I’ll have more detailed analysis after I can go back and watch the game, here are my initial thoughts of the Washington Redskins 31-28 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
-There is no doubt the replacement refs in this game were just awful, but that is not why the Washington Redskins lost this game. The officials blew calls for both teams that were clear as day. Sure it is easy to say it affected the Redskins more since they lost, but neither team was happy with the calls, and nor should they have been. Missing the defenseless receiver call when Fred Davis got hit was awful, but so was missing the block in the back by Richard Crawfordthe play before on the punt return. Do those two plays necessarily even out? No probably not, but it goes to show just how bad the calls were.
-I understand that some fans want to defend Josh Morgan, and many others want to solely blame him for the loss, both lines of thinking are wrong though. As for the penalty, there is zero excuse for that. Sure Courtland Finnegan is a dirty player and he was landing cheap shots all game, but the little shove he gave Morgan after the catch happens on just about every single play. For Morgan to overreact to that is ridiculous, and was 100x worse given the game situation. That being said to blame this loss on Josh Morgan is ridiculous. Sure he cost them a 47 yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game, but there is no guarantee that Cundiff makes that kick, even in a dome. And even if the kick is made you have to hope you can stop the Rams, something that the defense hadn’t really done well. Morgan’s penalty was costly, but he is not the reason the Redskins lost. There were far too many failures throughout the 59 minutes before Morgan’s penalty, to say it is his fault.
–Billy Cundiff has a strong leg that get a lot of touchbacks, what he doesn’t have is an accurate leg. Going into the game he had a career FG% of 77% and was just 5-19 from beyond 50 yards. Of those 5 made kicks all but one of them (56 yards) were from 51 or 52 yards, and four of them were made in 2005 or earlier. Cundiff has made just one of his last 10 50 yard kicks going into the game. He’s hardly the guy I’d call on in a situation to kick it from 60+.
Now going for it on 4th and 15 isn’t obviously a high percentage play in and of itself, but it has to be better than relying on a guy who is 1 for his last 10, and hasn’t come close to the 60 yard mark. In addition to the Redskins chances of actually converting the play, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense where if some receiver beats his man, perhaps you pick-up a pass interference call or defensive holding, which would have given you an automatic first down. Given that there was still a minute on the clock, the Redskins could have used the whole field, which greatly increased their chances. While it is true that the FG attempt if successful would have tied the game, it was also the absolute best outcome. If the Redskins go for it, either on that 4th down play or any subsequent plays if they made it, winning was still on the table for the Redskins. Was it likely? No of course not, but it just takes one broken coverage, or tremendous play by a receiver for it to happen, and should have been weighed in the decision.
-Look it is only one part of the puzzle, but another key miscue by the Washington Redskins punting unit, led to 7 points for the Rams. That really changed the game with that punt block, and took away any momentum the Redskins may have still had. Also, while not as big of an issue as the punt blocks, but the return game has been woefully underwhelming. Brandon Banks is on this team, and on the active roster to make plays when he touches the football. Though he may see a few offensive snaps that is primarily going to be as a returner. Fumbling one return, and averaging 17 yards per KO return and getting -3 on a punt return isn’t getting the job done. The Redskins have too many other holes to justify a roster spot for a one dimensional guy, who isn’t that good.
-I know everyone wants to blame Jim Haslett for “sticking with” his zone scheme, but that is far too simplistic to say it was his fault. On the few plays where the Washington Redskins did try to man up, they still got beat, at least one of those times for a pretty big game. Whether the Redskins were in zone or man, the same two problems occurred. One the coverage was very soft, even in a zone you probably shouldn’t be allowing that much of a cushion and when you see a receiver catching the ball it is customary to then tackle him, something the Redskins weren’t doing very well. Secondly the pressure was very non-existent. Yes they got to Bradford a couple of times, but overall he had enough time to find his (wide)open receivers. Regardless of the coverage you have to be able to generate pressure on the quarterback. That is a staple of this defense, and something they failed to do. It’s easy to say that maybe the Redskins should have been more aggressive blitzing but the times they did try to blitz they were fairly ineffective.
In addition the defense allowed well over 5 yards per carry against the Rams running backs, and were mainly unable to stop a rookie 7th round running back, after Steven Jackson was benched/injured. What’s even worse is that the Rams offensive line, which is poor to begin with, was banged up and kept winning at the point of attack. If the Redskins can’t stop the Rams running game, it’s going to be a long season because the backs (with Jackson out) and the lines are much better the rest of the way.
What’s perhaps most sad is the defense actually came through with some big plays that kept this game with in reach. Josh Wilson‘s fumble return gave the Skins 7 points and London Fletcher‘s interception saved another 7 points. In the end though those couple big plays couldn’t make up for the numerous small plays where the defense failed.
-I thought Robert Griffin had a good 2nd game, and he did a lot of nice things with taking what the defense would give him, but it wasn’t a great game for him. Sure his completion percentage was high, but a lot of that was on short quick passes that went for no gain or short yardage. And on at least four third and longs, Griffin completed the ball short of the 1st down marker. Now the final one of those to Morgan at the end of the game isn’t as bad because had he gone inside he had a very good chance at a first down, and if not for the penalty the pass at least put the Skins in FG range. It does though help boost him completion percentage when the yards really weren’t there. Despite getting 68 yards on the big pass to Leonard Hankerson, Griffin ended up with just 206 total passing yards on 29 attempts (for a pretty average 7.1 yards per attempt).
Now that isn’t all on Griffin as obviously the game plan called for many of those short passes, and the offensive line allowed quite a bit of pressure when the Redskins didn’t opt for the quick passes. Also while he did have some errant passes, one of which that ended up in the Rams hands, it was wise by Griffin to not force the ball on those third downs into coverage down field. Though this mean the Redskins offense was ineffective at picking up 1st down’s, he stayed away from making some potential big mistakes which kept the Redskins in the game.
Griffin also did a really nice job running the football and adding that element to the Redskins offense. This made the Redskins far more deadly inside the red zone as teams will now have to respect his scrambling ability far more that close to the end zone. Which should help open things up for him passing wise. I’m not sure if the Redskins will want to continue to see Robert Griffin with 10+ carries in the box score, given the extra hits that means to him, but it does help the offense.
Check back tomorrow for a more indepth break-down! .