Redskins vs. Bucs Winners and Losers
Well, that's finally over.
After a great start that made Redskins fans feel uncommonly at ease, a strong second half from Tampa Bay took this game down to a game-winning field goal by Billy Cundiff.
The defense was sporadic at best and gave up a few huge plays that helped the Buccaneers climb back into the game, while the offense sputtered in the second half. Once again, it was up to Robert Griffin III to lead his team to victory, and this time, he accomplished the feat.
Let's take a look at the winners and losers from this game.
Winner: Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan is an All-Star. When Brian Orakpo went down, many thought his production would decline because of offenses shifting their attention to his side. That has yet to happen. Kerrigan was constantly in the backfield making plays in Tampa Bay. He showed great awareness on a batted pass in the end zone to keep the Bucs pinned and then recorded the team's only sack.
As much as the defense has struggled through the first quarter of the season, Kerrigan keeps the group respectable. The secondary has been abysmal, but if the 'Skins can get a good pass rush going, they should be able to survive.
Winner: Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris has shown that he can be a starting running back in this league already. He still makes some rookie mistakes when picking up the blitz, but he runs unbelievably hard and never goes down on first contact. Robert Griffin III may get all the buzz in Washington, but Morris has been almost as impressive in his rookie campaign.
The play that stands out is, of course, the 39-yard touchdown run Morris had in the second quarter. On that play, he hit the hole and simply outran the Tampa Bay secondary. Morris is more of a between-the-tackles bruiser, but many forget that he does have some good speed in space and can hit the home run every now and then.
Both Morris and Griffin now lead the NFL with four rushing touchdowns each. Together, they've made the Redskins rush attack one of the most dangerous in the league.
Winner: Robert Griffin III
Speaking of Griffin, how about that game-winning drive? RGIII went a perfect 4-for-4 for 46 yards and added another 15 yards on the ground. After the game, he said his headset went out, so he made some of those play calls himself. This guy is special, but we already knew that.
For a rookie, Griffin has unbelievable poise in the pocket and great instincts to know when it's time to take off and pick up yards. He had one play where he went out of bounds just before the first down marker to force a punt, but other than that, he's been very smart when running the ball.
There was definitely an added emphasis on avoiding contact this week, as you saw every time Griffin made a play-fake. Whenever a defender got near him, Griffin would throw his hands up in the air to show that they were empty. That kind of move will save him from those big hits he suffered against the Bengals on play-action.
The best thing about Griffin is that he doesn't rattle and make costly mistakes. He has thrown only one interception so far this year. Big change from last year.
Winner: Redskins Offense
I'm really starting to like this group.
Griffin and Morris have been great so far, but the rest of the offense stepped up and helped build a 15-point lead early.
Josh Morgan made everyone forget about his error against the Rams with the plays he made today. He has great hands and seems to always make the play whenever targeted. Leonard Hankerson looks far more confident with the ball in his hands and looks to be over his drop issues from the start of the season.
Apart from those two, Fred Davis and Santana Moss put in solid efforts. Those four give Griffin a ton of options even without Pierre Garcon in the game. Garcon was clearly still feeling the lingering effects of that foot injury, so he didn't do much. But when he finally gets healthy, this is a pretty formidable group to stop.
The offensive line did a much better job of getting Griffin upright this game. There were a few costly penalties that slowed the offense, but otherwise, a better-than-expected effort by this group in both the pass and run game.
Brandon Banks has been surprisingly adept at working trick plays and gadgets. The double-pass was a great play call that paid off. Banks was banged up before this game, so I have to think we'll see more of him next week on offense.
The deep ball still needs work, but hopefully that will come with Garcon coming back and Griffin getting more reps in with the other guys. Kyle Shanahan has done a good job with this group so far, but he needs to work on keeping a consistent pace in both halves.
The 'Skins were stopped for all but the game-winning drive which came easy. Granted, they were playing with a lead and leaning more on the run game, and they did suffer three missed field goals (only two were really make-able), but you have to put teams away in that situation.
Griffin and company are definitely the strength of this team now, but they have to keep their foot on the gas.
Loser: Billy Cundiff
Yes, he did make the game-winner. That's no excuse for the way he played for the majority of the game.
The 57-yarder is excusable, but the other two misses can't happen. Especially not when every game the Redskins have played so far has been decided by a one-score margin. Washington should have been up by eight, but instead gave up another Tampa Bay field goal and had to rely on a comeback effort led by a rookie quarterback.
Had Billy Cundiff missed that game-winning attempt, I think he'd be finding his own way home from Tampa Bay. But he did, and that's what counts.
Everyone has a bad game. With kickers, there's far less leeway with that, but we'll see if he can turn things around for the rest of the season. He's not going to get cut, but he's definitely on the hot seat now.
Loser: DeAngelo Hall
DeAngelo Hall was a winner through the first half. He was making plays, solid in coverage and helping the defense shut down Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
But then things took a turn for the worst in the second half, where Hall decided he was going to let Jackson do whatever he wanted.
Jackson is a fantastic receiver with great size, but Hall has to be better in coverage than that, especially as the leader of the secondary. The drive where Jackson caught two 20-plus yard passes swung the momentum completely in Tampa Bay's direction and helped it get back into the game.
The entire secondary had a rough day once again, but Hall was the biggest bust of the game.
Loser: Redskins Pass Defense
This defense gave up 19 unanswered points in one half. That's how you lose a game.
Luckily, the offense has been good enough to get past the defensive struggles, but better teams will slaughter the Redskins if something is not done to slow down the opposition.
The strength of this group was supposed to be the front seven and the pass rush, but that was nonexistent in the second half. Josh Freeman had as much time as he wanted to sit back and wait for routes to develop.
Any time he was forced out of the pocket, there was little to no pursuit. Easy pickings for any quarterback. Stephen Bowen had another good game, but the rest of the line struggled to get any sort of push up front to collapse the pocket.
The Bucs do not have a very good offense, yet they destroyed Washington's secondary. What will happen against Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Matt Ryan next week?
How about this: Move DeAngelo Hall to free safety and put Josh Wilson and Cedric Griffin/Richard Crawford on the outside. Hall has the speed to keep everything in front of him and the ball skills to make some plays back there. With Brandon Merriweather coming back from injury, this will hopefully keep the 'Skins from fielding the worst safety tandem in the league every week.
That might not be a perfect plan, but something needs to be done with this group.
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