So much for saying “if the playoffs began today…”– I know that’s even more annoying after three weeks than billing a week three matchup a “duel for the division lead”. But didn’t things look really good for a while? A 17-7 lead against a team that had to be gassed because they’ve had to play catchup twice, most recently less than six days previously? How did that game go from a ten point with six minutes left in the first half to a ten point deficit with five minutes to play in regulation? Instead of a positive vibe heading into another divisional duel with a sub-500 team that’s looked bad, the Skins are banged up and have a short window of opportunity to prepare to show they’re ready for prime time football.
Kirk Operating at Warp Speed– the understudy shines by throwing for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns…and even gained a first down with his legs. Cousins did throw an interception in the 4th quarter, but played very well against a defense that had been planning against him from the very beginning of the week. One concern: after hitting 19 of 25 first half passes, Kirk ran into some second half tribbles– completing 11 of 23 attempts after intermission. Does this make RG3 Captain Christopher Pike? Stay away from Talos IV while you rehab…
Running Down the Drain– Alfred Morris gained 64 yards on 17 first half carries before being limited to 13 yards on 6 second half tries; the run/pass ratio was 20/25 in the first half and 8/20 in the second half. This was a one point game at halftime…shades of some of last year’s second halves where the run was abandoned mid-third quarter. Let the record show Morris was banged up mid-second quarter; one never knows the true extent of midgame injuries. But this Morris moment had the deja vu of Zach/Slater fighting over Tori…haven’t we already been there with Kelly? And why do she and Jessie never seem to be found when Tori’s around?
Showing Philly the One-Two Punch– Rocky wouldn’t have known what hit him…the Skins WR combo had their best day of the season: Pierre Garcon gained 138 yards on 11 catches while DeSean Jackson roasted his former teammates fo 117 yards on 5 receptions– both scored touchdowns as well (along with fullback Darrel Young– who keeps his string intact). Andre Roberts added a couple of early third down grabs as well…and Niles Paul’s 6 catches for 68 yards might not be making people forget about the injured Jordan Reed, he’s making sure there’s not a glaring void at that position while Reed’s hurt.
Hold the Line– no sacks on 48 pass attempts? No holding penalties? Take a bow, boys. Shaun Lauvao may find it difficult to take a bow this week as he injured his knee and is a question mark for Thursday. Kory Lichtensteiger’s also banged up…so there could be some shuffling in the trenches between now and Thursday.
Third and Short Right– 8 for 15 should be cause for celebration, but the Skins moved the chains on just one of six second half attempts. Alfred Morris did not have a carry on third down… Darrel Young and Kirk Cousins reaching the marker on separate 3rd & 1’s. Cousins went 5-11 on third down (another incompletion was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty). Ten of Cousins passes (including the penalty negated one) resulted in a throw to the short right side of the field–he hit his first four while the last four fell incomplete. Yardage breakdown: 7-10 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 1-1 on third and medium (4-6 yards) and 0-4 on third and long (7+ yards necessary). A much better job this week getting in position to be in position.
Defense Delayed, Didn’t Dominate– thanks to a pair of long touchdown drives by the offense sandwiching an Eagles 102 yard kickoff return, the defense didn’t set foot on the field until there was a little over 2 minutes left in the first quarter. After recovering a fumble on their first defensive drive, the Skins allowed points the next four times Philly had the football–giving the team a one-point halftime deficit despite holding the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half. Despite holding LeSean McCoy to 22 yards on 20 carries– they weren’t able to keep Nick Foles and the Eagle air attack in check. Brandon Meriweather in his return for suspension led the team with 6 tackles…it’s never ideal when a safety leads the team in stops.
Secondary once again a Primary Concern– the Redskins defensive backfield took a few shots Sunday: cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s done for the year with a ruptured achilles tendon and backup safety Duke Ihenacho joins him on IR with a broken foot. Rookie Brashaud Breeland starts in place of D-Hall (subbing a Clemson guy for a VT Hokie in the ACC corner tandem with NC State product David Amerson). Chase Minnifield gets promoted from the practice squad… and as of Monday night the 53rd roster spot has yet to be filled. Will they be ready to face Eli Manning?
Flying Flags– 10 penalties for 131 yards…with 60 of those yards coming against the defense in the third quarter. Three were on offense (Pierre Garcon’s taunt, Chris Chester’s false start and Kirk Cousins’ delay of game)…two came on special teams (Brandon Meriweather offsides on a kickoff and Akeem Davis’ horse-collar tackle after a punt return) and the other five came on defense: 2 pass interferences, one defensive hold, one illegal contact and one roughing the passer. Two offensive flags helped stall drives: Chester’s false start turned a 1st and 10 from the Eagles 39 into a 1st and 15 (they wound up settling for a second quarter field goal to take a 17-7 lead instead of a 21-7 advantage) while Cousins’ delay of game turned a 3rd & 7 from the Philly 9 into a 3rd & 12 from the 14 (after an incomplete pass Kair Forbath missed a 33 yard FG). After three weeks, the Skins are the fourth most penalized team in the league for the fourth most yards.
Cobra Kai– the leg was swept from 49 and 44 yard field goals…but a missed 33-yarder wound up being the losing margin. I’m not going to ruin Johnny’s second place trophy, but the fourth quarter against a division rival’s a heck of a time to miss a field goal for the first time all season. Like not expecting the crane after crushing every competitor en route to the All Valley Karate Finals. There will be a sequel, Mr. Lawrence…
Dissecting the Division– instead of taking the NFC East lead…the Skins find themselves in last place after three weeks at 1-2. The NY Giants are third because they haven’t lost a division game yet win that tiebreaker. Dallas (2-1) holds down second place while unbeaten Philadelphia (3-0) resides in the penthouse. And what a division it is this year: the 7-5 mark means they’re one of three quartets with winning marks-the AFC North is tops at 8-4 while the NFC West is 7-5. The Sun Belt Conference of the NFL? The AFC South is 4-8…with one of those wins coming against the Redskins.