(Due to the Thursday night game, Tandler's Monday Six Pack is here on Friday. And after that game, I'm sure you could use it.)
My six observations on the Redskins’ 34-27 loss to the Redskins:
1. If you’d told me going into the game that the Redskins would score 27 points, that Adrian Peterson would gain 75 yards on 20 carries ,that Alfred Morris would get 26 carries and run for 139 yards, that Robert Griffin III would complete almost 65 percent of his passes and that Washington would win the turnover battle, I’d have said there was at least a 75 percent chance they would come out with a win. Throw in a 13-point lead after about 35 minutes of play and I’d have darn near called it a lock. The factor I did not see was Christian Ponder completing a ridiculous 81 percent of his passes and the Redskins getting only one sack of Ponder against a Vikings offensive line that was missing two starters.
2. Many fans are screaming over Alfred Morris getting only nine carries in the second half. The criticism of Kyle Shanahan’s play calling is legitimate to an extent but the play selection is not so crazy when you take a closer look. The three key series in the game came when the Redskins had a three and out, a five and out, and a three and out while they were in the process of giving up 20 unanswered points. On those 11 plays, Morris carried the ball four times including at least one touch on each series. Perhaps he should have run the ball on second and five at the Washington 33 when the score was 27-21 or on second and six at the Redskins 37 after the Vikings took a 28-27 lead. Of course, if the Redskins run too much then the criticism becomes that they’re sitting on a lead or not playing with enough urgency.
3. The Redskins had their weekly fiasco on special teams. No, I’m not talking about the fake punt that wasn’t. That provided some dark comic relief and served as a symbol of a special teams unit in disarray. But ultimately it didn’t count due to a motion penalty. The fiasco that I’m talking about happened on the next snap, the play that counted. Sav Rocca’s punt traveled a respectable 46 yards but Marcus Sherels, who is not to be confused with Devin Hester or even Dwayne Harris, got 20 on the return. And then Darrel Young, one of the special teams leaders, decided that it would be a good idea to get into the grill of one of the Vikings and yank on his facemask after the whistle. After the 15-yard penalty, Christian Ponder and company had the ball at the Redskins 41, or just five yards from where they started with the fake punt. Five plays later, Adrian Peterson scampered into the end zone and Minnesota had a lead it would not relinquish.
4. The headline in this screen cap from NFL.com sums it up nicely, but the focus in all wrong. “Embarrassing defense” is indeed accurate, but in the summary it says that the Redskins “allowed Adrian Peterson and the Vikings to move the ball with ease.” As noted above, there is nothing to be ashamed of when you play Peterson in the Metrodome and hold him to 70 yards and an average of 3.8 yards a pop. Yes, he looked like a man among boys in the fourth quarter. Of his 20 carries, 14 went for three yards or fewer. The embarrassing part was letting Christian Ponder, who was is a career 60 percent passer, complete 81 percent of his passes and convert a number of key third downs in the process. The Redskins started off well, sacking him and then picking off a head-scratching pass down the middle. But they let Ponder settle in nicely after that and those turned out to be the only sack and only takeaway of the game.
5. Pierre Garçon (7 receptions, 119 yards) and Morris (26 carries, 139 yards) accounted for almost 60 percent of the Redskins’ total offense. According to Pro Football Focus the Vikings missed 13 tackles and if you watched the game you have to think that the vast majority of them came when they were trying to take down Garçon and Morris. The running back almost never went down on first contact and the wide receiver racked up some major yards after the catch, many of them while dodging attempted tackles.
6. If you just want to wallow in your misery you may want to skip this part but even at 3-6 the Redskins are far from out of the NFC East race. If the Cowboys lose in New Orleans on Sunday, certainly a very realistic possibility, the Redskins will still be just a game and a half out of the division lead. The parallels to last year are there. In 2012 they lost to a Panthers team that had only one win to fall to 3-6. After their bye week the faced the Eagles and started there march to the playoffs there. They had to make up a three-game deficit on the Giants last year so being a game and a half down when they take on the Eagles this time around would not be nearly as daunting. Yes, it’s very much a long shot and this team is not playing like one that is up to the task of a late-season rally. But the possibility is very much alive.