Washington Redskins' Loss to Minnesota Vikings: What We Learned
Well, that sucked.
Despite getting off to a fast start against the Minnesota Vikings, the Washington Redskins still managed to lose to the seemingly hapless Vikes and Brett Favre. Penalties, dropped balls and silly execution on the part of the players and the coaches stalled the momentum the Redskins had gained in the game versus the Tennessee Titans.
It always feels like it's one step forward and two steps backwards for this team and today was no different, as the offense still struggled, the defense still gave up big plays and the coaches looked mostly silly.
So, let's take a look at what we learned in this loss.
James Davis Isn't The Answer at Running Back
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James Davis finally made his way from the practice squad to the football field this week and boy did he ever...show exactly why he wasn't good enough to make a team as hapless as the Cleveland Browns (who coincidentally, don't look as hapless as the Redskins).
Davis managed a measly 11 yards on six carries and one reception for four yards. To listen to some of the Redskins fans say it, Davis was the answer to their prayers at running back. The Redskins ran with him and he proved exactly why he wasn't.
More disheartening, discouraging and down right friggin' wrong was the lack of touches Keiland Williams got. Despite being the work horse of the running game and finishing with solid stats in all the games in which he was called on to start, Williams only carried the ball three freakin' times (on those three carries, he still managed to get about half of what Davis did all day).
It's damn disrespectful to Keiland to have a guy who has never played a significant game in his career come in and steal away snaps that Keiland earned, as he essentially was asked to carry the Redskins run game on his back since the game against the Detroit Lions.
Keiland has taken his status in the Redskins back field with a smile and an "I'm just happy to be here getting playing time," which is admirable. But it's disappointing to see that, despite Keiland's production, the Redskins still don't seem to trust him to be the every down back with Clinton Portis on IR and Ryan Torain nursing a hamstring.
Terrance Austin Isn't The Answer at Wide Receiver
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Redskins nation rejoiced when Joey Galloway was finally released by the Redskins after a lackluster season and the preseason upstart Terrence Austin was called up. Finally, the Redskins would have a wide receiver that didn't suck like Galloway...
Wait...did anyone see Austin? Bueler? Bueler?
Either because of the lack of snaps on offense or the lack of knowing the offense, Austin didn't wind up being the magical answer to the Redskins' prayers many hoped he'd be. In fact, the Redskins seemed to be missing something without Galloway there — down in the red zone, there was one less target for Donovan McNabb to turn to.
It's only a matter of time before people demand that Roydell Williams (who finished the day with only one catch for 19 yards, but it was hard fought run) be benched and that Austin be inserted. We'll see then if Austin is any good, but one figures if he was, he would've been on the field more.
(The again, that didn't work for Keiland, so who knows?)
Redskins Make-Shift Offensive Line Is Still Better Than the Starters
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I should've known the second Charles Davis started yammering on and on about how great the protection on the Redskins' first drive was that the Redskins were going to be in for a long day in the trenches and I was right.
The starting offensive line once again stepped up to play, and once again, they got crushed. McNabb was pressured and harassed for most of the day, in the same ways that he had been prior to the game versus Tennessee. After that opening drive, the Vikings regained their composure and started playing like the Vikings defense and it was trouble from the start.
I see the same problems I always see — the left side of the line with Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger is solid enough, but the line breaks down between two components — Casey Rabach and Artis Hicks. Jammal Brown can hold his own at right tackle, but he rarely has any help from Casey Rabach and Hicks on that side of the line, which is also why Brown tends to get banged up so much.
Hicks was actually pulled from the game and replaced with Will Montgomery at right guard, but the offensive line couldn't shut down the Williams wall, which hurried McNabb all day.
I said last week that the Redskins stumbled onto something that was a little more than decent. The mix of Williams, Lichensteiger, Montgomery, Stephen Heyer and Brown worked, against a front four from Tennessee that's about as good and aggressive as the Vikings. That line only gave up two sacks and I'm relatively sure one of those sacks came when McNabb sacked himself on the crappy turf of LP Field.
Today, McNabb was sacked four times.
Now, I'm no offensive line coach, and maybe I didn't see something that was I was supposed to, but I'd seriously start looking at the Tennessee game and asking myself how an offensive line that was ravaged with injuries and had never taken a snap together performed better than a line that's been together since freakin' preseason.
Redskins Defense Is Solid, but Gives Up Too Many Big Plays
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The Washington Redskins defense has a knack for taking out the one player that could really hurt them on the field. That one player this time was Adrian Peterson, who left the game with an ankle injury.
Before that, Peterson ran pretty much unbothered on his first drive for a touchdown and it seemed the Redskins D was in for a long day of getting burnt by the best back in the league. And it's not even like they weren't trying to stop him — the Redskins flew to the ball whenever AP got a carry, but just couldn't bring the bastard down.
Following Peterson's injury, the D performed as admirably as it could, finishing the day with two sacks, and was once again the only thing that kept the Redskins in the game as long as they were in it. That said, the defense still has a nasty habit of giving up one too many big plays in the game.
Giving the Minnesota offense it's props, it was probably the sharpest it's been all season. But there were still a couple too many "COME ON! STOP HIM!" plays.
The nail in the coffin has to come when it was Brett "Can I Text You This Photo?" Favre ran for the first down himself, essentially sealing the Redskins' fate, and presumably retiring with a 5-0 record versus the Redskins.
I should've known it was going to be trouble when DeAngelo Hall said he was hoping to get his third intercepted ball from Favre...
Perry Riley Replaces Joey Galloway As Most Hated Man in the DMV
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Perry Riley is a perfect example of why you can never say anything good about anyone ever if they're a Redskin.
During the course of the game, Grant Paulsen made the comment that Riley would become a great inside linebacker one day.
Well, that's great because he sure as hell can't play special teams.
His illegal block in the back essentially lost the game for the Redskins, while Brandon Banks was doing the John Wall in the end zone. He had another illegal block in the back off of a fair catch.
How exactly does one get an illegal block in the back off a fair catch?
This is not the first time that an illegal block in the back has completely negated an amazing Banks touchdown, nor is it the first time that Riley was involved in one of those calls. In fact, I'm pretty sure every Banks touchdown that has been negated by a penalty has been an illegal block in the back, despite the fact that oftentimes Banks is past the person being blocked.
Riley is going to be the subject of much bashing and kicking and though both Banks and Anthony Armstrong (class acts that they are) have said they have no ill-will, and football is a fast sport, Riley should know better by this point and deserves a lot of the guff he'll get this week.
The worst part is that Banks did a really good John Wall in the end zone too.
Kyle Shanahan Can't Make Second Half Adjustments
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I try not to go off on Kyle Shanahan too often, as I feel that a lot of the time the criticism of him is unwarranted. After all, it's hard to execute a game plan when the offensive line is giving up plays and your receivers are dropping balls.
That being said, a week after I gave him credit for calling a great game (See? This is why you can never give the Redskins credit for anything!), the "Bad Kyle" was back in full force.
Despite the early success with using tight ends to move the ball, Fred Davis (who earned playing time versus the Titans) and Chris Cooley were totally silent for most of the second half.
As per usual, since the running game didn't run the first few times he tried it (see: the slide where I complained about James Davis being a fraud), Shanahan completely abandoned it in the second half, relying on Donovan McNabb to pass most of the time. Most times McNabb drops to pass, he's coming out from under center and rarely do we see the bootlegs, roll-outs and play action fakes that a Shanahan offense is supposed to be based on.
No, instead it's "Donovan comes out from under center, takes three steps, then gets sacked." How about going to shotgun formation for something OTHER than third down? Why not let McNabb get out of the pocket and throw on the move?
Or how about running that bootleg play to Fred Davis/Anthony Armstrong that ALWAYS seems to work, that pretty much everyone else in the league has copied because, well...IT WORKS?
I don't know what it is, but Shanahan seems unable or unwilling to change things up in the second half. He often leaves McNabb out there to dry.
He doesn't seem to understand that his lack of attention to the running game allows defenses to pin their ears' back and rush the quarterback at will, so they have nothing to worry about.
Even attempting to run the ball against that rush should've been a good idea. And if you're not going to run the ball, you have to get McNabb out of the pocket so he doesn't get sacked.
Shanahan is the single biggest reason I hope the Texans lose the rest of their games this season, so maybe Mike Shanahan will grab Gary Kubiak as his offensive coordinator instead.
Let's get it together, Kyle.
Donovan McNabb Performed Well
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If there's one thing the Redskins can take solace in, it's the fact that Donovan McNabb seems to have finally settled in and started to grasp the offense.
Super 5 finished the day 21-35 for 211 yards, one touchdown and a pick. The pick wasn't a result of a dumb McNabb decision – it was a result of a ball bouncing off the hands of Santana Moss.
As the season wears on, it becomes increasingly clear that McNabb is the guy who's going to be able to get the Redskins to a Super Bowl. It's also clear that he's not the kind of QB that can do it by himself.
With his offensive coordinator pulling an Andy Reid-esque "let's peg it all on Donovan's arm" approach, a godawful starting line (but a pretty good second string offensive line) and few weapons to work with (because the OC randomly takes them out), we're depending on McNabb to do a lot, which isn't fair to him.
The way things are going, more games are going to be put squarely on McNabb's shoulders as the season wears on. The guy NEEDS HELP. He can't do it alone and it's unfair to think that he can.
Can We Make Some Catches Please?
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When the hell did Carlos Rodgers become our wide receivers coach?
That's the only explanation for some of the dropped passes in the game that hit receivers square in the hands, including one that was caught for a pick.
The game was full of missed opportunities. McNabb didn't overthrow guys a whole lot in this game. This was a case where McNabb was fairly accurate, but guys couldn't pull the ball down.
And Anthony Armstrong? Look, I like you, homie, we're cool, I think you're a great player. But please, PLEASE don't ever celebrate by spiking the ball or doing something that looks like spiking the ball. The call was stupid to be honest, but, you know...let's keep it real. Refs don't like the Redskins. It's a proven fact. Don't give them a reason to call ANYTHING.
And after you make a huge play, regain your composure and catch the ball.
Redskins Are Out of the Playoffs. Thank God.
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Some may see this as blasphemy, but I'm happy the Redskins aren't in the playoff race anymore.
Because the playoffs are out of reach.
The Redskins are not a team that are equipped to make a run at the Super Bowl. People seem so sad that the Redskins seemingly won't make the playoffs, but what's the point of making the playoffs if the team has so many issues on both sides of the ball that there would be little to no chance of making it to the NFC Championship and going on to the Big Game in Big D?
This team is at least two years away from making a really good run at being a team in the playoffs that can actually win a championship game and get into the Super Bowl. Patience is still a virtue the Redskins and their fans must learn. The playoffs look glamorous, but looking at the teams the Redskins would likely have to face, I don't much like their chances.
It sucks, but it's reality.
Now, the Redskins can focus on what they need to do. Not win the NFC East. Not get to the playoffs. Not to get that far ahead of themselves.
All they need to do is win football games.
That's it. Win. Win. Finish above or at .500. Show some improvement. Show some heart and some character.
Let's not get caught up in this "if they don't make the playoffs, this season is for nothing!" This team already has one more win than they did last season and is likely to win a couple more games on top of that.
That may sound defeatist, but It's also realistic.
The Redskins have some of the pieces to be a good team, but not all. Right now, it's about winning football games. That's all us fans or the players should focus on.
...But of course, most probably won't.