Not So Grossman: What We Learned in the Redskins Loss to the Dallas Cowboys
It was supposed to be a blood bath.
The Washington Redskins were supposed to lay down in the Cowboys house. They were supposed to get curb stomped, wiped out, humiliated, and embarrassed. Marshall Faulk and Warren Sapp suggested that the Redskins were simply going to lay down and forfeit the rest of the season in an attempt to play for an early draft pick, which is pretty damn insulting.
The whole organization was under question. Jay Glazer reported that Snyder was out of the country and "unhappy" with the way things were happening. (Of course, one has to wonder how he found that out if Snyder's out of the country, but I'm not a "real journalist," so who knows.)
At the end of the day, it was still a loss. But the people who said the Redskins would pack it in (including fans) have been put on notice—sleep on this football team at your own risk.
Perhaps it's the fact that expectations were so low for success that it's making the win look good. But regardless, the 'Skins played good football in another game that came down to the wire versus their hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
So, let's take a look at what we learned in the Redskins loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Rex Grossman Didn't Look Horrible
If you told me that Rex Grossman would finish the day with four touchdowns, I would've laughed in your face then slapped you for even suggesting something so insane.
But that's precisely what "Sexy" Rexy did. Though they struggled in the first half, the Redskins looked like a completely different team in the second. The offense simply moved and looked better with Grossman under center than it did at any other point in the season, save for the somewhat costly turnovers. Grossman made (mostly) good decisions, was decisive with his throws, quick through his reads, and made some big time throws. When he stepped up and had to move around, he made an effort to protect the ball the best he could (he also had a fumble).
He finished the day with 25 of 43 for 322 yards, 4 touchdowns, and two 2 point conversions. He led the team back from a huge deficit and gave them a chance to win the game.
And to be honest, as much as I respect Donovan McNabb, I don't think he would've been able to do the same.
Now, this isn't to say Grossman is the long time starter for the 'Skins. Far from it. But since the 'Skins will likely draft a new quarterback next year, for the time being, Grossman has shown that he can make things happen with the offense and has slightly silenced his critics.
A win would've stopped most of the talk for good, and he'll still have his detractors who say it's a fluke. And maybe it was, but 'Skins fans can rest a little easier knowing that Grossman won't completely cave under the pressure of this season.
So You Say the Redskins Have No Weapons...
For the first time all season, Santana Moss actually looked like a number one receiver. Yes, he had an untimely drop that could've put the 'Skins in position to win the game, but the best receivers ever have those drops.
With Grossman under center, the Redskins offense actually looked like an offense. The tempo seemed to be a little bit faster, the routes a little more precise. As the fans, the team, and the media try to find out what precisely is wrong with the team, the 'Skins showcased that they do have some legitimate weapons.
After a miscommunication on a route that led to a Grossman interception, Mike Sellers came up big with a crucial first down catch while Grossman was being pressured that went for 25 yards.
Ryan Torain proved he could be a threat running and catching out of the backfield. He finished with over 100 total yards and a touchdown, and provided that (say it with me now) he can stay healthy, has likely cemented his place as THE starter, while Keiland Williams has solidified his place as a solid third down back.
Anthony Armstrong came up huge on several plays and became the only wide receiver not named Santana Moss to have the amount of yardage he has.
Cooley was once again quiet in the first half due to some protection issues and being kept in to block. However, he became clutch and crucial to the 'Skins second half come back, with 5 receptions for 62 yards, a touchdown, and a two point conversion.
And Santana Moss showed up big, with 8 receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns; the first time he's had more than two touchdowns in a game all season.
Though they did give up a lot of sacks, the offensive line did contribute in a good way, as for most of the day (or second half, rather). They provided Grossman time to sit in the pocket and make plays.
All in all, this was probably the best offensive outing of the season, and showed that they can definitely put up points.
The Defense Was Offensive
Before everyone jumps down Jim Haslett's throat, I must point out the following yet again; it is not the scheme, it's the execution.
The Redskins defense doesn't have a scheme problem. It has a tackling problem.
I will give them it's props, as they did it's best to at least force Dallas to kick some field goals. However, as the season winds down, the tackling of this football team has to improve if the Redskins want to win more games.
It doesn't help that Reed Doughty left the game with a head injury and cornerback Kevin Barnes was forced to play safety; or that Chris Wilson had to come in for Brian Orakpo; or that the team lost Phillip Daniels, likely for the season. But the mark of great football teams is being able to adjust.
I am desperately hoping that Kareem Moore has finally lost his starting job. I don't know if Macho Harris is better, but he couldn't be any worse. Watching Moore get dragged by running backs is becoming a weekly thing, and his tackling...who am I kidding? He doesn't tackle. He limply hangs on while he's dragged towards the end zone.
And it was yet another feast or famine day from DeAngelo Hall. D-Hall is a great corner, but his tendency to jump routes has begun to hurt more than help.
There were bright spots. Anthony Bryant continued to play at a level that proves he can be a the teams starting nose tackle for the time being and potentially in the future. Perry Riley had no illegal blocks in the back (YAY!), and had some crucial third down tackles to get the offense back on the field.
I'm fully behind Haslett's scheme, but it's up to the players to execute it properly. When the Redskins defense plays well, they play really well. But they've got the Jags coming up next, and they can't keep relying on a tight red zone defense to stop teams.
Kyle Shanahan's Playcalling Didn't Infuriate Me
At the beginning of the game, I felt as though I was going to be writing a very lengthy, very angry slide about how much Shanahan sucked and how it's proof that it's Kyle's system, not McNabb's ability, that really screwed the team up.
By the end of the game, I found myself rethinking that. For the most part, the game was called well.
The ball was moved effectively up and down the field. Every time the Redskins were in the red zone during the game, they scored a touchdown; they were four-for-four in red zone efficiency.
It's my belief that head coach Mike Shanahan didn't simply bench Donovan McNabb to teach him a lesson, or to evaluate Rex. It was bigger than that.
Shanahan had to figure out what it was—was it his son's playcalling, or McNabb's play on the field.
On this day, at least for the time being, it appeared it was McNabb's play.
We'll see if it stays that way over the next couple weeks.
Reports the Team has Given Up are Greatly Exaggerated
"Mike Shanahan has lost his locker room!" They proclaimed.
"They're benching McNabb so they can get an early draft pick!" Still another claimed.
The team that took the field on Sunday did not look like a team that was giving up on their head coach, or like a team that was planning to throw the rest of their games to get an early draft pick.
I have seen games where the Redskins don't try; A lot of games where the 'Skins get down and them just go "here we go again" and give up. At times we've seen it this season.
It didn't look to me like that football team.
In fact, I saw smiles. I saw Grossman and Moss jogging off the field talking to one another about routes, the coaches talking about plays on the sideline. For the first time in three weeks, I actually saw Shanahan crack a smile or two.
They didn't give up. They didn't roll over.
How can anyone say the coaches have lost the locker room and they've given up after watching that? There was no reason for the game to be that close. Hell, I would've given them permission to give up after the week they were having.
But they didn't. They went out there, they played good football, they had fun, and they came back to within a field goal of winning the game.
Would a win have softened the blow? Sure. But it was refreshing as a fan to see the Redskins be down that far, and then come back firing on all cylinders when they had no reason to.
Yeah, I'm going to give a big "screw you" to NFL Network and ESPN. My team didn't roll over. They didn't quit fighting, even though expected them to.
Haters are going to hate. Perhaps the Redskins are finally learning to ignore everything that's being said outside and start playing football.
That'd be a welcome change in the nation's capital.
McNabb's Absence Felt, but Not How People Thought
The "yeahs" and "buts" are already starting in the media.
You can "yeah, but" all you want, but I feel this in my heart of heart's; being down 20-7 going into the half, I do not think McNabb could've rallied the Redskins to get as close as they did. The Redskins have been in situations in which they were down all season, but McNabb has never led that big comeback in any sort of convincing way.
Often it was great plays by the people around him on defense and offense that saved him. But McNabb is almost notorious for his ability to choke in situations where you need him.
Could he have gotten a few garbage time touchdowns? Sure. But could he have led two drives like that? I don't think so.
The one thing no one is going to want to admit is that the offense simply worked better with Rex at the helm. Chris Cooley remarked after the game that the offense had great tempo. Listening to the defense, it feels like they thought they lost the game.
The offense put up the most points it has all season. Rex placed the ball in good locations, didn't throw any balls into guys feet, and made good decisions.
Lost in all this benching stuff is the fact that Donovan has not played well. Once again, the "yeah, buts" start up; "Yeah, but he doesn't have any wide receivers. Yeah, but he doesn't have a good offensive line. Yeah, but his defense sucks."
So my response for the rest of the season will be "yeah, but Grossman had all those things, and he still performed well."
It stands to be said: If Rex Grossman can sort of succeed with the Redskins team as is, why couldn't Donovan McNabb? After all, isn't Grossman supposed to be the back up, and McNabb the Hall of Fame guy?
In the final two weeks of the season, win, lose, or draw, people will claim McNabb was the guy who was wronged. I will admit that his handling off the field has been atroscious and ill-conceived.
But McNabb's play on the field hasn't gained him any reprieve, and if Grossman continues to play well, will anyone, for the first time in his 12-season career, be willing to admit that's it's Donovan that's the problem, and not the team around him?