What We Learned In The Washington Redskins Loss To The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
That's all I can say. Ick. On an ugly, cold day in December, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to a nearly empty FedEx Field to play the rapidly tail spinning Washington Redskins.
To be honest, this was probably the Redskins' last chance to get a win before the season eventually ends.
As has become customary in Redskins Nation, a series of miscues iced the game for the upstart Bucs, as with the loss by Green Bay Packers, the Bucs are still in the race for a wildcard slot in the playoffs.
The Redskins ever slim playoff hopes (or playoff wishful thinking) disappear with this loss. Once more, I am not upset as I have been at other times. My reaction was simple—"Typical".
It was not as though the Redskins embarrassed themselves. They played fairly good football, and Ryan Torain set an NFL record.
There's still positives to go along with the negatives.
But losses like this are even worse. There are a few reasons why the Redskins could've won this game. There's also a few reasons they should've won.
With that in mind, let's take a look at what we learned in the Redskins' loss the Buccaneers.
Run Away Freight Torain
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Every week I seemed to be asking the same question; where's the running game?
The last month that Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis have been gone, the run game has evaporated. Looking at the Titans game, I'm convinced that the only reason the 'Skins ran the ball so much in that game is because they had game planned for Portis and Torain being in the game.
If anything became obvious, it's that the Redskins had no intention of running the ball until he was healthy.
Well, Ryan Torain was healthy today. And he dominated.
Torain finished the day with 172 yards on 24 carries. His domination in the first quarter helped him break a record held by Tiki Barber for the most yards in a single quarter.
The Bucs could not and would not stop the run for most of the day, and Torain solidified his status as the starter in the Washington Redskins backfield.
His pass blocking still leaves a little something to be desired, but Keiland Williams performed admirably in that capacity. Though Williams only had three carries for 14 yards, he also had three catches for 60 yards.
With Torain providing a stable force in the running game, and Williams being a viable option in the passing game—if the Redskins ever do get their act together—they've put together a very good backfield.
First Half Called Well, Second Half Called Not So Well
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I'm starting a superstition--you can never say anything nice about any member of the Redskins organization on game day, because the very next play, or half, it'll all come crumbling down.
Kyle Shanahan has seemed absolutely allergic to the run game at times this season, but this week, he let Torain loose, and the Redskins stuck to the run game for most of the day...even if they only had seven points to show for it.
The red zone play calling this season has been horrible.
While the players on the field certainly had some opportunities they didn't take advantage of, the Redskins take too many chances in the red zone.
With Ryan Torain bowling over men on one drive, in the red zone, Shanahan suddenly decided a different tactic, a very ill advised shovel pass to Santana Moss (a play that failed in the game versus the Titans, another game where the run was working well.)
The Redskins chose not to run the ball on first and second down, leaving them in long situations in the red zone, and leaving it to the incredibly unreliable (for this game) Graham Gano to put points on the board.
In the second half, however, if was back to Shanahan's usual boneheaded playcalls.
The Bucs did have better luck stopping the run in the second half, but not so much luck that the Redskins had to stop running the ball. The Redskins did exactly that; while Torain continued to break off big runs when given the chance, the Redskins went pass happy in the second half.
Not only did they go pass happy, but they also, strangely enough, didn't take advantage of a banged up Bucs secondary, or the exit of DT Gerald McCoy.
While pass protection was still spotty, the Bucs began dropping safeties into the box to stop the run. Instead of the play action passes that the Redskins had luck running before, and instead of throwing it deep, they seemed content to drop back three steps and throw it short.
The screens and dump offs worked for a time, but the Redskins had to put points on the board, and they didn't.
And, weirdly enough, Chris Cooley—amongst one of the most reliable players on the team—continues to get ignored in the game plan. Yet again, Cooley did not record a single reception until the second half and well into the fourth quarter.
Fred Davis also saw little to no action. Logan Paulsen did score a touchdown, but the lack of plays built around tight ends on an offense that's lacking big receiving threats is baffling and slightly ignorant.
I don't know what it is about Kyle, but while the players on the field seem to be willing to play for sixty minutes, the offensive coordinator seemingly does not.
It's becoming a weekly thing, where there are no adjustments made in the second half.
The Defense Steps Up
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Phillip Daniels was quoted as saying that defensive practices went better this week without the distraction of suspended defensive tackle and pain in the butt Albert Haynesworth.
Without having to focus on a specific "Fat Al" package, the defense was allowed to focus more on it's scheme and gameplanning, and they fought well for most of the game.
They still give up a few too many big plays, but such is the nature of any defense.
After a pretty decent season of tackling, DeAngelo Hall came up short with tackles, but did force and recover a fumble. He dropped a couple of picks, but I wouldn't call him stone hands yet—on a wet, cold day, lots of INT's were going to be dropped.
Similiary, London Fletcher had a really good game, as did often maligned safety Reed Doughty.
And this was yet another game in which Brian Orakpo was held all day. I don't know what Orakpo can do to draw a flag when people quite literally have him in a choke hold.
I can't blame the defense for this loss; they stopped the Bucs run game for the most part, and shut down Mike Williams.
Arrelious Benn had a good day, but the Redskins D kept the Bucs out of the end zone for most of the game, and the only touchdown they scored came when another Orakpo hold went uncalled.
The D looked a bit more up to form, and perhaps the exit of Albert Haynesworth will be helpful to the defense, who looked more prepared and ready to handle things.
Youth Continued to Run Wild In D.C.
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Logan Paulsen has two receptions in his young NFL career.
One of those is a touchdown.
The young guys continued to step up their game on the football field today. Torain and Williams already got their props. Anthony Armstrong had another solid effort.
Anthony Bryant came into the game at nose tackle and actually performed relatively well from my standpoint. The Redskins were able to get some blitzes, and he created some solid push on the Tampa Bay offensive line and took on double team blocks.
Will Montgomery seems to have cemented his place as a starter of the offensive line, though the o-line did get pushed around a little bit when they weren't running the ball (more a fault of predictable playcalling, methinks.)
But, as much as this is about youth, one also has to give props to Santana Moss.
A week after getting mostly shut out, Santana Moss immediately made me regret not putting him on my fantasy squad during the playoffs with seven receptions for 82 yards.
If this would've been a win, it would've been a true team effort. But for all the haters who say there's no youth on the football team, this is proof that the team has a nice mix of veterans and new blood to get it going.
Well they do if...
Good Donovan Shows Up, But So Does Bad Donovan
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I'll put it like this; Donovan was lucky it was raining today. I can think of four passes that probably should've been picked off.
Statistically, Donovan McNabb didn't put together a bad game at all.
He was 22/35 for 228 yards and two touchdowns, which is only the second time all season he's thrown two touchdowns in a game, and the first time he hasn't thrown an interception in a game all season.
But the play on the field kind of tells a different story.
The short pass and screen game has helped Donovan immensely, and he seems to trust Keiland Williams to dump the ball off to. But there were just as many passes that were thrown at guys' feet or over their heads.
I can't remember the last time I saw Donovan McNabb throw a ball into someone's hands, or into their chest, rather than closer to their feet.
I think Super 5 is pressing a little bit, and still tries to force things where he shouldn't. He's still a bit slow and tepid making his reads.
When McNabb stands in the pocket and trusts that the offensive line isn't going to cave in on him, he looks great. When he doesn't trust his protection, he tries to force things.
That said, McNabb only got sacked twice in this game, which makes the lack of trust up front even weirder.
McNabb shows flashes of brilliance and flashes of stupidity in consecutive snaps of the ball.
He probably performed well enough to win today, but his accuracy still leaves something to be desired.
Special Teams Meltdown
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The Redskins should've won this game.
They were stuffing the Bucs offense. The Redskins offense was running the game and dominated the time of possession. The Bucs only scored a couple of field goals and a touchdown.
With the offense and the defense doing well, you had to figure the third side of the ball wouldn't be doing well. So let's talk about the Redskins special teams.
The Bucs kicked the ball away from Brandon Banks most of the day. There was a costly fumble on one return, and a ticky-tacky holding call negated Brandon Banks best return of the day.
But really, it was the kicking game that ruined the day. Hunter Smith had a so-so day.
But Graham Gano...
Shaun Suisham is 9-9 on field goals playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was 18/21 for the Washington Redskins. He missed one easy field goal when the game was on the line, versus the eventual Super Bowl winners. Otherwise, he was a perfectly serviceable kicker.
Graham Gano is 22 for 32. He has missed ten field goals. Yes, you can tell me all about the stories of young kickers having tough first years, or two tough years...but come ON.
These weren't game winning field goals. These were makeable field goals, and they were ALL pushed to the left. Even the field goal he made and the PAT he made were both pushed to the left. He's overcompensating big time, for what, I don't know.
But the real meltdown occurred on the final play of the game. (And no, the Redskins did not get an extra down.) All they needed was an extra touchdown to get the go ahead score.
And then, boom. Meltdown. Sundberg's snap is too long. Hunter Smith can't get the snap down. Gano can't recover the ball, not that it would've mattered.
Special teams gets a special fail in this game, as the offense and defense performed well, but they lost the day.
Redskins Still Show Fight and Heart, Even In Loss
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After the game, Mike Shanahan said that his team fought their hearts out.
I would agree.
It's why it's discouraging to see fans claiming that the Redskins have given up on their season. They're not giving up. They're not winning, but not winning isn't the same as giving up.
Week in and week out, win or lose, the Redskins fight until the very end of the game.
They don't pack it in. They don't go home. I haven't seen the Redskins truly give up on a game all season, even in a couple of games that they probably should've.
This was one of the Redskins' better offensive outings. (RUN THE BALL, KYLE. GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU RUN THE BALL.)
It was certainly one of their better defensive outings, and I think the absence of Albert Haynesworth, and the lack of a specific Albert Haynesworth package allowed the Redskins more time to work on their normal defense, which they did pretty well in.
They cleaned up their mistakes, didn't draw many flags and were productive for most of the day. There were some miscues, but all in all, the Redskins played good football.
The Redskins next take on a seemingly red hot Dallas Cowboys team, in a game that could redeem the whole season if the Redskins can sweep the DMV's most bitter rivals.
Little by little, there is progress being made. We'll see if it's enough for the Redskins to get out of this late season slump.