RB Alfred Morris. Of course he’s on here, though I will say the run game needs more consistency. He had five runs that totaled 83 yards while the other 13 gained 33. The Redskins are in third and long too often and that’s partly because of this inconsistency. Some of that is a function of this style of run game; some of it is a matter of inconsistency. That doesn’t all fall on Morris (just like his success isn’t his alone). However, that is on the run game. Regardless, they have had success and Morris once again showed that he’s a mature runner and I love the way he sets up blockers, enabling them to seal lanes. He runs in sync with them and it’s fun to watch. On his first carry, Morris gained 11 yards and helped with a subtle plant to the outside, causing the corner (already blocked by Pierre Garcon) to lean outside and opening up the final crease he needed. On the 29-yard run he again took advantage of good blocking from pretty much everyone on the field. He gained 24 yards after contact, but it wasn’t a lot of contact. The final five yards were all Morris as he stiff-armed safety William Moore and fell forward. Also on that play, another subtle but quick plant outside caused a linebacker to widen by about a foot.
WR Santana Moss. Listen, it was a busted coverage on the Falcons’ part and all Moss did was run to the open area. It wasn’t the most heroic play I’ve ever seen, but it was a timely one and Moss did get wide open, crossing in front of one safety and behind another. Then all he needed to do was catch the ball. He did and no one was within six yards of him so the final 52 yards could be run trouble-free – it was like watching a deep home run in baseball. You know it’s gone the minute it leaves the bat, but if you’re a fan those no-doubters feel pretty darn good. Moss only caught one other pass for three yards. His day was defined by one play.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger. The ‘Steiger had his moments where he wasn’t a Stud. Jonathan Babineaux moved him several yards back on one run for no gain as Morris was forced to cut way too early. He also allowed a pressure to Babineaux early in the game (on the blitz/sack in the first quarter). By the way, Babineaux was really good in this game and later he split a combo block by ‘Steiger and Trent Williams, forcing Morris to run wider and for only one yard. So why is he on here? Because he threw key blocks on the runs that gained 11, 13, 29 and 12 yards. He turned Babineaux out on the 13-yard run and sealed the linebacker backside on the 29-yard gain. Had Ryan Grant not run right into him on his 5-yard carry (see below), ‘Steiger would have been given credit for the final block in a possible scoring run (or at least enough for a first down).
PK Billy Cundiff. This one was easy (and now his replacement already is in town). He missed another 31-yard field goal wide right, after missing one from that distance the previous week (among three misses). Cundiff, uh, pointed out that the Redskins would still have lost by four points. But: what if he makes that kick and the Redskins pin the Falcons deep on the ensuing kickoff and they don’t score a touchdown (as they did following the miss; of course, they still had to start at the 21. But doing so after a missed short field goal is deflating). It’s impossible to know how the outcome would have changed had he made the kick.
As for the timing issues, let’s check it out. I had a longer graph prepared but since Cundiff is gone it no longer matters. Suffice to say: Every kick with Nick Sundberg snapping was in 1.0 seconds or less. And of the eight field goal snaps by Justin Snow, five took at least 1.2 seconds and every one took at least 1.1. Does that make that big a difference? Don’t know. But those are the numbers and now Cundiff is unemployed. (By the way, in a three-field goal playoff game vs. Kansas City after the 2010 season, every attempt was in 1.1 seconds or less). But Cundiff had a subpar season in 2011 and a bad start in ’12. Can’t blame everything on timing.
QB Robert Griffin III. He just… didn’t… do … anything. That’s it. Now, he was victimized by a couple drops on third down no doubt. But Griffin put his team at risk by not taking care of himself when he tried to make something out of nothing in the red zone, leading to his concussion. I love his mindset; it’s why he’s already a special player. But … Would he have made a difference in the fourth quarter? You think? You never know what would happen but the way he’s handled the two-minute situations the past three weeks I’d take my chances with him over a rookie fourth-round pick who barely takes snaps with the starters during the week. It’s hard with guys like Griffin to reign in their competitiveness and you really don’t want to; he just needs to be a little smarter. Griffin’s worst throw was the toss to Pierre Garcon at the 5-yard line. If he had led Garcon at all it definitely has a chance for a touchdown. With Garcon’s physical style, I’ll take him over the DB at the 1 every day and that’s what it would have come down to. A few weeks ago maybe this sort of game doesn’t land Griffin on this list. But he raised the bar high after a few games and he’s too important to the team to have a game where his impact is minimal.
NFL Game Rewind: OK, the Redskins were the only game that didn’t have the coaches film up as of early this morning. Heck, every other game had it up by early evening Tuesday. Also, when I clicked on a particular play it would take me to one that had been run 1-2 plays earlier. Frustrating. How am I supposed to pull rope and give Mike Shanahan a good report? Yes, I’m kidding. I think Shanahan gets a good chuckle out of these anyway.
…I continue to like how well the tight ends are blocking as they continue to make a big difference. Logan Paulsen’s footwork is a lot better than it was a year ago, enabling him to seal the outside more often.
The one key block that was missed occurred on the backside by Fred Davis on Morris’ 13-yard run in the third quarter. This wasn’t an easy assignment as the 247-pound Davis needed to somehow keep the 296-pound Babineaux from getting down the line. Uh, right. The problem is, Babineaux is quick and pursues well. Davis’ best bet is to somehow get in front and obstruct him for a brief second. But none of that happened; if it had, Morris would have scored as right tackle Tyler Polumbus was out front and blocked the remaining defender in the way. Babineaux, though, tackled Morris from the side. If Davis could have kept him occupied at all it’s a touchdown.
…Thought about knocking Polumbus because he had some issues late: a sack allowed to Babineaux and the next play a pressure off a stunt (though the pass took 3.9 seconds to release, an eternity). He allowed inside pressure to John Abraham (getting help from guard Chris Chester) on the play in which Griffin was chased from the pocket and ultimately hurt. But Polumbus also threw a key block vs. Abraham on Morris’ 29-yard run (clearing him out), cut his man on an 11-yard run to prevent backside pursuit and would have been hailed for a key block downfield vs. a defensive back on Morris’ 13-yarder in the third quarter that should have resulted in a touchdown.
…I didn’t think Trent Williams played that great either. On the play in which Polumbus allowed a sack, Williams also was beaten to the inside. He was called for a hold on a run in which, yes, Polumbus was beaten. And he missed a corner in space on another play. But Williams did enough to offset his issues. Despite some of the problems the tackles had, they did not set the offense back in this game.
…Most times when a QB throws two interceptions in the fourth quarter they end up on the Dud list. There was reason to put Kirk Cousins on there, had it not been for the fact he had never played in an NFL regular-season game and rarely gets reps in practice. He threw a pretty pass to Moss for the touchdown. It was wide open but he didn’t get overexcited and rush the throw. Nice job. But he stared down Davis on the first interception. Because of that, the linebacker drifted closer to Davis and ignored Morris out of the backfield. That forced Cousins to throw more to Davis’ outside. With corner Dunta Robinson playing between Davis and Joshua Morgan, about seven yards away, that led to danger. On the second interception, Cousins took too long in the pocket (3.6 seconds) and then threw to a covered target in Moss. Cousins did not stare him down, but under duress he made a bad decision. Morgan was open underneath and probably would have gained at least 10 yards.
…Want another missed opportunity? In fairness to Ryan Grant, this was his first carry since last season without the benefit of a preseason. It takes more than one carry to find your rhythm. That said, his one carry (which came after a 19-yard Morris run) could have resulted in much more than five yards. All he had to do was keep his head up as he passed the line of scrimmage and he would have seen a large opening to his right. Instead, he bumped into Lichtentsteiger, who was blocking a Falcons linebacker. He had him sealed to the inside, but Grant ran right into the ‘backer and ‘Steiger and was then tackled within two yards. Had he cut to his right, he could have gained another five yards. Or more. Why is that important? Three plays later Cundiff missed the 31-yarder.
….According to the numbers, the Redskins did OK in the yards after catch category. They finished with 202 yards receiving with 112 coming after the catch (by my unofficial count). However, it’s not that impressive considering 74 of those yards occurred on two plays. And the receivers combined for just 61 yards after the catch – with 52 coming on Santana Moss’ 77-yard touchdown catch.
…More YAC: Of the Redskins’ 15 receptions, nine produced gains of four yards or less after the catch (and 11 were for five yards or less). Credit the Falcons for few missed tackles as a defender was always around whoever caught the ball.
…It’s hard with the receivers at times; they’re paid to catch the ball and aside from Moss as a group they combined for six catches and 41 yards. Morgan and Garcon both threw key blocks throughout the game, but they need to do more when it comes to catching the ball. Of course, Garcon might have scored had a better pass been thrown. But the point remains the same. Like a lot of others on offense they weren’t horrible, but they didn’t do a whole lot either.
…The end around to Leonard Hankerson was not the prettiest one I’ve ever seen. Hankerson is more of a long strider so I’m not sure why he ran this play; takes them a little longer to cut and he showed that he’s not a shifty guy in the open field. Just not his strength. He does have speed, but he doesn’t cut as quickly as an Aldrick Robinson or even Moss.
The design of the play worked as the Falcons had nine players at or around the right hash when Hankerson took the handoff running the other way. That left two defenders on the side of the field he was running. It didn’t help that Babineaux was able to change directions so quickly – that guy is good — and reach at Hankeron’s feet nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Trent Williams also missed a block on the linebacker on this play, which didn’t help.
Without benefit of the All-22 film (which was still not up as of this morning on NFL Game Rewind – every other game was for crying out loud), it’s hard to tell if receiver Aldrick Robinson missed his block on that side. Regardless, the corner on that side forced Hankerson to make a move. He lurched to his right, lurched back outside then inside and gained three yards. The Redskins have better runners in the open field.
…Hankerson also missed the linebacker when trying to crack down on him. The ‘backer, Sean Weatherspoon, tossed Hankerson to the ground and he bumped into Paulsen in the process, mucking up the hole.
…The Falcons did a solid job of mixing pressure rushes with some controlled ones. On a second-and-5 play (resulting in a three-yard pass to Hankerson), the left end stays home and barely rushes. He was double teamed, but his first step was to the outside as if to occupy or contain. John Abraham got upfield on the right side, but turned in after three yards or so, not wanting to leave a hole on that side. Babineaux was doubled, but also slowed up in case Griffin ran.
…Saw that another time when Babineaux was engaged with Lichtensteiger, but after being stopped he appeared to wait on Griffin rather than try to push upfield. If Griffin had decided to run on this play, Babineaux was in position to make a play. Just an example of how they tried to contain Griffin in the pocket. Another time they did so with end Kroy Biermann serving as a spy. Griffin broke through an opening to the right, but Biermann was there to get in his face and force a throw (which Griffin completed).
…The direct snap to Morris inside the 5-yard line didn’t fool Atlanta at all. At the snap Griffin sprints to the right, but the only one paying attention to him was the corner on that side, playing contain. Everyone else went right to Morris. The play gained two yards.
…I should have put Babineaux on the Stud list. Guy was all over and a real difference maker on that defense.