Sometimes the whole is far less than the sum its parts.  Statistics don’t often correlate to the scoreboard.  Sunday the Redskins found a way to lose in Houston 17-6…despite outgaining the Texans on the ground (131-115 yards while averaging 5.7 yards a carry) and through the air (241-201 while completing an astounding 78% of their passes), posting more first downs (20-16) and only losing the turnover battle by one (3-2).  So how did the ingredients for victory turn into a flat souffle?  Turnovers and special teams.  The two fumbles came at the beginning of the second half…with both occurring in the Texans red zone.  While there was early optimism the kicking and return game had improved over 2013’s grease-fire, the Redskins had an extra point blocked and a punt blocked for a touchdown…an 8-point swing in a game where they lost by 11.  The defeat not only ends what was the longest losing streak in the NFL (14 games) but also extends the Skins now-league long nine game slide.  The mantra changes from “it was only the preseason” to “it’s only one game”…at least until the home opener against Jacksonville.

 

RG3ver–the face of the franchise completes 29 of 37 passes for 267 yards…posting a passer rating of 96.7.  Those numbers were massaged in part by the vast amount of checkdowns…and #10’s performance on third down was less than ideal.  Griffin held the ball a little to long as has been his custom…and Sunday was sacked 3 times.  The first two were rather costly:  one turned a 2nd and 5 into a 3rd and 13–and the Skins punted on the following play.  Another was a 12 yard loss on 3rd and 8 on the Houston 34–that turned a potential 52 yard field goal attempt into a 64-yarder (Skins wisely opting to punt).  I hope he doesn’t take to twitter…

 

Morris and his Men Moving Mountains– Alfred the Underused gained 91 yards on 14 carries (6.5 yards per attempt) while Roy Helu Jr. and Darrel Young (a combined 5-57) stepped in when needed.  On the team’s lone scoring drive the team ran 4 times for 46 yards…all four plays on the possession.  One of the holdovers from the Shanahan regime remains the ability to run but also the inability to emphasize it.

 

The Mixed Bag that is the Receiving Corps– alpha dogs Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson caught a combined 18 passes.  Great!  The duo averaged under 8 yards per catch.  Not Good!  I understand the idea in setting up a quick wideout with a short pass that they can turn into a long gain…but 18 receptions is a major sample size.  Tight end Jordan Reed caught a 4-yard pass before leaving with a bad hamstring…and then Niles Paul caught a 48 yard pass on a third and 7 at midfield.  Before fumbling the ball away in what would be the second of two giveaways the team in the third quarter.  Who’s ready for Jacksonville?

 

Third and Not Awesome– the Skins converted on 3-12 third downs…passing on 10 of 12 plays (5-9 with one sack).  Yardage breakdown:  1-3 on third and short (1-3 yards) including a loss of 1 for Morris in his first short-yardage attempt of the season, 2-3 on third and 4-6 yards needed including a roughing the passer penalty that prolonged the drive, 0-6 on third and long (7+ yards needed).  Another bad sign:  half of the third down situations were with 7+ yards needed.

 

Defense Situationally Successful– the D held the Texans to 3.5 yards a carry while limiting Houston’s air attack to 201 yards.  Positives include Jason Hatcher’s first regular season sack and Keenan Robinson’s recovery of an Arian Foster fumble.  Negatives?  The fact that Hatcher’s sack was the only one of the game– and a shaky secondary can’t afford to have minimal pressure.  The backbreaking drive came in the fourth quarter when the Texans used 6:32 to move the ball 68 yards on 13 plays and kick the game-clinching field goal with minimal time on the clock.  A drive that saw the Texans convert on three straight third downs.

 

Secondary remains a Primary Concern–  How did the back four fare?  Pantsed during the Texans 76-yard touchdown pass that would be their only offensive TD of the game.  Age (Ryan Clark and DeAngelo Hall are in their 30’s), Inexperience (Bacarri Rambo  is so green he makes fellow second year DB David Amerson appear to be a wily veteran), Injury (Phillip Thomas unable to get on the field/roster to make an impact) and Suspension (Brandon Merriweather when he’s not hurt has been disciplined during his tenure):  a four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for a new century.  Hall did lead the team with 8 tackles– although I’ve heard that when one of your cornerbacks is the top tackler, it’s just as much of a reflection on the front seven not making plays as it is on him making the stops.

 

Flying Flags– Seven penalties for 70 yards.  Three offensive, three defensive and one on special teams.  No repeat offenders.  Which ones were costly?  Chris Chester’s false start turned a 2nd and 9 into a 2nd and 14–and the Skins punted two plays later.  Robert Griffin III’s intentional grounding (questionable call as it appeared he was outside the tackle box) killed a last-minute drive in the first half, pushing the Skins from the Houston 44 to their own 41 with under a minute remaining.  Two defensive penalties resulted in first downs on the Texans crucial 4th quarter drive:  Chris Baker’s neutral zone infraction turned a 3rd and 1 from the Houston 17 into a first down…and Jarvis Jenkins roughing the passer on the next play moved the Texans to their 37.  This is a team that unfortunately can’t afford mistakes like those as right now it appears as though they have a limited window of opportunity for victory.

 

Cobra Kai– after outdueling Zach Hocker, Mr. Forbath may be wondering if he didn’t lose by winning:  yes, he gets an NFL paycheck but he still has to work with the Redskins kicking and return units.  Note that I am not using “Special Teams” when regarding this bunch…although after Sunday’s disaster a different S word comes to mind.  Forbath had an extra point blocked…and the team fumbled away two of three times they were inside the red zone.  Much like Johnny Lawrence at one point in time had to look around and realize that Dutch and Tommy might not be the coolest co-horts.

 

Dissecting the Division– thank goodness the Skins play in the NFC Least.  Philadelphia began the day by falling behind Jacksonville 17-0 before rallying to win 34-17.  The Jaguars selling points are their two-tone gold-black helmets and their owner’s flamboyant mustache.  Dallas dug itself a deep hole in the first half against San Francisco, turning the ball over 4 times while falling behind 28-3.  Jimmy Johnson remains absent in the team’s ring of honor at AT&T Stadium.  The Giants?  A 21 point loss to Detroit with Eli Manning resembling the “rookie Eli Manning action figure” as opposed to a QB that’s won two super bowls.  First team to 8 wins gets the division?

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