With a 3-6 record and an uphill climb towards a distant shot at the playoffs, the Redskins played host to the Philadelphia Eagles led by rookie quarterback Nick Foles. In front of 90,000 screaming fans, Robert Griffin III delivered on his promise of entering the game “hungier than ever” and posted a perfect quarterback rating in route to a 31-6 blowout of the division rival Eagles.
1. Robert Griffin III delivers on his word
“I thought I was hungry before the bye week,” Griffin said last week before the Eagles game. “But you come back and realize how much more energy you have. You know that everybody’s looking at me to be the guy to make everything work.”
Delivering just as he promised, Robert Griffin III went on to complete 14-of-15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns — good for a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.
He would also lead the team in rushing with 84 yards on 12 carries.
It’s hard to explain without actually watching the game, but Griffin’s performance on Sunday was almost not fair. As bad as the Eagles defense has played this year, it’s not like they don’t have capable and talented athletes on defense. Yet, when chasing Griffin and applying pressure, it looked almost as if the rookie pressed his easy button, stayed calm, and floated around the field to elude any and all tacklers.
On a day when I thought the offensive line was porous, Griffin hung in weak pockets to deliver precise passes, he rolled out on bootlegs to anticipate open receivers, and he demonstrated an awareness about him that almost seemed like a sixth sense.
Once again, Griffin showed fans and coaches everything they want to see in their rookie quarterback in terms of a passer, playmaker, and leader.
2. Improved execution on third down
Entering the game ranked last in third-down conversion percentage, the Redskins improved enough to keep me off their back for a week. Facing 11 third downs on Sunday, the Redskins were able to convert on five — good for 45 percent.
To me, improving their execution on third down should be near the top of the Redskins’ priority list moving forward this season. When your offense is equipped with a deceptive scheme and your quarterback is Robert Griffin III, there’s not much excuse as to why you can’t convert on third-and-short.
3. Decent coverage in the secondary, but don’t forget the Eagles gameplan
There were tons of things to take away for the performance of the Redskins defense on Sunday. The unit appeared to play inspired football, Brandon Meriweather returned to action and let it be known, Jim Haslett actually looked like he could coach this scheme from time to time, they made the rookie Nick Foles pay for his mistakes, solid tackling was on display, and the secondary wasn’t eaten alive.
As happy as I am to have said and seen all of that, it should be noted that the Eagles gameplan was very simplistic — get the ball out quick and use playmakers to gain yardage. It wasn’t as if a large majority of Foles’ 46 pass attempts were shots down field. Instead, a majority of Foles’ 204 passing yards in the game came by way of check-downs and screens.
Again, the Redskins defense played very well from top to bottom and it was a nice change from what we’re used to, but the secondary wasn’t tested. And for that reason, I fail to ignite myself like many others are doing on a Monday morning.
Am I pleased with a victory? Absolutely. Was it a big win? Without question. But Mr. Checkdown and the Eagles offense is not Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins are coming off short rest to take the national stage in one of football’s biggest rivalries — that’ll be the real test of this team/defense moving forward.
4. Offensive line struggles
Sometimes we can get caught up in the belief that bye weeks are like magic shows — your team goes into them looking like one thing and comes out looking completely different. While this can sometimes happen, it wasn’t believed to be possible with the Redskins offensive line. The Redskins weren’t going to enter the bye week with a spotty offensive line and miraculously emerge with a stellar front-five.
In fact, it was quite contrary to an improvement. The Redskins actually looked like they went in the wrong direction. With right tackle Tyler Polumbus being himself, the rest of the Redskins offensive line joined suit and didn’t do much for Robert Griffin III.
As we’ve seen all year, Griffin’s elusiveness helped to once again disguise the offensive line’s struggles. But against the Eagles, it seemed even worse than in previous games. The guys couldn’t hold their blocks and they didn’t start off very well in the ground game — typically their strong skill.
5. No correction on penalties
The Redskins came into this game ranked worst in the league in penalties called and penalty yards. And they didn’t leave the game much improved.
13 penalties for 80 yards is not okay. Especially coming out of a bye week. Hell, the Redskins’ 13 penalties nearly eclipsed their 15 first downs on the day.
6. Kyle Shanahan
At one time I was high on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and I thought his strategy going into games featured the offensive unit’s best talents. I haven’t lost that idea. I still believe Kyle is intelligent and capable. But over the past two or three games, his playcalling on crucial downs and key spots has fallen crooked.
Brandon Banks out of the backfield on third down, quarterback stretch play on fourth-and-goal, and last Sunday against the Eagles we saw a few third downs in which Kyle could’ve called any other play in the book and likely seen better results.