I once heard a server at a restaurant describe their Grand Marnier Souffle as “50% air, 50% sugar and 50% fun”…adding that “it makes no sense but somehow the math adds up. He was right…and along those lines a 1-2 start in the NFL somehow feels five games better than 0-3, despite the actual math at work. Despite rumors of their demise, the Burgundy & Gold season is alive and well after a 29-27 win at the New York Giants. You read correctly here…they actually won a game at Met Life Stadium for the first time since 2011. It’s morning in Ashburn!
Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns…directing scoring drives on 7 of 10 possessions before the end of game kneeldown. Yes, the brain freeze at the end of the first half that took at least 3 points off the board wasn’t ideal. But despite a defense and running game that have been somewhat suspect this fall, Cousins’ 989 passing yards after three games ranks him second in the league behind Drew Brees (another victim of dissolving defense and reluctant running game). Cousins may have saved the season with his 44-yard scoring strike to DeSean Jackson in the 2nd quarter (sparking up a 20-6 run that would finish the game). Star Trek episode? “A Private Little War”- Kirk deals with an injured Spock, Klingons, and a Vietnam Conflict parallel all within a 60-minute sequence. Not great, but more than worth watching…
Running In Circles- at least they ran the ball more than 20 times this week. Matt Jones carried 17 times for 65 yards…while the mixer of Chris Thompson added 23 yards on 6 tries. Robert Kelley notched his first regular season carries…only to slip and slide all over the MetLife Stadium turf. After three weeks the Skins rank 29th in the league in carries and rushing yards (while their 3.8 yards per carry is 22nd in the NFL).
Posse Posers- they might not be the equal of Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders just yet…but the Receiving Firm of Jackson, Garcon & Crowder tallied both of the Skins’ touchdowns. DeSean Jackson (5-96 and a TD) stretched the secondary while Garcon was in his chains-moving mode (5-59). Jamison Crowder made things happen after the catch–taking a screen pass 55 yards for paydirt in the second half. And let’s not forget Jordan Reed (4-56) as the chess piece every defense has to gameplan around.
Third and Progress- 7 of 16 isn’t the stuff dreams are made of…but there are bright spots. Kirk Cousins completed 8 of 11 passes on the money down for six conversions…while the Skins ACTUALLY RAN on a third and short twice! Matt Jones burst one for a ten yard gain …while being stuffed for -2 on another play. Cousins was also stuffed on a quarterback draw to set up a field goal…and was sacked as the first half expired inside the Giants ten. The top target? Jordan Reed (4 with 3 catches and 3 conversions), followed by Pierre Garcon (3 targets with 2 catches and conversions). Yardage breakdown: 1-3 on third & short, 4-9 on third and medium (between 4 and 6 yards needed) and 2-4 on third & long. It’s nice to see 63% of their third downs needing less than seven yards. Major progress over the first two weeks. So the Skins moved the chains in key situations to get into scoring position. Now they just have to convert in the Red Zone. Ugh.
Red faced in the Red Zone- somehow things just don’t work out when they get close to the goal line…as the Skins went 0-4 Sunday. Their touchdown percentage of 21% ranks 31st in the NFL. Thank goodness for Dustin Hopkins…
D earns a C+ thanks to a pair of INT’s- they allowed 457 yards but kept the Giants out of the end zone for the entire second half. They gave up 350 yards to Eli Manning but picked him off twice in the fourth quarter. Strong safety David Bruton Jr. (8 tackles plus an assist) and cornerback Josh Norman (6 total stops) led the hit parade…but I’m never comfortable with defensive backs leading a team in tackles. The Giants gained almost 6 yards per carry and Manning was sacked twice on an afternoon where he threw 38 passes. The D Line still needs to find itself.
Flying Flags- 8 infractions this time for 70 yards…as the season total of 25 ties the Skins for 6th most in the league with Cleveland. Thank goodness the Giants were even more careless (11 flags for 128 yards). This week saw a true split with four penalties on offense (2 holds and 2 false starts) and the other four on defense (holding, unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer and illegal contact). Josh Norman’s two flags (on the same drive) gives him a team-high 4 for the season….and those infractions would have been much more costly were it not for Quinton Dunbar’s interception in the endzone. Let’s just say Josh owes one of his teammates dinner. Most costly flags? In the second quarter on consecutive plays Su’a Cravens and Trent Murphy were whistled. Cravens illegal contact turned what would have been a 4th and 2 on the Giants 45 into 1st and 10 from the 50… and Murphy’s roughing the passer turned a 1st and 10 from the Skins 32 into a 1st and 10 from the 17. The Giants would tally their final touchdown of the day two plays later.
Super Special Teams- first you have Dustin Hopkins making all 5 of his field goal attempts to capture the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week Honor. Then you have Jamison Crowder’s 50-yard punt return setting up a field goal. But the play of the day was Tress Way’s fake punt pass to Quinton Dunbar for 31 yards and a first down. Way also averaged 46 yards per punt to make up for his blocked kick (that was negated thanks to a Giants penalty) and Dunbar’s fourth quarter interception made up for his muffed punt return in the first quarter (although you could say he was pushed into the ball).
Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s miracle run now includes a 34-3 Keystone State crushing of Pittsburgh…as the 3-0 Eagles lead the NFC East. Despite Sunday’s loss, the New York Giants are in second place thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas. For the moment the Redskins are still in last place…but 1-2 is soooo much better than 0-3. After three weeks the NFC East boasts an 8-4 composite record… which along with the AFC West is the best early showing. The worst? Both conference’s Souths are 4-8…and might not even be that good.