The Prime Time Microscope often serves as an amplifier:  tiny blemishes are revealed to be major scars and minor deficiencies are shown to be major shortcomings.  For the Redskins, prime time has not been kind as of late:  the team went 0-5 under the lights last year…and looked lost in Thursday night’s 45-14 defeat to the New York Giants.  The game recalled for me a 2009 Monday Night meltdown against the Giants (45-12) that featured a swinging-gate fake field goal…but that loss marked the end of an error, I mean era for then-coach Jim Zorn’s regime.  This is game three for Jay Gruden.  The league is such a week-to-week thing (witness Tampa Bay getting blasted by 42 eleven days before winning at Pittsburgh)…but it’s tough to find any good spin in Thursday’s mess.  Next up?  A Monday Night Football game against- defending champ Seattle.  Should I add that the Seahawks are coming off a bye week?

 

Captain Kirk Crashes– from the high of the win over Jacksonville to the mixed review of the loss in Philadelphia…and now this.  Four interceptions and a lost fumble remind Skins fans of a different #8…and Turnoverasaurus Rex has long departed the Potomac River basin for the shores of Lake Erie.  Cousins went 6-14 with those four picks in the second half–his issues in the third and fourth quarters this year have to be somewhat of a concern as well.  Kirk before intermission: 74% completion rate with a 4-0 TD/INT ratio.  Kirk after the break:  48% and 2-5.  Is it a case of the opponents making sharp halftime adjustments?  Perhaps it’s a case of “Mirror, Mirror” when the other Kirk gets beamed into an alternate universe.

 

Saved by Underuse– Alfred Morris notched 12 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown…never getting into any sort of rhythm– three carries in the first and second quarters before getting five touches in the third.  All told the Skins ran the ball just 17 times in defeat.  Reminds me of the Bell episode where Zack wasn’t involved in the plot in a major way– hold on, that never happened.  Peter Engel knew what the Skins offensive braintrust hasn’t grasped yet– Morris has to be involved big-time for this whole thing to work.  There’s a reason there weren’t any Violet Bickerstaff-centric episodes.

 

Receiving Recall–  after shining in the loss at Philadelphia, the duo of Garcon & DeSean were held to a combined 3 catches for 37 yards by the Giants defense.  Less than ideal…as Jackson’s dancing and chest-thumping against his former team didn’t carry over to being shut down by his former and current division rival.  Roy Helu lading the team with 78 yards receiving is as wrong as Ryan Clark leading the team with 7 tackles…a runningback shouldn’t be this much of a main man in a passing game.

 

Tight End Troubles– Niles Paul was on his way to another solid game…catching 3 passes for 60 yards when he was greeted by what resembled the “Malachi Crunch”:  Antrelle Rolle and Quintin Demps bounced Paul out of the game with a concussion.  Already minus Jordan Reed (whose 2013 ended with a concussion), the Skins were forced to focus on Logan Paulsen– who caught 3 passes for 28 yards but lost a fumble in the red zone.  Paul will be tested over the next week to make sure there are no lingering effects–meaning Cousins’ security blanket (16 catches in 2 and a half games) may be a question mark.

 

Third and Abysmal– the Skins went 1-8 in moving the chains….getting another first down in the third quarter on a Neutral Zone Infraction by the Giants.  The offense gained a total of 8 net yards on those 8 third down plays:  Cousins set the tone for the night by fumbling while being sacked on the team’s first 3rd down of the night…before completing 1 of 6 passes for 7 yards with 2 interceptions.  The lone conversion?  A 9 yard scramble by Cousins on 3rd & 8.  Breaking things down by yardage:  0-1 when 1-3 yards were needed, 1-2 when 4-6 yards were necessary and 0-5 on 3rd and 7+.  After four weeks, the offense is 18-49 on the critical down (37%, ranking 24th in the league)…with 22 of their 49 attempts coming from 7 yards or more.

 

D gets an F– the problem with going 1-8 on 3rd down?  You have to punt and send this defense out on the field.  The Giants scored the last three times they had the ball in the first half and used the quick-throwing short passing game to negate the Skins pass rush (just one sack on the night).  The secondary looked undermanned and lost as Giants TE Larry Donnell caught 3 TD passes in the first half–on one play either Brandon Meriweather played the wrong coverage or Ryan Clark wasn’t in the right spot or quick enough to provide help.  David Amerson’s good at guarding the opposition’s #2 wideout–containing their #1 not so much.  Thank goodness coordinator Jim Haslett doesn’t have Mike Shanahan around to meddle in the D.

 

Flying Flags– 11 penalties for 88 yards gives the team 39 for 388 on the season (most in the league).  Two of the four offensive infractions were holds by an offensive line that wasn’t trying to cheat as much as trying to keep Kirk Cousins alive amidst a tepid Giant pass rush.  Two of the three defensive penalties set up Giant scores:  Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference kept a drive alive late in the first half that resulted in a field goal and Perry Riley’s illegal use of the hands gave NY a 1st & goal from the 1-yard line (they’d score on the very next play).  Four penalties came on special teams– with Clifton Geathers getting flagged twice (illegal use of the hands & unsportsmanlike conduct) and the other two violations  coming on a false start and a neutral zone infraction.  It’s a mess…

 

Cobra Kai Cameo– Mr. Forbath converted on both extra points and wasn’t called on for any field goal attempts…while Tress Way stole the kicking game show by averaging 58 yards a punt (including a 77-yarder).  Much like the bully in KK2…

 

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia remains atop the NFC East despite their loss at San Francisco because the 3-1 Eagles own the division tiebreaker with 3-1 Dallas.  The Giants at 2-2 are all alone in third place while the Skins are inthe oh so familiar spot of last place in the division (eventual destination in 2008-11 and 2013).  Best division after four weeks?  The AFC North is 9-5 while the NFC West is 8-5…as the NFC East and North are tied for third at 9-7.  Both South divisions have gone south in September—each is 6-10.  While the Skins get the AFC South on their schedule this year– they also get the entire NFC West (ugh).

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