1. they stop the run. Colin Kapernick has struggled as a passer for most of the season in part because he doesn't have many healthy weapons. The Niners can really run the ball but stopping the run has been the one thing defensively that the Skins aren't awful at. If they can make San Francisco one-dimensional and force Kapernick to beat them with his arm, they have a chance to limit points-against.
2. they improve starting field position. The Skins' starting field position is historically bad. The offense has just ONCE IN THEIR LAST 6 GAMES started a drive in the opponents' territory. That's hard to do and it speaks to poor Sp Teams in particular. Their average starting field position of their own 22.8 yard line is the worst in the NFL in 30 years. You could legitimately argue that starting field position has had the biggest impact on their overall W-L record. It's hard for the offense if every time they get the ball they have to go 78+ yards to score. Their Special Teams and Defense must keep field position competitive. The Skins can't get themselves into a situation where they need 50-60 yards just to get into FG range.
3. the offense is productive in the Red Zone. The offense needs to score when it gets into the Red Zone. Their last 3 trips into the Red Zone have gone a) 4th down miss in Minnesota, b) fumble in 1st quarter in Philly, and c) interception to end game in Philly. The Skins' offense is #5 in total yards, #1 in rushing, #1 in yards per carry, #4 on 3rd-downs. They've been very good at moving the football between their own 1 and the other team's 20. They need to finish when they get close.
The discussion in recent weeks has become whether or not Dan Snyder will tolerate a bad ending to an already poor season. There's a chance we're looking at it the wrong way.
While many believe that Snyder may be faced with a tough decision about his head coach at the end of this year, Shanahan could surprise us and make the decision himself. I could be way off but something tells me that Shanahan isn't in love with his situation here.
First and perhaps least importantly, he's never faced the public and media criticism he's faced here over the last 3+ years. Denver was in love with Shanahan for most of his tenure thanks to two Super Bowls. Even in his final few years when he heard skepticism, it was delivered in faint Rocky Mountain tones. He's a Midwest guy softened by 14 years of Colorado's beauty. DC may not be Philly, Boston, or New York but when it comes to its professional football team, it's got east coast passion and when appropriate, northeast rage. Shanahan is absolutely sure he knows more than you and for a while was humored when he was questioned by you. But the humor of those questions is long gone. The 24-34 record gives weight to the questions. He's not used to it and my guess is he's getting sick of it.
Secondly, while Shanahan the competitor might be willing to take the hits until he gets this thing right, he probably doesn't like watching his son get battered around. Kyle Shanahan had success as an offensive coordinator in this league without Dad standing next to him but nobody here seems to care. He's the coach's son and the view from the beginning on Kyle has been skeptical. Despite four top 10 offenses in his six seasons as a coordinator, Kyle is thought by many here in Washington to be someone who was gifted the job. Shanahan and son know they are a capable offensive duo and may decide that Tampa, Miami, or Dallas would be more appreciative.
More importantly than the heat he and his son are taking, Mike Shanahan's relationships with his boss and star quarterback will likely determine his future in Washington. The word is that Snyder and Allen felt great about Shanahan and the football operation before the season began. There was recognition that the salary cap penalties of the last two years could impact this year's record if there were a rash of injuries but there was confidence that a healthy team could compete for another division title.
Have they been healthy? If you discount their star quarterback's inconsistent play due to offseason knee surgery then yes. But that's a huge discount. It's not a reach to think that the team would've been better off losing 5 front-line starters in exchange for a healthy RG3 from the start. How Snyder is handling the nuance of their 3-7 is either straining or strengthening the relationship with his head coach. That's a key question that nobody really has an answer for right now but it's probably the second-most important factor in how Shanahan views the job moving forward.
Then there's the most important factor....his relationship with Griffin. Is there a rift or not? And if there is, can it be repaired? Bottom line, Griffin isn't going anywhere and Shanahan knows it. Is he willing to stay if the relationship is irreparable or if it can be fixed, is it worth it to him? If he's come to the conclusion that Griffin is too diva for him then I can't imagine the thought of coaching him is as attractive as we once thought.
Despite what many think, Mike Shanahan and his son are employable if it doesn't work out for them here. Sure $7 million is a ton of money to leave on the table but there will be multiple openings at the end of the season and if Mike is available, he'll get one of them for at least $5 million. Knowing that he can get paid somewhere else in combination with everything mentioned above may lead to a surprise end-of-year decision. A decision he makes all by himself.
A bad loss that for all intents and purposes ends the competitive portion of this year's schedule. The good, bad, and more.
1. The comeback. The defense gave them a chance by stopping Philly on their final 5 drives and the offense made a few plays. I respect the fight till the end but the way they played the first 3 quarters made it too big of a hill to climb.
2. Alfred Morris. He's the best draft choice of the Shanahan/Allen era.
1. The final play. A bad play with the game on the line. He said that he didn't want to take a sack on that play with no timeouts left and I get that but the play he made was both a bad decision and badly executed.
2. RG3. It started with a throw that was 20 yards off the mark to a wide-open Logan Paulson on the opening drive and it didn't get much better from there until the 4th quarter. That miss to Paulson was one of the worst throws you'll see from an NFL quarterback and it killed a potential tone-setting opening drive. Overall, he threw high, he threw short, and he had several balls batted down at the line of scrimmage. After the 3rd and 1 incomplete pass to Paulson early in the 4th quarter that was badly underthrown I thought he should be benched for performance. One more, Aldrick Robinson was open on that 1st down throw to the end zone on that final drive.
3. The offensive play calling. It's LOL funny to hear people complain today about the play calling in the first half saying there was "no balance" when the same people have been begging for exactly that, "no balance". Today however, those complaints were valid. Kyle seemed intent on proving to a certain part of this fan base and media group that you can't run the ball over and over again and win. If that was his point, he proved it. 28 runs and 7 throws in the first half would've been fine if they had scored but it's too hard to score up here as Coach Joe would say without making plays in the passing game. Yes, there were some early opportunities with the miss to Paulson and a drop by Moss but there should've been more play action throws on early downs. After the first-drive miss to Paulson on a first-down play action throw, the Redskins ran the ball on 10 of their next 12 first downs in the first half.
4. Defense until late 3rd and 4th quarters. It was as bad as it's been in the first half and the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Players wide open, screens were a problem, and tackling was an issue even though most teams in the league have a challenge tackling McCoy.
5. Special Teams. Nick Williams' decision-making wasn't any better than Josh Morgan's. He cost them 15 yards of field position on the Eagles' last punt. He also fumbled another but was able to recover it.
6. Injuries. No Jordan Reed hurt a ton more than no Leonard Hankerson but not having both no doubt limited the offense.
7. Turnovers. The first one was clearly a result of a confused/botched pass protection with Jordan Reed but Robert should've called timeout or thrown the ball away. The last INT....head scratcher.
1. RG3's height/stature in the pocket is a problem. Teams are batting a ton of balls. This is just another reason the drop-back game doesn't work for Skins.
2. McCoy on Kerrigan is a mismatch. Skins need a ton more speed on defense.
3. Santana Moss had the big 3rd and 25 catch but his early drop was costly.
4. Interesting to hear Robert say that the Eagles schemed them up well and that they seemed to know what was coming....shot at Kyle?? He also said that they've been very good on offense the last few games but today nothing seemed to work.
5. Shanahan's challenge of the spot on the Eagle 3rd down late in the game was obvious.
1. they score 35 or more points. The Skins are allowing nearly 34 a game in their last 5 so simple math says they need 35 to win. Treating each offensive drive as if they must score is the mindset required so being very aggressive should be the approach. Specifically, mixing in some of their hurry-up "turbo" offense might help. I hope they consider going for it on 4th and short with decent field position. Any more than 3 punts in this game is a recipe for a loss.
2. the defense gives them something. The Skins' D has given up points on 8 of its last 10 drives including 6 of 8 against the Vikings. Generating at least an occasional pass rush would be nice. Nick Foles has been red hot so getting him out of rhythm with a legit pass rush seems like a must-have. Bottom line, if they can get Philly off the field on half of their drives....say 5 of 10, then that's a good day for this defense and it should give them a chance to win.
3. they make no more than 2 big mistakes. It seems like a given that this team will make an error or 4 on Sp Teams, a penalty or 6 when you least need it, or a mixed up coverage that matches Perry Riley against a wide receiver. To have a chance in Philly, any more than 2 of these types of mistakes will doom them.
This game is a pretty much must-win and in similar spots this year at Oakland and at home against Chicago and San Diego, they've played well.
You are what you are. It is what it is. Always feels good to get a few cliches and boring statements out of the way as we crank up the bus on the highway to football hell.
What's that mean? Oh, it could interpreted in so many ways. That's for you to decide.
Either way, this is shaping up to be one hell of a next seven weeks and the ball won't stop rolling downhill with fury until about June 15th.
The Redskins play in Philadelphia this Sunday, a game they are more than qualified to win. Will they? Again, they could. Maybe I could go so far as to say they SHOULD. However, that hasn't exactly worked out for them recently.
They are (3-6) and have played bit the part.
This is third year in a row that they've been at that meager record after their first nine games. Let's hope for everybody's sanity, 2013 goes much closer to what 2012 was, as opposed to 2011 -- which ended with a robust (2-5) stretch and a (5-11) record overall.
It's very unlikely, perhaps extremely unlikely that you could even hope for (7-0) so I completely just dismiss that notion. Honestly, I think if the Redskins finish (5-2) the rest of the way and wind up (8-8) regardless of the division title or what others do - that's a victory and you should probably be willing to accept that.
My guess? They finish (4-3) down the stretch and wind up a bitterly disappointing (7-9). And then......the fun begins. Bring in the big tent and the clowns, because we are going to the circus boys and girls.
I have been asked this a few times over the last few weeks. Does this first half of 2013 seem worse or feel worse than it did in 2012? My answer is a pretty resounding yes for many reasons.
Let's discuss. While the record is the same, there are many more factors as to why I think we all feel this way. The first reason is...
Expectations: Right or wrong, fair or foul. This team was expected by many to win nine or ten games, and in some circles more. I thought nine was fair, ten if everything broke right. It's not happening. They could still win the division, and while that would be all that ultimately matters - there would be very little to celebrate if say the record is .500 or even (gasp) worse.
It would be very hard to take any huge level of pride in winning a division at anything less than (9-7). Even then, if San Francisco or Seattle were the first round opponent at FedEx, is there anybody alive that would think that Washington would stand a good chance at winning that playoff game?
Maybe the expectations were too much, considering Robert Griffin III's rehabilitation and lofty goal to return by Week 1. I still say he needed more time, but he, they or others did not want or allow that.
I was a very strong proponent of Griffin III playing in the preseason. As we found out (much too late) it was supposedly Dr. James Andrews who put the kibosh on such a notion. I just didn't feel Griffin would be ready in Week one to take on live bullets with no game seasoning, no true off-season program and a very limited time-frame of 11-on-11 practice.
Once they put the block on not playing in the preseason however, I understood the mentality to get him ready for Philadelphia - because there simply was no other way to get him live game reps. If they would have waited until the bye week or another week, he still would be rusty because there is absolutely no way to simulate actual game conditions.
My point is - I would have been OK with him playing lightly in the preseason and then perhaps taking a few extra weeks of 11 on 11 practice reps before the season opener and evaluating where he was at then - instead of having this pre-determined plan that the powers that be had -- that Robert Griffin III would play unless the comeback train hit a major pothole.
I still think it was the wrong strategy ultimately and I won't back down from that. I believe it would have been the wrong strategy if they were (4-0) or (0-4). You are trying to last a career, not a year. Sorry, not backing down from that.
Clearly, Griffin's return and the early season struggles of the entire team were not just dependent on one medical clearance. Maybe last year's 7-game win streak was a mirage.
Perhaps, the magician reached into the hat one last time - and came away with a dead rabbit? Who knows.
The bottom line is this - we ALL over estimated how good this team was. It has been a total team struggle from start to the halfway plus pole.
The Quarterback is not a rookie anymore: Last year, almost any time Robert Griffin III struggled you could chalk it up to the fact that he was a rookie. Either way, you sliced it - you saw a quarterback clearly on the rise with a wonderful skill set.
You still see it in glimpses this year, but it clearly has not been enough. Opposing defenses have adjusted and taken away the edge at times or the play-action 'pop' passes that were so succesful BUT there has also been a lack of consistency. Even in his two best games, at home against San Diego and Chicago - Griffin had bouts of inaccuracy and inconsistency - along with a mistake or two along the way that left you wanting more or feeling unfulfilled.
Maybe that's the unrealistic expectation, but that's just the way a uber-talent rolls. Griffin III would be best served by a full healthy off-season, something he did not have last year. All of the coaches, along with both Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman strongly believe that you get a significant comfortability with this scheme/playbook when you have a full off-season of on-field and behind the scenes work. Griffin obviously never got that.
I sincerely hope some of the concerns I (and others) had out of Baylor are not justified and the constant reality. Aside from his natural enormous talent, I was very concerned about the beating he would take in the pocket by "staring down the gun barrel" and I worried about his consistent accuracy in the short to intermediate areas.
Last year, it was not a problem. This year, for a variety of reasons, both concerns have been largely present. Griffin has a 60.8% completion rate, with 12 touchdown passes to nine interceptions. The interception rate is one shy of twice his 2012 total (five), in only nine games. Certainly a few were not his fault at all (Green Bay, Dallas) but ultimately, they still count. He also has three fumbles lost (nine total fumbles). Last year, he lost two fumbles and had 12 overall on the entire season, in his 15 regular season games played. His completion percentage last year was a very solid 65.6% on 393 attempts.
This year, he already has 337 attempts, meaning he is 56 attempts away (393 - 337) from his 2012 total. He is 53 completions away (258 -205) from his 2012 total. He does have 2,450 passing yards, which means he's 750 yards away from his rookie total (3,200 - 2,450) and is eight touchdown passes away (20 - 12) from his 2012 mark.
Sure, teams have adjusted and taken stuff away. The major issue that I am concerned about? Griffin III has been sacked 18 times in his nine games, or an average of twice per game. Last year, the Redskins allowed 33 sacks in 16 games (Griffin 30 times in 15 games), so the averages are about the same.
Here's a key in my eyes. At this point last year, the offensive line had allowed 21 sacks in the first nine games, along with seemingly more quarterback hits and pressure, but with a lot more magic, smoke and chicanery to deal with than this year.
The point is - the protection has been better this year than last (statistically) and I believe in reality, and yet - the Redskins have had far less consistent success.
One Mess After Another: One game, one quarter, one series after another - the Redskins have put out one fire only to have another one smoldering. In some cases, they haven't had enough water left in their tank to douse the flames.
Special teams has been a complete debacle from the lack of a return game all year, poor blocking, a blocked punt for a touchdown in Oakland, a fake punt for a first down run by the Raiders in the same game, to two enormous returns (one TD) in Dallas and a punt return touchdown to Devin Hester and the Bears.
There's no doubt, their coverage has been a lot better of late coinciding with the additions of Trenton Robinson and Josh Hull - but they have also had to pooch/short kick or intentionally kick towards the sidelines or out-of-bounds on punts, because they could not count on the coverage units executing what many other teams do.
This strategy, while keeping returners like Trindon Holliday and Cordarrelle Patterson off the scoreboard - has significantly hurt the Redskins defense in field position at times, specifically against those two returners in Washington's last two road games.
In addition, Kai Forbath does not have the consistent ability to boom touchbacks in a league designed to do just that, which forces these situations more than the normal amount.
Forbath has also struggled with accuracy or distance this year on field goals, at a (7-11, 63.6%) clip. He missed three games and did have two kicks blocked but Mike Shanahan admitted the obvious that the kicks were too low. Forbath has only tried one kick from 50 + all year (blocked) so that is not a reason. Dating back to Dallas of last year in Week 17, he is seven of his last 12.
In Minnesota, the Redskins ran a fake punt that some players (the targeted receiver, Niles Paul) were not aware of, and even if they were - it would not have counted because of a penalty on Jerome Murphy. That disaster led to a punt by Sav Rocca to Marcus Sherels who promptly returned it for 20 yards to the Minnesota - 44, plus had a Darrel Young bonus gift in the form of a 15-yard personal foul tacked on.
In other words, they started a touchdown drive that gave them the lead at the Washington-41. Can't have it. That simple.
The Redskins have committed 14 (accepted) penalties on special teams this year according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Then there is the fact that many players have expressed publicly and privately that they are not on the same page as new Coordinator Keith Burns. It's not exactly going away anytime soon and might force Mike Shanahan into a difficult corner at the end of the year, for more than one reason.
The Rest of the Rest: Because the special teams nightmares have been so plentiful - the unit earned an entire section on it's own.
There are many other problems, like on defense. It could be a lack of a consistent pass rush to bad tackling at times or a failure to catch an easy interception or a penalty that extends a drive and puts the defense in a compromising position. At times, the run defense has failed and in some games, the pass coverage has broken down in a offense driven league.
London Fletcher has struggled for a third consecutive year in the first half of the season, Perry Riley has not emerged in any meaningful way. Brian Orakpo has been good at times, but far from dominant. Ryan Kerrigan is dealing with a knee that is less than 100%.
Stephen Bowen doesn't appear to have the same consistent explosion, and Barry Cofield has not been dominant since a two game stretch against Detroit and Oakland.
Brandon Meriweather has had his issues from illegal hits and suspensions to even more injuries. Bacarri Rambo was benched, E.J. Biggers played safety in a pinch in the first game against the Eagles and had his struggles.
The only consistent good news for the defense has been DeAngelo Hall, who is the Redskins MVP so far this year. Josh Wilson has been much better in coverage this year, but hasn't made enough impact plays and missed quite a few tackles early in the year. David Amerson has made some very big plays and also has given up some impact plays, which is typical for a rookie.
If we are talking offense -- the offensive line has been spotty at times, especially on the road in the second halves of games. The wide receivers have dropped far too many passes ( 29 of Griffin's pass attempts, 3rd highest in NFL) and outside of Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson, the team has failed to get consistent production from anybody.
Jordan Reed is a tremendous bright spot, but Logan Paulsen has struggled mightily due a very painful knee injury. What more can be said about Fred Davis who is less popular with the Redskins coaching staff than Obama care is with the American public.
The coaches have been shaky at times and clock management has been highly questionable. In other words, this is a football team that has been a slowly sinking ship taking on significant water since before Week 1.
One final reason why this (3-6) is worse? A lack of injuries. Only CB/PR Richard Crawford, LS Nick Sundberg, ILB Keenan Robinson and special teams standout/LB Bryan Kehl have been lost for the season out of the significant contributor category. That's not bad for Week 11 of the NFL season. As a matter of fact, the Redskins on a short week (San Diego --> Minnesota) had their entire roster practice fully twice. Hard to beat that. Certainly, they were more beat up last year.
Not sure exactly what this all means for this Sunday and beyond, but while last year's (3-6) record wasn't pretty -- this year's feels a whole lot worse. That might be an overstatement, but that's the reality the Redskins live in.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
A painful loss against a team that was hurting, down several starters, and lost its starting quarterback during the game. The good, bad, and more.
1. 1st-half offense. Amazing first half which included 24 points on 4 drives, 288 yards, 18 first downs, 7-8 on 3rd down, and 20:40 of time of possession. Robert went 16-21 for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns. He completed 6 of 7 for first downs on third down. Morris, Garcon, and Reed were outstanding in that first half.
1. Defense. A regression to the first two weeks and this time they can't blame being out there too much because of an ineffective offense. Minnesota scored 34 pts on just 50 plays (not counting kneel downs) and had the ball for just 23:59. The defense didn’t stop Minnesota once on its own. The Vikings scored on 6 of 8 drives and the only two times the Skins' D got off the field was because a receiver fell down on a third down throw and Ponder threw a terrible pass on the first drive of the game. Other than those two drives, the defense got torched.
Now, did Minnesota have some good field position in the 2nd half courtesy of a bad punt and a penalty….yes. And overall, the D did an okay job on Peterson relatively-speaking. But play-action passes off of Peterson's run-threat killed them all night long. Kerrigan was a non-factor as a pass rusher. In fact, other than the sack on the 2nd play of the game by Orakpo, the pass rush overall was non-existent. Just 3 QB hits the entire night. Pathetic. Ponder and Cassel combined to go 21-27. I can barely remember an incompletion.
2. 2nd-half offense. The offense had to be perfect all night long to win with the defense getting zero stops and it wasn’t. They really needed a touchdown on that opening drive of the 2nd half to extend the lead to 2+ scores but didn't get it. The 1st and 10 read-option run by Robert at the Minnesota 22 on that drive should've gone for big yardage but Reed didn't stay on his block thinking Griffin had passed him already.
Drops hurt them too, particularly the Garcon drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 in the 3rd quarter. Robert also missed Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 throw with Minnesota leading 31-27. It should’ve been a fairly easy throw if he had some touch to it. It was a 15-20 yard play that didn’t happen.
There's talk already of Kyle getting away from the run after they took a 27-14 lead but that’s not accurate per usual. There were 19 offensive plays run between the time they took a 27-14 lead and first and goal with no timeouts left with 38 seconds left. Those 19 plays included 11 runs and 8 passes.
For those that want Morris on every play with a one-score lead, why? They built a 27-14 lead with balance, there was no reason to get away from that balance up 27-21 when they got the ball back.
3. Drops. Paulson’s on the first drive was catchable even though it was thrown quickly and hard. Garcon’s drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 was one of those turning-point plays. The Skins had scored on every drive of the game up until that point and had gone 9-11 on third downs. The play call was a good one, the execution wasn’t. Garcon doesn’t drop many but that was a big one. Also, Reed could’ve had the touchdown catch at the end even though he was held before it got there.
4. Pass protection. The interior of the O-line really struggled in the 2nd half.
5. Clock Mgt. It was very good at the end of the game but they got lucky at the end of the first half when they wasted a down by spiking the ball on first and goal at the Minnesota 8. The spike came with 24 seconds left. They should’ve called their last timeout with 36 seconds left after Moss’ catch got them to the 8. 36 seconds is plenty of time to run 3 pass plays into the end zone and then kick the field goal if you don’t get in. Just another example of how poorly they handle these situations even though they overcame the loss of a wasted down with a touchdown anyway.
6. Penalties. The Riley 15-yarder in the first half may have been the difference between 7 pts and 3 and the Young 15-yard penalty on Sp teams gave Minnesota great field position which led to another score.
7. Officiating. No sour grapes intended but the officiating seemed one-sided tonight. The late hit on Chris Baker in the first half was a brutal call. There were at least two hits on Robert that were later than the Baker hit and neither one got called. Josh Morgan was clearly interfered with on the punt return that he fumbled and it wasn’t called. There was a fairly obvious false start that wasn’t called on Minnesota on a key third down. And Jordan Reed was held by Erin Henderson on the 2nd and goal at the end and it wasn’t called.
8. Special Teams. Morgan’s decision not to fair catch a first-half punt was a bad decision. Rocca’s 2nd shanked punt in last 3 weeks hurt. The fake punt attempt was obviously badly executed.
9. Final Play. It looked like Robert should've thrown to Reed. He was open.
1. Saw some screen passes in the game…perhaps not enough.
2. Niles Paul did a nice job on kick returns.
3. Griffin’s inability to slide makes him reluctant to turn some of those read-option runs up field when it looks like there’s a ton of room.
4. Kerrigan’s near-pick would’ve been huge.
5. RG3 was near-perfect in the first half but he missed a wide-open Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 play down 31-27 and he had an opportunity to avoid lost yardage on one of the sacks if he had just thrown it away.
1. Robert plays well. In my view, this is a given every week. They don't have a defense that can carry them, their Sp Teams can't carry anything, and the offense needs Griffin to be good to have a chance. He played arguably his worst game of his career in Denver and the team lost; last week was one of his better games and the team won. You can say this about a lot of quarterbacks but Robert makes everyone around him better when he plays well.
2. they slow down Adrian Peterson. This is a given when you play Minnesota and the Skins have done a decent job on him the last two years. Last year they held him to 79 yards on 17 rushes and 32 of those yards were on one carry....they held him to 38 yards on 12 carries in 2011 before he tore his ACL at Fed Ex. Slowing him down and making Ponder beat them is the biggest priority for the defense.
3. they avoid big errors. Win the turnover battle and don't give up something big on SP Teams.
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