In their first divisional game of the season, the Redskins held tough against the Giants and could actually receive some credit for outplaying New York in the Meadowlands. But in a game that foreshadowed a photo-finish from the opening kickoff, the Giants prevailed in a disappointing 27-23 win.
With numerous opportunities to win a ball game — especially one that would position you atop the division — losses like the Redskins’ last Sunday are frustrating and generally inexcusable. When it comes down to it, four turnovers is about four turnovers too many.
1. The Redskins defense is overshadowing the brilliance of Robert Griffin III
Despite all of the attention Robert Griffin III has received since joining the NFL back in April, haters should be thankful that the Redskins defense is so atrocious. If the secondary doesn’t get burnt on a Victor Cruz nine-route with just over a minute to go in Sunday’s game, there’s no reason why RG3 isn’t in the discussion for league MVP.
Although Griffin was responsible for a costly fumble and a wish-I-had-you-back interception throw, the rookie is solely responsible for the Redskins’ success this season. He’ll also continue to be the reason why the Redskins pose a threat to every opponent they face.
As much as we love to talk about Alfred Morris and the healthy receivers handling themselves while the team’s No. 1 is sidelined, none of that is possible without Griffin. Not the passing game, not the ground attack. Not the offense itself.
With 2:59 left in the game and his team trailing 20-16, Griffin took the field at his own 23-yard line. Just enough time to comfortably move the ball down the field. This was Griffin’s spotlight.
This was an MVP-like moment.
1st-and-10, incomplete pass.
2nd-and-10, no gain on the pass.
3rd-and-10, incomplete pass.
Suddenly, the Redskins are faced with 4th-and-the game with just over two minutes to go and still backed up on their own 23-yard line.
Doing his best Superman impression, Griffin takes the snap and looks, finds nothing open, scrambles, dances, makes a turkey sandwich, jukes a Giants would-be tackler, sprints forward, and (just before the line of scrimmage) fires a 19-yard dart to tight end Logan Paulsen.
Conversion complete. Mission possible.
From their own 42, the Redskins lined up and Griffin went for his normal 24-yard scramble down the right side to the Giants’ 34. Griffin follows with a short pass to Josh Morgan before opening a can of incredible on 2nd-and-6 and hitting a streaking Santana Moss in stride for a 30-yard touchdown.
With 1:32 left in the game, the Redskins led the Giants 23-20 by way of an offensive drive that was orchestrated by one of the fastest rising football composers this league has seen. Pure brilliance.
Unfortunately, we all know the rest. Not only is a minute-and-thirty too much time for Eli Manning and the Giants against most teams, but it’s an eternity against a defense like the Redskins.
2. Jim Haslett’s seat should continue to warm
Not to sound like a broken record, but I’ll continue to preach this all season: Jim Haslett cannot be the defensive coordinator in Washington next season.
Simply put, he’s not the man for the job.
Starting out high on Haz and excited for what he could bring, Redskins fans (myself included) have been used and abused. And through seven weeks of this season, I’m convinced that the guy can’t effectively coach/operate a 3-4 scheme. At least not here.
Every time this topic is brought up, people go to bat for Haslett and use things like lack of talent and injuries as supporting arguments. And while I can understand the rationale behind such claims, they’re no excuse for the Redskins’ lack of pass-rush, their suspicious pre-snap alignment, their lack of creativity, and (most importantly) their predictability and absence of disguise.
As for the reported extension for Haslett from a few weeks ago, I still haven’t seen the details of the contract, nor have I talked to anyone that has. In the NFL, contract extensions are far from a guaranteed job. Not to mention, Haslett’s boss isn’t exactly the most patient person on the planet. If the defense continues to suck, Haslett’s ignorance won’t be tolerated.
Are the cards somewhat stacked against Haslett due to injuries and lack of talent in the secondary? Sure. And every defensive coordinator’s job would be easier if they had 11 healthy Pro-Bowlers on their unit.
Haslett is paid to coach and put his players in position to make plays. That isn’t happening.
3. For a second consecutive week, the Redskins looked pretty good on third down
Talk about being spoiled on offense! For the second straight week, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins have performed well on third down, going 6-of-13 in Sunday’s loss.
Could it have been better? Certainly. The Giants went 8-for-12. But for a team that ranked dead last in third-down efficiency just two weeks ago, the Redskins have now pulled themselves from the cellar (sort of) and rank 29th with a still-atrocious 30.6 success rate.
Admitting that I’m a little obsessive when it comes to an offense performing well on the game’s most crucial down-and-distance, I think this Redskins offense has all the tools to improve their efficiency and eventually see something closer to 40-percent. Given RG3’s threatening abilities and hopefully Kyle Shanahan’s banishment of the triple-option on third-down, there’s reason to be excited about two good weeks in a row.
And let’s not forget: the Redskins were 3-for-3 on fourth-down against the Giants, which keeps them perfect on the season and places them atop the league amongst teams that have attempted five or more.
4. All should fear the Redskins rushing attack
Not including RG3’s threat to run or his effectiveness at doing so, the Redskins’ ground game has taken off this season. Sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris been a pleasant surprise with his 658 rushing yards (good for 2nd behind only Arian Foster’s 659), and the offensive line has performed well as part of the zone-blocking scheme.
Last week I mentioned that Morris and his workhorse style of play was the fuel of the Redskins offense, while the offensive line served as the oil. And after seven games, the Redskins league-leading 177.7 RYPG is a testament to that.
Griffin is averaging around 66 RYPG, best amongst quarterbacks. Morris is averaging 94 RYPG, third-best amongst running backs.
5. Fred Davis checks out for the season and Redskins welcome back Chris Cooley
The only news more upsetting than the loss itself from Sunday’s game was the Achilles injury suffered by tight end Fred Davis. The Redskins have lost their leader in catches and receiving yards for the rest of the season.
“I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do this year and I was doing it, yards after catch and making plays and blocking,” Davis said, following Mike Shanahan’s confirmation that Davis did in fact tear his left Achilles tendon. “If I can’t play for the rest of the season, that’s going to [stink]. I’ve just got to get better and be ready for next year.”
Not that it’s a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but some good news did come about shortly after the game. According to sources, the Redskins reached out to former tight end Chris Cooley and the franchise-leader for receptions by a tight end is set to rejoin the team on Monday. Barring any surprise snags, a deal should be ironed out by Tuesday.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Cooley move. As a fan, I’m excited to have the guy back because he was enjoyable to watch and left a lot on the field. He’s familiar with the offense, he’s instantly the Redskins’ best blocker at the position, and he’s a good boost in the locker room.
On the other hand, I know that Cooley isn’t Fred Davis. Not as a playmaker. And I’m disappointed to see Davis go down after developing what looked to be a very nice relationship with his quarterback as he worked to earn the respect of his teammates.
6. The schedule doesn’t get any easier — and neither does accepting Pierre Garcon’s injury
Although a win on Sunday would’ve placed the Redskins atop the NFC East division, there’s no need to beat themselves up about it. The division is still very much up for grabs and being tied with two others in a four-team division is hardly an accomplishment.
The important thing to note is that the Redskins’ schedule only gets harder from here. In addition to another game against the defending Super Bowl champs (this time at home), the Redskins also play the Cowgirls twice, the Eagles twice, the Ravens, and the Steelers next week at Heinz Field.
One thing the Redskins can’t count on for those upcoming games is a healthy Pierre Garcon. Sunday’s loss against the Giants was another week in which the Redskins were without their biggest ($$$) free agent addition and the offense continues to lack a key dimension.
Not that the play from Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson hasn’t been decent, but it’s not to the tune of Pierre Garcon. The whole reason the Redskins went out and paid top-dollar for this guy was to pose a vertical threat capable of taking the top off of defenses. And right now, the Redskins are stuck handing those duties to either Hankerson or second-year man Aldrick Robinson. It’s clearly not the same.
From what I’ve heard, it could take up to four more weeks before Garcon is back to full strength. And ever since Mike Shanahan referred to the receiver’s status as a “pain tolerance issue”, I’ve been pretty harsh on Garcon. But according to reports, Garcon has a torn tendon in his foot. So I guess an apology is due at some point or another.
As great as the offense has been this season, the Redskins need Pierre Garcon.