Garcon was open on the bootleg and the intentional grounding throw on 2nd and goal in the 2nd quarter. His mobility still doesn't look anything like last year however; he did make several "off-schedule" pass plays by extending them with his feet. The 3rd and 10 to Helu in the 2nd quarter was a great play. He made a nice play to find Paulson on one of the only solid 3rd and long plays of the day although Paulson fumbled. The 3rd down TD throw to Garcon was perfect and the escape and throw to Helu for 28 yards after the Kerrigan sack/fumble was the kind of play he must make for this team to have a chance.
2. Lots of injuries. Both teams lost several players during the game.
3. Was Fred Davis dressed? That's an exaggeration but if not for that deep "uncatchable" ball in the end zone I wouldn't have thought he played.
4. I liked the 3rd and 8 draw call to Helu right with 2:30 left. The Raiders were guessing run as they should've but the play made them hesitate and Helu went for 9 and a first down that iced the game.
5. Did Robert look like he got nicked up on the 11- yard read-option keeper? Garcon's holding penalty nullified the play but it looked briefly like Robert hurt himself.
The Redskins fall 27-20 to the Lions. The good, bad, and more.
1. Best effort of the year. They didn't play great but the overall performance was much improved compared to the first two games. I know that's not saying much but the offense finally got into some rhythm with an attack/scheme that looked similar to last year's while the defense gave the team a shot with several stops in the 2nd half. RG3 was back making plays even though some of those plays ended poorly like the 4th quarter run/fumble. The defense wasn't great but it was much better than at any time in the first two games and it gave the team a chance to win in the 2nd half.
2. RG3 played. We hadn't seen anything resembling the RG3 of last year during the first two games but we did today. Even though his performance was far from perfect, he looked much more like the playmaking quarterback we saw last year. The read-option QB keeper was back in the game plan and just the threat of Griffin as a runner made play-action work and led to more room for Morris on runs out of the Pistol. He just looked like a capable playmaker making plays as a passer and a runner. Late in the first quarter he made a throw to Paulson after escaping pressure in the pocket. He hadn't made one play in the first half of any of the first two games that resembled that one. Making a few plays with his feet seemed to make normal throws from the pocket more relaxed. He completed 3 of 4 third-down throws in the first-half alone. They had been 0-9 on third downs in the first half coming into this game, they were 4 for 6 today. His 21-yard 4th quarter run and subsequent fumble was his best playmaking play of the season until of course, the end of the play.
3. Offensive scheme. The true read-option component was back and that meant the defense had to account for the QB in the run game. We saw more of Griffin on the move with several bootlegs called in addition to a few sprint-out throws. The offense only generated 13 points but obviously the two turnovers inside the Detroit 21 and the Robinson touchdown drop cost them 3 more scores. The 420 yards generated today were much more meaningful than the bogus 422 a week ago in Green Bay. Today's offense gave them a chance to win the game. Last week's was garbage offense after falling behind by 31.
4. Pierre Garcon. Arguably the Skins best offensive player although Trent Williams is close. He catches everything and he's a true YAC threat.
5. 3rd-quarter defense. The defense is really struggling but forcing Detroit to punt on all three of its possessions in the 3rd quarter could've turned into the deciding stretch of the game.....but of course, it didn't.
1. RG3 erred. Two turnovers deep in Detroit territory cost them dearly. The first interception was a horrible decision. The 2nd turnover, the fumble, was as uncomfortable to watch as it was for him to execute. He just doesn't seem to be comfortable getting down and avoiding contact in the open field. He also missed some throws and seemed to throw to the wrong guy a few times. On their first drive of the game, he threw to a covered Paulson when he could've run for the first or dumped it off to Morgan. On the next play, he chose to throw the slant to a covered Robinson when Reed was wide open at the sticks over the middle. On a key third-down on the first drive of the 3rd quarter, he threw behind an open Hankerson at the 18. A good throw would've been a new set of downs and a chance to get 7 instead of 3.
2. Robinson's drop. He has to make that catch. It's a chance for a 24-20 lead in the 4th quarter with major momentum.
3. First-half defense. The tackling in the first half was some of the worst of the season and that's hard to believe because it was god awful in the first two games. The 3rd and 10 to Bell early in the game that went for 37 yards included multiple missed tackles. The Bell touchdown run later in that drive was a tackling disaster. Another run by Bell on the Lions' 2nd touchdown drive was aided by bad tackling. And the most crucial missed tackle of the day was Orakpo's miss on Bell at 20-17 in the 4th quarter on a first and 10 at the Skins 21. That would've been a 2nd and 11 on a drive where you had to hold them to a FG, instead, 2nd and 1. Horrible.
4. End of first-half clock mgt. I liked that Shanahan came out aggressively instead of trying to run the clock out after Detroit took the lead 17-14 with :44 sec left. But instead of stopping the clock by using one of their remaining 2 timeouts with :31 seconds left after a 9-yard completion over the middle to Reed to the 35, he didn't use a timeout until after the next play with :13 seconds left. That was a mishandling of the clock and reduced significantly the chances for a FG attempt.
5. Punt and kick returns. I can't imagine there's a team in the league with worse results though the first 3 weeks. They've gotten nothing on returns this year.
1. The play after the Robinson drop/overturn was a disaster but it could've been worse. Even after the replay overturn they had a 2nd and 10 at midfield in a 3-pt game but the Pistol snap hit Paulson and deflected away from Griffin. Griffin actually tried to scoop it up and run. He was lucky he didn't lose it.
2. Say what you want about D-Hall but he does make big plays occasionally. He's now one of just two players in league history to have 4 INT and 4 Fumble returns for touchdowns. I thought he played pretty well considering who he was matched against for most of the day.
3. Merriweather played the whole game! AND, he nearly knocked out his 3rd player in two weeks when he went head first into Orakpo.
4. I wonder if Shanahan considered going for it on 4th and 5 in a tie game in the 3rd quarter in a tie game.
5. There were two booming punts in the game....Rocca had a 63 yarder; Martin had a 72 yarder. Both with the wind I think.
6. Calvin Johnson is incredible but the sideline catch on the first play after Griffin's fumble in the 4th quarter was exceptional.
7. The Lions got a terrible spot on Bell's 3rd and 1 run with just over 4 minutes left. Schwartz would've won a challenge on that spot.
8. The 15-yard penalty for a "defense-less" hit on Garcon late in the game was an awful call.
9. Did Rambo play at all at safety in this game or was it exclusively 3 corners with Wilson playing in the box as a safety on several plays.
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.