The Redskins fell to 1-2 with a disappointing 38-31 loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Despite the terrible defensive showing and some poor coaching decisions, there were still several positives to take away from the game. Here are three things that Redskins fans can take solace in following the loss:
1. The running game is one of the NFL's best.
The Redskins couldn't run the ball last season, finishing 25th in the league in yards per game. Roy Helu Jr. led the team with 640 yards.
My, how things have changed. Whatever you may think about Mike Shanahan's ability to coach, you can't deny that he has done a superb job of tailoring his offensive scheme toward the strengths of his players. Robert Griffin III leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards, and it's not because he's scrambling. It's because he's running designed draws and options, spreading out the defense and allowing his offensive line to open holes and seal the edges.
And then there's Alfred Morris, the sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic who has been a revelation in the Redskins' backfield. Morris has been excellent and uses his 218-pound frame to his advantage when he follows Shanahan's one-cut system. Morris hits the hole hard and often rips off large chunks of yardage. He rarely has a negative play.
Combining RGIII's running ability with Morris' downhill style has yielded good results. The Redskins are averaging over 160 yards per game on the ground and gained 213 against the Bengals.
2. The run defense was stellar.
Let's not lie to ourselves: Washington's defense was putrid against the Bengals' air attack on Sunday. They allowed a 73-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the game (thrown by a wide receiver, no less) and gave up almost 400 yards in the air.
The Redskins, though, were great when it came to containing the run. Cincinnati's BenJarvus Green-Ellis led his team with 38 yards on 17 carries, and the Redskins only allowed 93 yards on 28 total carries.
The Skins' run defense might be pretty good. The 151 yards allowed against St. Louis weren't as much as the statistic indicates (most of those yards really only came on a single run), and they only allowed 32 against the Saints.
Of course, some of this success can be attributed to the fact that opposing teams don't feel the need to run against the Redskins because they can throw it whenever they want with little resistance. But the Redskins did show against the Bengals that it won't be easy to run on them this season.
3. They have a superb turnover differential.
Every year, there are three or four teams that rebound from a poor season to have a winning record or make the playoffs the next year. The number one reason for the overnight improvement is turnover differential.
The Redskins are 1-2, but the best thing about their overall play so far is that they seem to have fixed a huge problem from last year. Thanks to Rex Grossman, Washington was a miserable -14 in the turnover differential department last year. So far this season, the Redskins are +6. This is due in part to RGIII throwing only one interception, as well as the defense somehow becoming masters at forcing turnovers.
They've forced eight in three games, complemented by two defensive touchdowns. If the defense is going to keep giving up yards in bunches, forcing turnovers may be the only way for the Redskins to stay competitive in 2012. Hopefully, Jim Haslett can continue to dial up plays to force the big momentum change.