Seahawks 24, Redskins 14: Ten Observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

 

  1. I already wrote about Robert Griffin III’s situation here. I’ll sum it up and say I felt he should have been removed a few plays before his injury, when it became clear that he was not effective, could no longer move and was missing on his passes. But I was also reminded how different the pro sports culture is than the normal one. It can be difficult to understand. Griffin’s mentality is great, but it also leaves him vulnerable because there’s little he doesn’t think he can do. I do think it’s funny that when Griffin is hurt we hear the chorus of how he just needs to sit in the pocket. When he has a great game we hear about how he’s the wave of the future with his style and how the zone read is here to stay. Makes my head hurt. It’s tough to be both, but the Redskins will have to find a way to marry the two concepts (more so: Griffin will have to do so in terms of his style). My concern with Griffin hasn’t been his style as much as his size: he’s just not a thick guy at 6-foot-2, 217  pounds. But I do think he’s still learning how to survive and fully adapt his style to the NFL. Just remember that he was originally hurt on a scramble, not a designed run. I’ve seen a lot of QBs get pummeled on hits in the pocket, too.
  2. There’s a damper on any season that ends and especially the way this one did, with the Redskins blowing a 14-point lead and then Griffin’s injury. The focus of most stories will be on Mike Shanahan’s decision to keep him in the game until he was hurt again. And depending on the results of Griffin’s MRI, that decision will linger (or not). Yes, the future looks promising and the direction of the franchise is a good one. But they had a shot to do something this year and fell short and that should sting, too. There’s no way to know what will happen in the future, which is why the present always matters more. It’s why the coaches and veterans weren’t satisfied to just “get here.” As an Indians fan I was upset about them losing in the 1995 World Series, but figured: hey, they have a great young club they’ll be back. They did get back two years later and lost and haven’t been there again. Saw my Cavs with LeBron James fail to win a title. So you just don’t know what will happen, especially in a sport that is dependent on 22 starters and a 53-man roster. Takes more than just one guy. But as long as Griffin’s knee is fine, the Redskins will enter next season as contenders. Been a while since that phrase has been written.
  3. There’s such a different feeling as the Redskins enter this offseason compared to this time last year, when there was an actual debate about either signing Matt Flynn or trading up to get Griffin. Yeah, you can laugh.  They’ll need to strengthen some areas – the secondary, for starters. They won’t have a lot of money to spend on free agency, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s never been a great answer for them, or for most teams. It will force them to keep building through other teams, namely the draft. But the work isn’t done, not if they want to be more than a division winner.
  4. For the first time I wonder about London Fletcher’s future and whether or not he’ll retire.  He gave an impassioned speech to the team after the game, letting them know that this season was the second most enjoyable in his career (behind his Super Bowl run with St. Louis). “You could tell he was really sad, upset, we’re real close so it was real heartfelt for me,” Lorenzo Alexander said. “You’re almost like, is he coming back or is he not? You get close to guys and never want to see them go away.” For his part, Fletcher said he’ll do what he’s done for the last several years: let the emotions fade and make a decision. Considering his injuries, Fletcher had a strong finish. Yes, he could still play and help. But what goes first in an athlete of his caliber often is the desire to prepare the way he must in order to stay at a certain level. The Redskins have other good leaders, but there’s no one who could replace Fletcher.
  5. The defense did what it could to keep the Redskins in the game: they forced two short field goals and even caused a turnover inside the Seattle 5-yard line. But once Seattle remembered to feed Marshawn Lynch the ball it was difficult to slow the attack. And the defense just wore down. The Redskins’ run defense had posted good numbers all season, but I also thought few teams had committed to running against them. And the Seahawks hurt them in I-formation as well as with their zone read concepts. One thing I’d heard and seen is that the Seahawks did not use their tight ends to come across the formation to block the way Washington does with the zone read. Except that Seattle did do that Sunday, with the tight end one time drilling Perry Riley on the outside to free up a lane. That’s what happened on Lynch’s 27-yard TD run for Seattle’s go-ahead score. Also evident on that play: Lynch’s ability to make defenders miss as corner DeAngelo Hall had an angle, only to have Lynch cut and slip around him, leaving Hall in his tracks. It’s not often a power back such as Lynch has nimble enough feet for such a cut. He’s an underrated back; or maybe underpublicized.
  6. Russell Wilson is a pest for a defense to face. The Redskins found out just what it’s like to face Griffin by going against Wilson. Griffin is more explosive, but Wilson hurt them the same way Griffin hurt opponents all season. Until today, that is. The Redskins did a good job at times of containing him in the pocket. The edge rush was pretty disciplined, getting to seven yards depth and turning in. But Wilson somehow would elude the pocket. Occasionally he did this by getting more depth on his drops, giving him more room to see gaps as well as receivers.
  7. But against a guy like Wilson you must be able to pressure with four. The Redskins’ success came when they blitzed, usually off the edge as expected. But the four-man rush produced little and Wilson had too much time. As short as Wilson is, that lack of height was sometimes to his advantage. “A guy like that gets behind his blockers sometimes and you lose vision on him and he’s seeping out,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. Back to the blitz: it’s a tough way to live and every coach would prefer to pressure with four. Thus we return to the loss of Brian Orakpo early in the year. Yes, Rob Jackson did a good job in his place, but coaches and players say the one thing they missed with Orakpo was the ability to pressure with four. If you blitz against a QB such as Wilson and don’t get there, he’ll get out of the pocket and hurt you or he’ll take off running. Sound familiar?
  8. Every team that was burned by Griffin probably felt like Washington got a taste of its own medicine Sunday. The Redskins have scored several times on plays to the fullback this season. There’s so much focus on the running back and the quarterback that the fullback slips uncovered to the flat for an easy score. Well, that’s how Seattle scored Sunday. And teams have to focus so hard on Griffin in the pocket that they sometimes lose sight of their men. Well, that’s what happened to Alexander on Sunday. On a pivotal third down in the fourth quarter, with the Redskins still up by a point, Alexander dropped to the middle as tight end Zach Miller stayed in to block. Miller was his man. But Wilson has shown the ability to escape the pocket. So when Miller slips out, Alexander is still focused on Wilson. The result: a 22-yard gain. And, again, every defender who faced the Redskins was at home saying, ‘See, that’s what happened to me!’
  9. Yes, it would have been nice to get Alfred Morris the ball more as the game unfolded. But the real problem: Seattle controlled the ball for 30:21 in the final three quarters. The Seahawks trailed the time of possession by nearly eight minutes after the first quarter and ended up with a near-nine minute advantage. Blame a mixture of the defense giving up yards and the offense failing to help. Morris carried on three of their six second-quarter plays (yes, only six plays). Morris carried three times in the first drive of the third quarter out of eight plays and then only twice the rest of the game. When you lose, everything is second guessed and this certainly will be as well. Truth is, nothing was working because the quarterback was nowhere near the top of his game and the impact was big. The Redskins needed to hurt Seattle with misdirection and downfield crossing patterns and after a while that was not going to happen. I liked how they attacked Brandon Browner a few times downfield; it should have resulted in better gains. So there were missed opportunities. I think when Griffin threw the interception we should have known how off he was. I don’t remember him leaving too many passes short and that far inside.
  10. I can’t believe an NFL team would put up with this surface. The Redskins players are used to it, but it’s ridiculous that they played a playoff game on the slop they did Sunday. Either invest in a better surface in the offseason or stop scheduling concerts and other games during the season. Was Seattle’s Chris Clemons injured because of the surface? His knee just buckled on the play – I can’t tell if it’s surface-related because he was engaged with a blocker and the problem in the past with hard surfaces is that they had no give; this one did. Still, there’s no way playing on a surface that cause players to slip as much as this one did can be a good thing. If the league is concerned about player safety – and not just the threat of concussion lawsuits — they’ll make sure surfaces like this are improved.
  11. Thanks for reading this season. Not that I’m about to stop writing any time soon.

 

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