Monday, October 18, 2010 5:15 PMBy Rich Tandler
Lets be clear. This was not a game that the Redskins should have won. It was one that they could have won. They could have won because they forced and recovered three fumbles, had a fourth laying on the ground for the taking, and had good shots at three or four interceptions. They could have won because Ryan Torain had his best game as a starter, a gritty 100-yard effort that saw him break a tackle or two on nearly every carry. They could have won because Donovan McNabb, whose game also could be described as gritty, pulled off just enough plays at just the right times to keep the game competitive. And they could have won because their effort may have been good enough to win except when facing Peyton Manning, the best in the business right now and one of the best half dozen or so every to play the quarterback position. But a team that should have won does not have its quarterback throw a head-scratching interception during the midst of a nice opening drive, and have its defense immediately give up a long touchdown pass after that. A team that should have won is not one that is trailing by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter and should have a lead a some point during the game. A team that should have won does not give up 469 yards of offense, including 170 yards rushing to one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Although there are no moral victories in the NFLsuch things are called lossesthere was a lot of good to take from Sunday nights game. And as has been the case in all three of the teams wins this year, there is plenty to work on. The Redskins now face a key stretch in the next two weeks. First up are the Jekyll-and-Hyde Bears in Chicago. They lost to a mediocre Seahawks team, and they are 1-2 after a 3-0 start. Then comes a Halloween game in Detroit, which was the house of the ultimate horror for the 2009 Redskins as they lost to break a 19-game Detroit losing skid. If they can win those two gamesand thats the proverbial big "if"they will be 5-3 going into the bye and in pretty good shape going into the second half of the season. Even a split will have them at 4-4 and not out of contention for anything, especially in the parity-laden NFC. The Drive With the Colts leading 7-0 in the first period, the Redskins took possession at their own 11. What ensued was what, I think, is the prototypical Shanahan drive, the one he would like the team to execute at least a few times every game. All of the elements were theregood running, play-action passing, and the deep ball. Here is that drive in detail: 1-10 Was 11 (6:44) 46-R.Torain left tackle to WAS 12 for 1 yard (99-A.Johnson; 51-P.Angerer). Not much there for Torain as the linebackers converged quickly in the middle of the line. 2-9-WAS 12(6:10) 5-D.McNabb pass short middle to 47-C.Cooley to WAS 23 for 11 yards (55-C.Session). Straight drop back and throw to Chris Cooley, who just ran down the middle of the field and sat there in a dead space in the zone. He caught the ball just shy of the first-down line and easily turned and got the first down. 1-10-WAS 23(5:34) 46-R.Torain right end to WAS 30 for 7 yards (51-P.Angerer). Torain finds the cutback lane created by a solid Cooley block on the linebacker and he glides for seven. 2-3-WAS 30(4:55) 5-D.McNabb pass incomplete deep middle to 16-B.Banks. The fact that Torain was able to run set up the play action by McNabb. That gave him time to drop back and heave it deep for Brandon Banks, who had half a step on Bethea and Powers. There was a chance on this play, but it would have taken a perfect pass, and McNabb led Banks a little too far to the inside. 3-3-WAS 30(4:47) 5-D.McNabb pass short right to 13-A.Armstrong to WAS 37 for 7 yards (26-K.Hayden). A simple stop pattern by Anthony Armstrong, made possible by the fact that the cornerback Hayden was giving Armstrong a sizeable cushion. (Note: At this point, the Redskins had converted three of their first four third down situations. They would get just one of nine the rest of the game.) 1-10-WAS 37(4:11) 5-D.McNabb pass short middle to 13-A.Armstrong to WAS 48 for 11 yards (25-J.Powers). Here is where the drive kicks into high gear, with six straight plays gaining nine yards or more. McNabb fired to Armstrong, who had found a soft spot in the zone. 1-10-WAS 48(3:35) 46-R.Torain right end to IND 36 for 16 yards (55-C.Session). Torain ran past a tackle attempt in the backfield and patiently picked his way downfield, waiting for the blocks to unfold. This was a display of textbook cutback running style. He got blocks from Mike Sellers at the line and Casey Rabach downfield to spring him. 1-10-IND 36(2:53) 5-D.McNabb pass deep middle to 89-S.Moss to IND 18 for 18 yards (43-A.Francisco) Again, a good running play sets up play action. The run fake by McNabb sucked in the linebackers, and with the defensive backs behind Santana Moss, there was nobody between the quarterback and his target. 1-10-IND 18(2:13) 5-D.McNabb pass short left to 46-R.Torain to IND 9 for 9 yards (95-F.Moala; 98-R.Mathis). On a screen pass to Torain, a defender had him dead to rights at about the line of scrimmage. But Torain broke free of the arm tackle and dashed for nine yards. He may have gotten a few more but guard Kory Lichtensteiger got in his way. 2-1-IND 9(1:29) 46-R.Torain right end for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Jammal Brown, Artis Hicks, Cooley and Armstrong sealed off the right side, and Torain had the touchdown at the moment the handoff was properly executed. All he had to do was put a simple move on Kelvin Hayden at the two and take two more steps into the end zone. Landry makes a DPOY play Late in the first half, it appeared the Colts were going to cruise into intermission up by two touchdowns. With a 14-7 lead, they had a third-and-one at the Washington 23. Manning handed off to Joseph Addai, who had a good hole on the right side. Except that LaRon Landry, utilizing the freedom he's been given to go with his instincts, appeared in the hole in a flash. He made a sure tackle for no gain and the Colts had to settle for a field goal. He also recovered a fumble later in the game to halt another Indy touchdown drive. Its the stuff that Pro Bowl berths and Defensive Player of the Year awards are made of. Why go wide? Early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins had just earned another stay of execution. With the Colts leading 24-17 and just outside of the red zone, London Fletcher knocked the ball out of the arms of Addai and Landry recovered the fumble at the 17. (Note: It appears that Landry was untouched while he was making the recovery on the ground and he popped up and started to run. The refs, however, blew their whistles. Its hard to say how much Landry could have gained, but the Indy offense was pretty bunched up and Landry is fast.) After a pass to Armstrong, it was second-and-six. The drive then started to fall apart. First, McNabb had Fred Davis open in between two defenders a couple of yards short of the line to make a first. Anything resembling a decent throw easily would have allowed Davis to run and pick up the first. Instead, its a low throw, Davis has to go to the ground to get it and he is touched down at the 26. That sets up third-and-one at that spot. At this point, Cooley was out of the game with a concussion. Third tight end Logan Paulsen was inactive so Davis was the only available tight end. He lined up on the right side of the line. Moss and Armstrong were both tight to the line on the left side. Torain was in an I formation behind Sellers. The play never had a chance. It was a toss sweep to the weak side. It just took one player, linebacker Clint Session, to blow it up. He came blowing though the middle of the line. He cut right behind Sellers and Trent Williams, who were looking to throw blocks downfield. The weak side also happened to be the short side of the field, so Torain ran out of real estate in a hurry. Even if he had been able to elude Session, Powers was there to make the stop. The play lost three and the Redskins punted. Nobody asked Mike Shanahan about the play either after the game or on Monday. The answer would have been unrevealing. But it sure seems that running Torain, who had been running with power all night, to the outside was a bad choice. The Colts defense is light and quick. A quick hitter up the middle, or behind Jammal Brown and Davis, might have been the way to go. After the punt, the Colts drove for a field goal and the Redskins were in comeback mode.You can reach Rich by email atRTandlerCSN@comcast.net.Sendhimyourquestionsforourweeklymailbagfeature.
Rich Tandler has beenfollowing the Redskins since 1966. He has written three books on theteam includingGutCheck,TheGloryDaysofCoachJoeGibbsWashingtonRedskins1981-1992. Fordetails on this and on Richs other available titles, visitwww.RichTandler.com.
Monday, October 18, 2010 5:15 PMBy Rich Tandler