Redskins Keys To the Game Revisited:

Steve O Speak

These were yesterday’s keys to the game. After each one I’ll grade them on how they did:

1. Run the Ball Early and Often: Now this of course assumes that you aren’t 21-0 after 6 minutes, but the Redskins need to run the ball effectively today if they want to win. Now the Redskins tried this last week, running on three straight plays on their first drive and they had to punt, but they had to abandon the run pretty soon after (note* don’t run on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down on your first drive, it is okay to pass). Overall though the Redskins will need to keep the ball out of the hands of Chris Johnson and Vince Young if they hope to win. Also, for as bad as the defense was overall last week, the offense didn’t do them any favors by eating up clock, or giving them a short field. Now Ryan Torain is out and Clinton Portis is working his way back from injury, so Keiland Williams will need to do most of the dirty work (*Note: Please have 3 running backs active, it shouldn’t be that hard) but I think he is up for it. Williams ran hard against the Eagles and had the game been close, would have had a better chance to showcase himself.

I don’t know if I’d say the Redskins ran ‘early and often’, but they did run the ball well for the most part. With Chad Simpson getting hurt in warm-ups and Clinton Portis going down early in the game, once again it fell on Keiland Williams to carry the load for the Skins. He had some nice runs early (as did Portis when he was healthy), but seem to wear down at the end. Part of the issue could have been the patch work offensive line, or just the Titans knowing a run was coming. All-in-all it was a good game for the Skins ground attack, not because of the yards they gained, but rather the amount of clock they used up.

2. Don’t Turn the Ball Over: The Redskins have been more turnover prone these last couple of weeks and it has really begun to hurt the team (although the 3 picks last week weren’t what cost Washington the game). The Redskins don’t have the overall offense that they can absorb a couple of turnovers and it not be a major difference. There inability to be a scoring threat on every drive, means they can’t afford to give the ball away at all. Also, their turnovers have given their opponents great field position, leading to a good number of points.

The Redskins had just one turnover and while it was at an inopportune time, it wasn’t in the ‘devastating’ variety. McNabb’s interception before half as the Skins were driving into Tennessee territory could have cost them at least a FG, but it didn’t hurt them. Even more impressive the defense forced a 3 and 0ut, actually giving the Skins another chance. There were a couple of other balls that the Titans almost got to, but were incomplete so no harm, no foul there.

3. Try converting a 3rd Down: The Redskins last week were unable to convert a single 3rd down for the entire game, and are by far the worst 3rd down team in the NFL. The Redskins have to move the ball, but they also have to execute on 3rd downs if they have any chance of winning. Not only does that sustain drives and usually lead to some points, but it also keeps the defense off the field giving them a rest.

Finally! The Redskins were pretty efficient on third downs yesterday, ending the game 8 for 16. Coming into the game the Redskins had converted just 24 third downs all season, so having 8 in a game is pretty big. The Skins ability to convert 3rd downs and keep drives alive, allowed them to dominate time of possession with 40 min to 26 min. It was by far the most efficient the Skins had been this season.

4. Get Fred Davis involved: Davis last season had a breakout performance for the Skins when top tight end Chris Cooley went down. This year though he has been largely overlooked. Yes Cooley is back, but there isn’t anything in the rule book that you can’t utilize both tight ends (note* to Shanahan and McNabb). Yes I know the woeful performance of the offensive line, means that Davis stays into block, but they still have to find away to get him involved. Davis could be a major weapon underneath, one that has the athleticism to pick up big gains after the catch.

The Redskins used Fred Davis exactly as I hoped they would (I would like to say ‘thought they would’, but I still don’t trust their play calling ability). Davis caught two screen passes, and answered both times by picking up 20+ yards. He ran hard after the catch and really showed that he needs to be more involved in this offense.

5. Get pressure on Vince Young: The Redskins secondary is hurting with both Carlos Rogers and Laron Landry out of the game, so the front seven need to step up. You can’t really afford to blitz much from the secondary so your 4 man rush will at least have to try and hurry Young. Young, like Vick last week, can hurt you with his legs, but if you give him time he will find an open receiver.

The Redskins overall did a better job of pressuring Vince Young than they did Mike Vick. Young was able to still make a few plays, but the pressure cost the Titans as well. Young fumbled on his first scramble when he was in Redskins territory and it gave the Skins some new life. The pressure also helped in an inadvertent way, as Young hurt his throwing hand when he hit it off a defender, while completing a deep ball in the 3rd quarter. Young left the game, and the Titans offense lost any semblance of a passing attack.

6. Stop Randy Moss: It won’t be easy without Landry and Rogers, but the Skins have to shut down Randy Moss if they want to win. Big receivers have killed Washington all year (honestly they haven’t faired much better against little guys like DeSean Jackson), and with the injuries in the secondary Moss could have a field day. There is no easy answer on how to stop Moss, but I’d suggest trying to double-team him early and make some other receiver beat you. Hopefully Moss will be so frustrated that his own bad attitude will take him out for the rest of the game.

Randy Moss was a non-factor in this game and a lot of credit should go the Redskins defense. They double-teamed Moss throughout the game, and the Titans never really capitalized by targeting other receivers. Moss’s frustration was apparent (and costly) when in the fourth quarter a touchdown pass was wiped out with an obvious push off penalty against Moss. That was the difference in the game, and was caused by Moss’s own attitude/frustration.

7. Contain Chris Johnson: You can’t stop Chris Johnson so don’t even try, but you can hope to slow him down, and that is what the Skins need to do. Part of it is keeping him off the field, another part is scoring to put more pressure on Tennessee, and the final way is to stack the box. By stacking the Box the Skins could expose their deep passing defense, but it is worth the risk to contain Johnson.

Johnson may have racked up 130 yards and over 6 yards per carry, but overall I’d say the Redskins contained him. Johnson never found the end zone, which was key and he was a non-factor in the passing game, due to tight coverage. 130 yards are a lot to give up, but considering the number of times that Johnson got into the 2nd level and he was never able to break one, I’ll mark that in the win column.

8. Play Albert Haynesworth: Haynesworth should be on the field for the majority of the game regardless, given his talent and ability, but that has to be especially true today. Haynesworth is heading back to Tennessee for the first time, and I’d expect him to be emotionally charged looking to play his best game. On top of that no defensive lineman has Haynesworth’s speed and ability which will come in handy against Vince Young and Chris Johnson. No he can’t outrun those guys, but he can help cut off lanes and break up plays. Given the Titans speed there is little reason why the base 3-4 package should be used (though given their plan for Vick I’m sure it will be) much since those guys can’t hope to contain Young/Johnson. The Redskins need to put their speediest defenders on the field, and that includes Albert Haynesworth.

Despite the announcers not even realizing Albert Haynesworth was in the game at times (or that he is having a good year), Big Al made an impact yesterday. It won’t all show up in the stat sheet (1 TFL), but Haynesworth pushed the pocket a number of times, or blew up running plays forcing Johnson to go on his own. Despite the quality performance, Haynesworth still didn’t see the field nearly enough, though luckily it didn’t cost the Redskins too much. Their base 3-4 defensive linemen probably got the most pressure they have all season. They did give up some chucks of yards on the ground, but overall it was a better performance.

Score Prediction: 31-20 Titans

The Redskins had a good bounce back game and really looked good overall. There are still plenty of issues and the number of injuries didn’t help (though some might have been good, such as the reshuffling of the offensive line), but they played well on the road. Now they did get helped out by the Titans two personnel foul penalties on their game winning drive. Also, not having to face Vince Young in the 4th quarter and overtime, really changed the dynamic of the game. Still a win is a win, and most importantly the offense, and defense played well enough to win the game, so it does give the team hope.

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