Redskins 31, Ravens 28: Ten Observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

 

  1. First, the playoff picture. The Redskins remain a game behind the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East and also a game back of Seattle for the final wild card spot. But here’s the thing: Chicago also is 8-5. If, for example, the Bears lose to Green Bay next week and the Redskins win, then Washington has the tiebreaker edge thanks to a better conference record (6-4 vs. 5-5) than the Bears. If Seattle loses to Buffalo and the Redskins win, the Seahawks would still have an edge. Both teams would be 6-4 in the NFC, but the Seahawks have a better record against common opponents. They’re 3-1 vs. Dallas, St. Louis, Carolina and Minnesota compared to the Redskins’ 2-2 mark. I’m not ready for talk of three-way ties. But here’s the formula.
  2. Add this to the list of “Games the Redskins Would Never Have Won Before”. The Ravens not only punched back in the first half after the Redskins drove twice on them, but they also took an eight-point lead late. Oh, and did I mention Robert Griffin III left the game with a knee injury? The Redskins did not play a flawless game. Rather, they competed and overcame mistakes, much like what good teams do. “Anytime you can play that bad and come out with a win, all you can do is smile,” Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. “You know you got away with one, the ones we lost early in the season in the same situation.”
  3. Earlier in the season, the Niles Paul fumble is recovered in-bounds. Think about it: this game was saved because the Ravens could have used about another foot of real estate on the sideline. Yeah, other plays make a huge difference. But if the Ravens recover, they’re at the Redskins’ 15 yard line with under five minutes remaining and holding an eight-point lead. Game over. But there’s a different vibe around this team and plays like that now turn in their favor. Or, in reality, the Redskins make enough plays to overcome their own mistakes. Winning the turnover battle and having a playmaking QB tends to help you as well.
  4. I’m not going to knock anyone who said the Redskins should have drafted an offensive tackle or some other position in the fourth round. I get why it’s said (though they did take three offensive linemen and two defensive backs later in the draft). But I am going to say once more that it was silly how much vitriol surrounded the Redskins’ selection of Kirk Cousins. Actually, it was beyond silly. One notion at the time was: Well, what if Cousins goes in and plays well, then what? Won’t there be a controversy? Uh, no. Not if the starter was playing well, as Griffin has done all year. Know what it means when your backup plays well? It means you have a chance to keep winning. Last season the Bears collapsed when Jay Cutler was hurt. Why? Because Caleb Hanie was their backup (they went 0-4 with him).
  5. And, besides, the more I’m around Griffin, the more I realize: This is the last guy who would be bothered by any sort of competition. If you think that’s the case then you just don’t know him. I have a feeling if, when LeBron James was a rookie, that he would have been bothered if Cleveland had drafted another small forward. Know when Griffin looks over his shoulder? When he’s running 76 yards for a touchdown vs. Minnesota to make sure no one’s gaining on him. Other than that, his confidence keeps him looking forward. Cousins was a wise pick at the time and I’ll say that even if he has to start and somehow struggles vs. Cleveland. Yes, there’s a difference between playing in relief and starting. He’s not a perfect QB; that’s why he lasted until the fourth round. He will make mistakes. But he will learn. He forced passes vs. Atlanta and was picked off twice (he will try to make the aggressive throw). Sunday, none of his three passes were forced.  And his pump-fake completely made the corner bite on a pass to slot receiver Santana Moss, freeing the toss to Pierre Garcon. Cousins’ poise in a crucial spot saved the Redskins. If Griffin has to miss multiple games, you can’t assume the Redskins are done thanks to the Redskins’ plan at QB.
  6. The defense was not spectacular. They allowed 21 first-half points as Baltimore gained 359 total yards and converted six of 12 third downs. But the defense produced in the second half for the second consecutive game. The Ravens started drives at their own 35 or better on four straight possessions in the second half. They scored a touchdown on one of those drives, but also had one pass intercepted and punted twice. One of the punts occurred after Baltimore took over at the Redskins’ 47. The defense also forced a fumble that the offense turned into three points (just as it did following London Fletcher’s interception at the Ravens’ 15).
  7. The Redskins keep winning despite inconsistent secondary play. And, yes, you can say I’m being kind. Corner DeAngelo Hall was beaten in coverage twice, though he said of those plays, “We just blew some things. That’s all you can say about it, myself included. We have to be better. If we had lost the game and it would have turned [on those plays]… blowing coverages, we’ve got double teams and things like that on. You can’t win in the NFL like that.” In other words, he was expecting safety help. On the first TD, there was no other receiver on that side of the field yet Madieu Williams for some reason hesitated and did not get over in time. On the second, Hall was beaten off the line by Boldin and then seemed to mistime his jump. Williams was aligned deep middle and moved to his right (I don’t know if he was supposed to or not) and that left Hall in trouble once Boldin beat him off the line. Williams also missed too many tackles. And Hall had the 15-yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver late. Those plays haven’t cost them during their streak. But it’s a tough way to make keep making a living.
  8. For a second straight game Rob Jackson came through with a big play off a rush. Left tackle Michael Oher did not get his hands on Jackson on the rush, allowing him to turn the corner. Not only did Jackson slap the ball out of Joe Flacco’s hands, but he then recovered it after it squirted out from underneath Chris Baker. By the way, Flacco’s pocket presence is not impressive. Not sure how he didn’t see that Ryan Kerrigan was unblocked on one rush, which resulted in the Fletcher interception. The Redskins rushed six; the Ravens had five blockers. Kerrigan was unblocked. Clearly a good call.
  9. Back to the return game. I liked the decision to deactivate Brandon Banks, even with Paul’s fumble. Everyone has to justify their roster spot and Banks’ play did not warrant him staying active. And Banks has fumbled plenty, too. Like Paul, it just never hurt him. Paul needs to play better, but Banks needs to provide a reminder why he should be active. We know he’s fast, but that means nothing if that speed doesn’t produce results.
  10. One reason I liked Richard Crawford as a punt returner in the preseason is the same reason I liked his returns Sunday. He makes a cut and runs and he’s more physical than Brandon Banks. Of course, Banks is a lot faster, but that speed doesn’t matter if you’re not making defenders miss. Crawford did that, not just on his 64-yard return but also on his other two returns in which he gained a combined 36 yards. So on three punt returns, he managed 100 yards. Banks’ last 12 returns, over the previous five games, managed 96 yards. And Crawford now has 78 fewer punt return yards for the season than Banks (who has 26 punt returns). If and when Banks receives another shot, he has to produce. Period. Incidentally, Crawford also fielded a punt inside the 10, but he did not back up far. It was a 53-yard punt and Crawford caught it at the 7; he returned it 20 yards.
  11. Plus one: Crawford, as I’ve written in the past, is a smart, insightful kid. Want to know why he makes a cut and goes? “When you listen to all the great punt returners, they tell you they make a decision and go,” he said. “Hester, Deion Sanders. Even Antonio Perkins from Oklahoma, I watched him growing up and he returned three punts in a game before. All the great returners make a decision and go.” Crawford made a wise one. By the way, Perkins returned three punts for a touchdown two years ago vs. UCLA.
  12. Plus two: Said it before and will say it again. Alfred Morris is a terrific back to face teams such as the Ravens because of his physical style. In two games against physical defenses Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Morris rushed for 181 yards on 35 carries. Of course, the Ravens’ D is not the same minus Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. But still, there’s a mindset. And Morris feeds off those style of defenses. Well, any style considering he’s now on pace for 1,511 yards (franchise record is 1,516). But this guy loves contact and it shows. It allows the Redskins to play physical, giving them the ability to play a variety of defenses. Yes, he also fumbled and that’s now three on the season for him (only one in the first 11 games). By the way, on the third and 1 option pitch, if Morris catches the ball he has a chance for big yardage. That play needed to be made.
  13. Plus three: Baltimore seemed to do a good job taking away Griffin’s intermediate routes off the zone read fakes in the second half (Griffin was 5-for-11 for 66 yards in the second half after a 10-for-18, 180 yard first half). I need to re-watch the game to see more of why this happened (sometimes what you think after a game changes when you re-watch), but the Ravens’ inside ‘backers, for starters, at times did a good job of not always biting hard on the play fakes. Again, need to re-watch but saw a couple times where they only moved up a yard off the fake and dropped back into their coverage lanes. They did so without turning and scrambling, as we’ve seen often from other teams. Some Redskins players said the Ravens also blitzed them more than any team they’ve faced. Still, Griffin could have been sacked more than three times had he not been, well, Griffin.

 

KCI report

 

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner