1. Give it up for this Redskins defense…?
For the second consecutive week, we watched as the Redskins defense was told to weather a storm and come out with a win.
But how is this even fathomable? With one of the worst ranking defenses in the league and a high-powered offense hanging out on the sidelines, clearly the idea of going with the defense and telling them to get a stop is insane, right?
Although they’re nothing close to spectacular, this Redskins defense is working as a single unit and we’re seeing the best of each individual piece. It’s the defensive linemen, the linebackers, the corners, and the safeties all playing at their best. While that isn’t to say that each player is perfect, or that their “best” qualifies for a roster spot in Hawaii, it is the most efficient way to get the most out of your team.
Going into halftime, the Redskins trailed 21-14 after a scoreless second quarter that consisted of just three drives, 12 plays, two punts, and a fumble. Momentum was clearly in Baltimore’s favor.
In the second half, the Redskins flipped it on the Ravens, holding them scoreless in the third quarter and forcing turnovers that seemed absolutely necessary in order to win the game. In the 15 minutes following halftime, Baltimore had three drives that resulted in a lost fumble, an interception (which halted a nine-play drive), and a punt. And while everyone would’ve liked to see the Redskins offense capitalize with touchdowns, you weren’t going to find anyone cussing about Kai Forbath nailing a 48- and then 49-yard field goal in the third to bring the Redskins within one heading into the final quarter.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the defense continued to hang tough. The Ravens’ touchdown was setup by a 28-yard reception by Anquan Boldin on a huge third down that Jim Haslett deserves the most criticism for. On a third-and-short with the recently timid play of the Ravens, man coverage with a ten yard cushion was a bonehead alignment.
Not making excuses for the defense or DeAngelo Hall’s embarrassing attempt at tackling Boldin down the sidelines, but certainly a valid notation of the defensive play call.
Finally, in overtime, the Redskins held the Ravens on their only possession — three plays for seven yards.
Again, I’m not saying this defense is great or that they’re any better than what the numbers show. There’s plenty of room for improvement in multiple areas (ie. pass rush, consistent tackling). But as of late, these guys are playing hard and actually winning football games.
Fun(ny) Fact: While much of the blame falls on him for failing to effectively fulfill the duties of an offensive coordinator, it’s funny to see that the lowly Redskins defense was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Baltimore. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron less than 24 hours after their loss to Washington.
2. Remember when Mike Shanahan supposedly gave up on his team?
If you dont, there were columns like this one here to remind you.
After a frustrating loss to the Carolina Panthers before entering the bye week, head coach Mike Shanahan was pissed. His team was 3-6, they had just lost to a bad Panthers squad, and the playoffs appeared impossible. Critics slammed Shanahan for terrible motivation and a pessimistic attitude.
Since then, the Redskins have won four straight (the longest active win streak in the NFC) and three have come against division opponents.
Not only are the Redskins red hot and threatening to damn near any team they face, but they’re in good position to make a run at the playoffs.
Playoffs?! Playoffs? You kiddin me? Playoffs? ( in my Jim Mora voice )
3. Let’s not forget about Richard Crawford
After learning that return specialist (?) Brandon Banks was made inactive for Sunday’s game just a few hours before kickoff, Redskins fans had yet another reason to be excited for the game. I know it sounds bad to say you root for someone’s benching, but in the case of Banks and the Redskins’ non-existent return game, a change had to be made.
Taking Banks’ place was Niles Paul on kickoffs and rookie Richard Crawford on punt returns.
Paul didn’t have the best of days as a returner, which included a bad decision to take it out of the endzone and fumble the ball along the sidelines. Initially ruled a fumble and recovery by Baltimore, replay officials determined that the player didn’t have complete control before going out of bounds and the Redskins were lucky enough to dodge a shotgun shell.
Crawford, on the other hand, was exactly what the doctor ordered. Ever since the start of the season, Redskins fans have been yelling and screaming for a return man that runs forward. Forget the dancing and back pedal. It’s most important to get north and south on punt returns. And judging from Sunday, Crawford knew exactly what everyone was hollerin’ about.
In regular time, Crawford fielded two punts for a combined 36 yards, demonstrating toughness and good vision. Then, after the Redskins defense held the Ravens to just seven yards, Crawford would receive the punt to start Washington’s first drive of the overtime period.
Crawford’s 64-yard return amongst the rumbling crowd at FedEx Field was all the Redskins needed to place the ball and call on kicker Kai Forbath to nail the game-winning 34-yarder.
Amongst the injury to RG3 and the excitement surrounding such a big win for the Redskins moving forward, it’s important not to lose sight of Crawford and his ability to show up during crunch time and deliver.
4. Kirk Cousins
While on the topic of less popular Redskins players deserving of credit, rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins is obviously on the list. Amidst the loads of media attention I’m sure he’ll receive, Cousins will also remain very relevant in the nightmares of Ravens fans for at least the next four years.
Conducting himself like a true professional, Cousins was thrown to the wolves in a very big situation. He remained calm, poised, executed his passes, and led his team to victory. Picture perfect backup stuff.
I’m not about to crown Kirk Cousins the next Brady-esque find. But, albeit limited opportunity, the young man has taken some strides.
5. Penatlies are bullets in the feet and we suck on third down…again
Coming out of Sunday with a win and pushing the record to 7-6 was a huge feat for the Redskins. In a situation just as must-win as the next, the Redskins showed up, showed out, and came out with the ‘W’. And in that regard, I’m not complaining.
What I will complain about, however, are the eight penalties for seventy yards and the horrid 4-for-11 on third down.
While I can typically deal with about 4-5 penalties a game, that would have to serve as the absolute max. And when you see a penalty like DeAngelo Hall’s late/high hit along the sidelines to cost the Redskins 15 yards, it really makes you want to kick a face. It’s truly frustrating stuff.
At the same time, the poor execution on third down has to go. Watching tape on Tuesday should be more revealing, but it doesn’t take much to know that less than 40-percent success on the game’s most crucial down isn’t very good.
6. Robert Griffin III is mortal
It’s a bit angering to see so-called Redskins fans take to Twitter and other social media sites in order to bash RG3 and criticize him for “injuring himself” after electing to run. Even more baffling is the fans’ criticism of Mike or Kyle Shanahan for “telling” Griffin to run.
Despite making for decent discussion, I’ve already developed carpal tunnel from early morning internet arguments. So instead, here’s a few random thoughts regarding the subject from yours truly:
- Griffin was hurt at the end of a scramble, not a designed run. Kyle, nor Mike, told Griffin to run on that play.
- Should Griffin had gotten out of bounds to stop the clock and save himself rather than cut up field for an extra seven yards? Yes.
- Griffin was injured in a freak accident. He was sliding and his leg was whipped from the momentum of a man the size of Sasquatch.
- Quarterbacks that can run aren’t necessarily more susceptible to injuries. Need proof? Look up all the pocket passers that have suffered torn ACLs while working from their happy place (the pocket).
- Running quarterbacks (or any runner) can anticipate on the run and in the open field, essentially controlling their own destiny on that given play. In the pocket is where the unexpected happens.
- We all found out on Sunday that Griffin is mortal. Very tough, but not quite a machine. Keeping him healthy is important.