The Burgundy and Gold may be back from Arizona, but the franchise remains wandering in a different kind of wasteland.  The Oasis of 2012 seems as distant as Oasis’ “Morning Glory” CD (still listenable but almost 20 years old).  Right now the team resides in a desert of desperation– with 25+ new players on the roster this year the rebuilding (nobody likes to say that word but it’s reality) is underway.  Thanks to a 30-20 loss to the Cardinals, the maiden voyage of the SS Gruden appears to be bound for a familiar port–last place in the division.  In the NFC East’s glory days (the 1986-95 stretch saw the division-winner take the Super Bowl 7 times with Philadelphia’s Randall Cunningham and Reggie White enjoying stretches as the most dynamic players at their positions) the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals were the last place team everybody liked to face first.  Those Cardinals finished last 5 times in that span–a feat these Redskins have surpassed with 7 last place finishes (2004, 06, 08-11, 13) in a similar span.

 

Captain Kirk’s Crazy Eights– the 354 passing yards looks nice.  The 3 fourth quarter interceptions?  Not so much…and this is with his weapons available as Jordan Reed played a full game for the first time all year.  He’s growing and learning (just his 8th career start)…but he can’t continue to make multiple mistakes late in games while windows of opportunity begin to close.  EIGHT interceptions over 5+ games is close to Kenny Stabler 1978 stuff.  Perhaps it’s the fact he’s wearing #8–I thought we retired that for Turnoverasaurus Rex.  At the very least, they should have kept it out of rotation a year or two.

 

Minimal Morris– the good news is that for the first time all season, Alfred the underused didn’t gain fewer yards than he did the week before (an achievement like trying to fold a paper in half repeatedly–you can only do that six times).  The 13-41 effort represented the majority of a ground game abandoned after halftime– Morris gained 18 yards in the 1st quarter, 13 more in the 2nd, and just 10 after intermission.  Three carries after halftime in what was a one possession game for most of the contest.  Are they using the old Kyle Shanahan gameplans?   About as useful as “Our Miss Bliss” scripts.

 

DeSean & Garcon– the high-flying crime-fighting duo solved the occasional mystery of the Cardinal secondary…as both caught touchdown passes.  Jackson (3-115) posted his 3rd century game of the year (in the other three games combined he’s caught 10 passes for 89 yards) while Pierre averaged less than 8 yards per catch for the second time this fall.  Between the two, neither caught a pass on third down and only Jackson was targeted (3 times).

 

Three R’s:  Reed, Roberts and Receptions– Jordan Reed after being on the shelf with a hamstring injury for the first four and a half games of the season, caught 8 passes for 92 yards.  That’s progress.  Andre Roberts added 5 catches for 55 yards…motivated no doubt by facing his former team.  If Jackson and Garcon continue to receive prime attention, these two will continue to reap the benefits.

 

Third and Doubt– the Cardinals D ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in getting off the field…until the Redskins went 2-10 at moving the chains.  On all 11 plays Kirk Cousins passed (4-10=21 yards with 1 interception and another INC wiped out thanks to an AZ penalty).  He threw to 3 players:  Reed (5 targets, 1 catch and conversion), Jackson (3 targets, 1 defensive penalty) and Andre Roberts (3 targets, 1 catch and conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  1 for 4 on 1-3 yards needed, 1 for 3 on 4-6 yards necessary and 0 for 3 on 7+.  That means no Morris runs on third and short–and not even a draw play on third and medium.  Abandon the SS Ground Game!  To your passing game lifeboats!

 

Diminishing Defense– only 317 yards allowed…5.4 yards per pass…7-17 on third down…but no takeaways.  The oomph that helped sell the bill of goods on the shift to the 3-4 four years ago was the short fields and takeaways this team would tally…and they’ve yet to do so.  The four takeaways this fall?  Tied for fourth worst in the league.  While they didn’t allow a second half touchdown, the D surrendered 2 field goal marches of 7:23 and 4:50 to start the second half.  Is the pass rush just not good enough to mask a suspect secondary or is the patched up secondary not sharp enough to make an underwhelming front seven shine?  There’s definitely a hole in the bucket.

 

Flying Flags– after being ticketed only 3 times last week, the Skins still fared better than the opposition with only 6 infractions for 62 yards (yet they’re still the 7th most penalized team in the league).  Arizona did their best Seattle impression with 14 (!) flags for 108 yards.  Three were on offense (all false starts–the Skins now have 9 on the year, 3 short of the league lead)…two on defense (pass interference against Bashaud Breeland-his second PI and 5th flag of the year-and encroachment against Jason Hatcher) and one on special teams (holding on a punt return against Akeem Jordan).  Two penalties stunted drives while two others jumpstarted Cardinal scoring possessions.  Logan Paulsen’s false start dug a 2nd and 15 hole the team had to punt out of two plays later.  Chris Chester’s false start turned a 1st and goal from the 10 into an eventual field goal.  Breeland’s PI moved the Cardinals from their own 17 to midfield…and they’d reach the endzone six plays later.  Hatcher’s encroachment turned a 3rd and 8 into a 3rd and 3…one Arizona would convert before settling on a field goal eight plays later.

 

Cobra Kai– Mr. Forbath connected on attempts from 28 and 43 yards while his first three kickoffs reached the endzone for touchbacks (he chipped one to the Arizona 9 to end the first half and the other kick was onside).  Just like last year when he wasn’t missing and the team wasn’t winning.  Tress Way continues to be the Bobby to Forbath’s Johnny…averaging 47+ yards per punt in another lost cause.  With FOX going all prequel on “Gotham”, what’s to stop a “Karate Kid” origin story about the early days of Johnny Lawrence before the sensei turned him into a leather-jacket wearing bully?

 

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia’s win keeps the Eagles atop the NFC East at 5-1 over Dallas thanks to a 2-0 division record…with the NY Giants at 3-3 all alone in third place.  Which means the Redskins are almost halfway home to another last place finish.  At least the NFC East is more SEC than SBC (Sun Belt) this year:  the composite 14-10 mark is a whisker behind the AFC North’s 13-8-1.  Worst division?  The NFC South (8-14-1) although the AFC South isn’t far behind at 9-15…thank goodness Tennessee comes to Fed Ex next Sunday.

 

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