This game was worse than the Lions game from last year. It was so bad, I think Redskins fans should actively petition the NFL to never let the Washington Redskins play in the state of Michigan again. In yet another game that seemed easy, we were out-played, out-coached, out-muscled, and out-hustled.
The discussion for much of the next two weeks is going to be the fourth quarter benching of Donovan McNabb (I think I'm going to take a week off from watching NFL Total Access and SportsCenter), but let's examine who can take the blame for the loss in this game.
No way I'm going to blame special teams for this loss. Through four quarters, special teams kept trying to make plays. Yes, an unfortunate block called back a 95-yard Brandon Banks touchdown. But then Brandon Banks ran in another touchdown. The field goal unit deserves a little bit of blame for encroachment; on a drive where we could've held Detroit to three points, we gave them a new set of downs and a touchdown. But they continued to give us great position to make plays the offense rarely capitalized on.
So no, I'm not going to blame the special teams today. I do have to give a shout out to Danny Smith though on that stupid short kick that was called, though that might've been a call from the top.
Jim Haslett and the Defense
Again, I can't really blame the defense for this loss either. As the season has gone on, the defense has gotten better and better. I don't recall too many completely blown coverages and what not. Sure, getting four touchdowns scored on you isn't the best, but it's hard when your offense continually puts you in a bad positions.
DeAngelo Hall came up with a pick, and Albert Haynesworth showed up yet again with a sack. The defense played tight and, once again, helped to keep the Redskins in the game when they needed it. That's what a defense is supposed to do; give its team an opportunity to win. You can't always count on four picks and a defensive touchdown to win a game. The defense did everything it could to keep the team in the game.
Yes, I know he was sacked, fumbled, and his fumble got returned for a touchdown. But in a game with some bad calls and bad O-line play, Grossman was pretty much set up to fail. So relax, "Sexy" Rexy; I'm not going to blame you for this loss.
The O-line completely fell apart in this game and too closely resembled that of last year. With part of the line struggling and playing through injuries, it's somewhat expected. Still, thank God the bye is coming up, so these guys can get healthy and refocused. They get some of the blame, since McNabb was hit so much and so often that it might've jarred a few screws loose. The O-line play has been adequate for most of the season. The opposing defenses don't get easier with the Titans and the certified quarterback killers the New York Giants still ahead.
It seems like even when McNabb has time to throw, he's forcing throws and making dumbass decisions, with guys wide open but nonetheless pushing the ball downfield to people well covered. Slinging a ball to Armstrong when he was covered by three people (people aren't surprised by Armstrong anymore, Donovan; they're planning for him).
When his O-line is playing well, McNabb still has a weird tendency to make bizarre and unsafe throws. It's weird because we've never seen McNabb do this before—taking weird chances. Before this season, he was one of these least intercepted QBs in NFL history.
Now? In seven out of the last eight games, he's only scored one touchdown. In each of those games, he's thrown a pick—against the Bears he threw three. Yes, I realize that statistically he threw two, but that false start call was the luckiest call in the world.
I understand that he is a large part of the reason we scored a touchdown; his big run helped us tremendously.
I like McNabb, but I'd like him more if he were consistent. He's been anything but. I don't know what it is about the offense that gives him trouble, but the "he's learning a new offense" talk is starting to wear thin. He should know it by now. McNabb deserves a pretty big share of the blame, as it was his interception, and, moreover, his shoddy play (yes, yes, I know, the O-line, the O-line) that really hurt the 'Skins.
The more time goes on, the more I'm starting to not like Kyle Shanahan's play-calling.
There's aggressive play-calling, and then there's stupid play-calling. Donovan was under pressure all day, but it seemed as though the game plan was never changed to take the pressure off him. Often, if the running game doesn't work right away, the younger Shanahan completely abandons it and starts throwing passes...which is exactly what teams like Detroit want.
With the Lions defense creating all sorts of pressure, rather than trying to wear those guys out and try to keep the pressure off by pounding the ball at one of the leagues worst rush defenses, Shanahan gave up on the run. Yes, I know the O-line was struggling. But the O-line struggled against the Bears' third-ranked rush defense at first as well, and Ryan Torain still rushed for over 100 yards.
Mike Shanahan's offense is based off the run; I can't imagine he'd abandon it if it was John Elway back there getting hit constantly. You do what it takes to protect him. If they had been able to establish any running game at all—even with Keiland Williams in the back field (and whose ideas was it to go into the game with only two running backs, anyway?)—they would've been much better off than continuing to throw.
Even the adjustments were so minute that they barely even mattered. The Lions defense more or less lives or dies on your passing game—they get at you, they're physical upfront, and they bring pressure inside, which leaves McNabb nowhere to escape. The O-line has struggled mightily in pass protection with Clinton Portis not around to pick up blocks.
Just run it, Kyle. I understand you ran a high-powered offense in Houston. You see what Houston is doing now though, right? RUNNING THE BALL. And they're running it effectively. In Houston, you had one of the best O-lines in the league—Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. We don't have that.
It's time for a new approach, bro. What we're doing now isn't working for us. It's called "establishing the run" for a reason. The play-action passes and bootlegs and rollouts don't work unless people are willing to bite, over-pursuing the run. If you abandon the run at the first sight of trouble, they won't pay any attention to the run, and they'll just keep sending pressure.
The play-calling is one dimensional in that aspect. The only time Kyle seems to be willing to commit the run is when it's working perfectly. When it doesn't work on the first few tries, he abandons it and leaves our quarterback to do it by himself behind an offensive line that is still gelling and has trouble.
Sometimes I wish the eldest Shanahan was the one calling the plays, instead.
Much will be written and talked about in the next couple weeks about how Shanahan has lost his locker room, how he disrespected McNabb, and how he lost them the game. That would be suggesting that McNabb is a master of the last-minute comeback. (In that case, the Colts game is on the phone and would like to have a word with you).
And yes, the decision is baffling, kind of dumb, and odd in a myriad of ways. In a season where the motto has been "never give up," it seems as though Mike Shanahan did just that—he gave up.
Here's how I think the thought process went; "Send Rex into the game, see what he can do, and keep our quarterback healthy." McNabb was getting killed behind the O-line. What's worse: McNabb sitting on the sideline on the last snaps of the game, or McNabb getting killed on the tackle and breaking his collarbone, and then we have no choice but to play Rex Grossman.
I love what Mike Shanahan has done with the Washington Redskins. The team is a lot more disciplined and seemingly more hungry than it was before. That being said, the stench of a decade gone by still lingers.
To expect Shanahan to fix what took years to break in the course of a season is fundamentally flawed. Already people seem ready to jump off the Shanabandwagon. Already people are on McNabb's side in a disagreement that may not exist.
In a weird way, this also brings back the Albert Haynesworth fiasco which had finally started to thaw. This benching of McNabb will be automatically connected with the various problems with McNabb.
Shanahan's thought process, decision-making, and sanity will be called into question.
I don't have a problem with the decision as much as I have a problem with the timing of the decision. McNabb was throwing it long to people in double coverage when people were wide open short. He threw into triple coverage and then was intercepted with a guy in double coverage.
None of the games that Washington has won have been because of McNabb. His ability to scramble in the pocket is his greatest asset, but that doesn't matter if he's just throwing to anyone or throwing just to throw (see: the interception returned for a touchdown versus the Bears last week). If McNabb had been benched at halftime, I wouldn't complain. He just isn't playing good football right now. Then you throw a pick with the game on the line.
What is a head coach supposed to? It's not exactly the first time this has happened.
There are now more than two weeks for everyone and their mother to dwell on this. Just when the drama seemingly quieted down, we get this. I don't have a problem with benching Donovan; I have a problem with benching Donovan before the bye week so we have to hear about it all freaking week.
People will talk about how Donovan gave the team the "best chance to win." In that instant, Coach Shanahan had to make a choice.
"Do I choose to put Donovan back out there in our three receiver set with no one extra to block for him and let the defense feast on the guy, potentially injuring him?"
Who Do You Think Wins The Blame Game?
Perhaps others are right. Perhaps the loss does fall on Coach Shanahan. After all, all calls have to go through him. There were a bunch of dumb things the Redskins did it that game that ended up costing the game, and those would have to go through Shanahan.
But I'm not quite ready to throw the Coach under the bus yet. Maybe it's just because I respect him more than I do Donovan or anyone else on the team.
Does Mike Shanahan take blame for today's loss? Sure. He's the coach. It ultimately falls on his head when things go wrong.
But does he honestly deserve all the blame? Does the benching of McNabb and McNabb alone mean the loss was all on him? Because what McNabb, the O-line and Kyle Shanahan showed me was that there was no way they'd be able to march the ball down that field and win the game. You never want to see your team give up at the end.
But the game wasn't on the line when Rex Grossman checked in. The game was lost—period.
That's probably defeatist, but it's true.
Co-Winners Of The Blame Game; Donovan McNabb, The O-Line, And Kyle Shanahan
So the Redskins enter the bye week at 4-4, with two weeks of drama. The teams plays best when it plays angry, hungry, and ready to prove people wrong. I don't believe for a second Mike Shanahan, after doing all he's done, has "lost his team," which will be what everyone is going to say. I think the Redskins will come out against the Eagles eager to prove that in their home stadium.
Thank God there is a bye week. I think my blood pressure needs to go down.