Archives for posts with tag: Cowboys

Sometimes an NFL season can turn on a dime.  In the span of four days last week, the Redskins lost their starting quarterback for the season and fell out of sole possession of first place of the NFC East.  Instead of 8-3 with a three game lead in the division, the Burgundy and Gold are fighting for their playoff lives with a backup quarterback that hasn’t seen regular action in four years.  The 23-21 loss to Houston and 31-23 defeat at Dallas don’t have this team on the ropes, but they’re not in great shape for 2018–or beyond.

Broken Leg, Busted Dreams- the season-ending injury of Alex Smith came on the 33rd anniversary of Joe Theismann’s career-ending compound fracture against the New York Giants.  Before the injury, Smith had thrown interceptions on back to back first half possessions.  He also had his lowest completion percentage and yards per attempt of the season and was sacked three times for the third straight week.  Now the veteran stares into the face of an 8 to 10 month rehabilitation.  Will he be able to come back after this?  And if not, how does this team handle the salary cap albatross?

Colt at the Controls- while McCoy threw a touchdown pass on his first drive off the bench, he tossed three interceptions against the Cowboys.  The new starter has a 73.9 passer rating, but now has a full week of practice reps with the first string for the first time since 2014.  So there’s that.  And didn’t he have his best moment in a Monday night on the road that year?

Third and New- under McCoy, the Skins converted 5 of 15 third downs.  The lone running play saw Adrian Peterson gain four yards on third and one.  Colt completed 3 of 9 passes with each of his completions resulting in a conversion while getting sacked twice and scrambling twice (moving the chains once).  His top target:  Jordan Reed (two catches/conversions in four passes thrown to).

Flying Flags- six penalties for 43 yards against Houston and four infractions for 25 yards at Dallas, giving the team 64 penalties (14th most in the league) for 692 yards (5th highest).  Four on offense (three false starts and a hold), five on defense (three holds, an illegal use of the hands, and a roughing the passer) and a hold on special teams.  For the season, offensive holding (23) and false starts (17) are the biggest offenders.  Morgan Moses has the most accepted penalties (8) while Fabian Moreau (6) is gaining ground; the safety’s hold in the fourth quarter against Dallas allowed the Cowboys to hold the ball for three more minutes and help kill the clock.

Dissecting the Division- the loss drops the Skins to second place in the NFC East, as Dallas owns the division record tiebreaker.  While the Cowboys own the fourth seed in the NFC, the Redskins are sixth-taking the second wildcard thanks to a conference  record tiebreaker against Seattle and a head-to-head tiebreaker against Carolina.  Philadelphia’s rally past the New York Giants keeps the Eagles’ season from hitting the skids…the third place team is ninth overall in the conference.  The New York Giants had a chance to escape the cellar but instead stay in the basement and are 14th in the NFC.

If the playoffs began today- the NFC matchups would have the Redskins visiting Chicago and Dallas hosting Minnesota; with top seed New Orleans playing the Cowboys, Vikings or Skins and the Los Angeles Rams meeting the Bears, Dallas or the Vikes.  The AFC would have Pittsburgh hosting the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore at Houston, with top seed Kansas City drawing the Steelers, Chargers or Ravens and New England preparing for the Texans, Pittsburgh or LA.

Competing Quartets, and the Conference Contest- the NFC East is 20-24…tied for sixth best (or worst, depending on your perspective) with the AFC East and NFC West.  The NFC South and AFC West are the tied for first at 24-20.  The AFC currently owns a 24-23 edge over the NFC.

 

 

 

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Remember last year when the Redskins went to Seattle with an offensive line held together by duct tape and paper clips, only to bring back a victory from Puget Sound?  Well this past weekend the Burgundy and Gold used rubber bands and masking tape to keep the line semi-solid in a 16-3 win by Tampa Bay.  Instead of losing a second straight game to a fellow future wildcard contender, the Skins are two games clear of a muddled NFC East and are off to their best start in ten years (we won’t mention who was coaching the Maroon and Black that autumn).  This has the feel of 2012 and 2015 all over again:  a first-year starting quarterback at Fed Ex Field exceeding expectations amidst a division ripe for the taking.  Enjoy the ascent, because if there’s anything we’ve learned from 2012 and 2015 it’s that 2013 and 2016 are distinct possibilities.

Turnovers Told the Tale- four takeaways helped keep the Buccaneers out of the end zone.  Josh  Norman’s interception at the goal line on the first drive of the day set the tone.  Greg Stroman’s interception led to the team’s final points of the afternoon.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s fumble recovery in the end zone ended another Bucs drive into the red zone.  And Ryan Kerrigan’s fumble recovery inside the ten ended Tampa Bays’ last best chance to rally.  And the Skins did not turn the ball over at all.  The team now ranks third in the league at +11 in turnover margin, and they needed every one Sunday to prevail.

Mr. Smith Goes to Consistency- for the third time in four weeks Alex Smith threw for exactly 178 yards.  The Skins won all three of those games…and are 5-0 when he throws for under 250 yards (1-3 when he crosses the 21st century marker for “productive passer”).  If he throws for exactly 178 yards against Houston, we’ll know the fix is in.

Cousins Comparison- Kirk and company had a bye this past week, but I took my bye last week (writing back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back college basketball previews for WTOP.COM) so let’s revisit how the former Franchise Tagged one fared:  18-22 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the Vikings’ 24-9 win over Detroit.  Minnesota is 5-3-1 and in second place of the NFC North, currently owning the second wildcard.  Cousins for the season owns a passer rating of 102.2 (9th best in the league) while Alex Smith is at 90.7 after nine games (21st in the NFL).

Peterson Provides Production- he didn’t gain 100 yards, but the Skins main threat on the ground rushed for 68 yards–including two first down scampers in third and short situations.  His 672 yards through nine games is already more than his numbers from the last two years (and three teams) combined over 13 games played.

Catching On- Maurice Harris led the team with 5 catches for 52 yards, following up his 10 reception effort against Atlanta.  With 26 catches this fall, the third-year pro has already more than doubled his career numbers.  Not bad for a fringe roster player.

Third and Two Halves- the Skins went 0-for-4 on the money down in the first half and 5-for-9 after intermission.  Alex Smith completed 5-of-8 passes while getting sacked once, moving the chains twice.  The running game moved the marker on 3-of-4 plays (Peterson twice and Kapri Bibbs once).  Smith’s top target?  Maurice Harris and Josh Doctson each notched a pair of catches on two targets–each moving the chains once (Doctson’s grab was for a touchdown).  Yardage breakdown:  2-for-2 on short-yardage, 1-for-5 on intermediate (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-for-6 on long-yardage.  Almost 50% of the third downs needed seven or more yards-less than ideal.

D gets a pass- so they gave up 501 yards…but when it mattered they stopped the Buccaneers shy of the end zone each time.  Mason Foster led the way with 10 tackles while Preston Smith and Matt Ioannidis notched sacks.  Plenty to be happy with, but also plenty to work on moving forward.

Extra Special Teams- Dustin Hopkins nailed his three field goal attempts (unlike his Tampa Bay counterpart Chandler Catanzaro who missed two of three and was cut) with a long of 43 yards.  Tress Way averaged 49.4 yards per punt, but that merely graces the surface.  Four of his five landed inside the Bucs’ 20 with Way’s three second-half kicks landing at the four-, six- and 13-yard line.

Flying Flags- eight infractions for 52 yards gives the team 64 for 624 yards (9th and 4th most in the NFL). Of the five on the offense, two were false starts while the other three were holds (the Skins 21 holds this year are the most in the league).  Morgan Moses had one of each while recent pickup Jonathan Cooper had a pair of holds.  The two defensive penalties (neutral zone infraction and a hold) came in the fourth quarter and were luckily wiped out by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third turnover of the day.  The special teams’ flag was an illegal formation on a kickoff.  Costliest penalty?  Those two that kept the Bucs’ late drive alive.

Dissecting the Division- the Skins own a two-game lead in the NFC East and due to conference record would be the fourth seed “if the playoffs began today”, which they obviously do not.  Dallas (4-5) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philadelphia thanks to Sunday night’s win and is in 10th place of the conference–the Eagles holding down 11th.  The New York Giants may be in last place of the division but depart the conference basement with their Monday night victory in San Francisco.

NFC East no Longer Least- despite the worst winning percentage (.444) of the league’s eight quartets, the Skins’ division after a 3-1 week at least moves into lock-step with the NFC West (17-21) and AFC East (18-22).  The NFC South (21-15) continues to be the best bunch, even with a 1-3 week that saw Tampa Bay squander 501 yards of offense, Atlanta lose to Cleveland and Carolina get crushed by Pittsburgh.  The Interconference Contest (that means absolutely nothing) is also tied at 22 wins apiece.

 

Sunday’s 20-13 win at the New York Giants had “trap game” written all over it in such a manner it was almost disgusting.  If Hollywood cast for “Letdown Games”, this would be the prime candidate.  But instead of a disappointing defeat to cut whatever momentum the Redskins had built, coach Jay Gruden’s team comes home off to their hottest start since 2008 (we won’t go over how that ended, but it involved the Skins wearing burgundy on burgundy in a prime time game).  For a franchise that has missed the postseason in eight of the last ten years, there are no small victories.  Especially in the division.  Especially on the road.

Mr. Smith goes to the Meadowlands- Alex completed 20 of 32 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown while running for 13 yards on three carries and avoiding a sack.  While he’s not winning the Skins games at this time, Smith isn’t losing them.

Country Cousins- Kirk threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed an interception that was run back for a New Orleans touchdown.  While Cousins’ passer rating is over ten points (102.5 to 91.3) higher than Smith’s he also has four interceptions plus four lost fumbles this fall to just a pair of turnovers for Smith.

Yo Adrian- Mr. Peterson rumbled for a season-high 149 yards and a 64-yard touchdown while catching a TD pass that put the Skins on the board.  The offseason pickup is on pace to rush for 1,300 yards- not bad for a 33-year old.

Top Targets- Jordan Reed had arguably his best day of the season, catching seven passes for 38 yards.  Josh Doctson added season highs of five grabs and 49 yards.  While Paul Richardson and Chris Thompson are less than 100% and Jamison Crowder is on the shelf, Doctson’s presence is all the more important.

Third and Just Enough- the offense moved the chains on 6-of-15 attempts…with Alex Smith completing 8-of-12 passes for five conversions.  He also had a scramble for three yards on 3rd & 13.  Jordan Reed was the top target- catching four of seven passes thrown his way for two conversions.  The two runs?  Adrian Peterson gained one yard on 3rd & 1 while Christ Thompson gained a yard on 3rd & 10 in the fourth quarter.   Distance breakdown:  3-for-4 on 3rd & short (1-3 yards needed), 2-for-5 on 3rd and medium (4-6) and 1-for-6 on 3rd & long (7+ yards needed).

D continues to Grade Well- the Skins held the Giants to 37 yards on 14 carries while handcuffing NY to 2-of-14 on third down.  Matt Ioannidis tallied 2.5 of the team’s seven sacks while Mason Foster led the way with 13 tackles.  D.J. Swearinger posted a pair of interceptions to give the safety a league-best four picks on the season.

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 49.2 yards per punt.  Wow.  Dustin Hopkins made two of three field goal attempts-missing a 41-yarder-while connecting on both extra point tries.  While the punt coverage team allowed a 19-yard return, there were minimal failures.

Flying Flags-  eight penalties for 90 yards–with 46 of coming on a defensive pass interference on Montae Nicholson that set up a Giants field goal (and that was the only flag on the D).  Four penalties were on offense (two false starts, a hold and a PI) while to were on special teams (false start on an extra point and offsides on a free kick).  Seven weeks into the season, over 50% have been either holds (13) or false starts (12).  Sunday’s most costly penalty?  A false start on Morgan Moses turned a 3rd & 1 into a 3rd & 6–resulting in a field goal.

Dissecting the Division- the Skins at 5-2 keep their one and a half game lead over Philadelphia, who beat Jacksonville in London Sunday morning.  There’s heaven, hell, purgatory and 9:30am London games.  Idle Dallas drops two games off the pace at 3-4 and responds by firing their offensive line coach.  The New York Giants at 1-7 continue to make the case for not being as good as their record would lead you to believe.  NFC seed/place:  Redskins are 3rd, Philly is 9th, the Cowboys are 12th and the Giants are 16th.

NFC Least- the division still has the worst composite record at 13-17, one half game behind the AFC South (14-17).  Good news for the Skins who still play Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee.  The best quartet?  The NFC South is 17-11–bad news for the Burgundy and Gold who still have to play Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

 

We just knew the Skins would bounce back from their thrashing in New Orleans, right?  The 23-17 win over Carolina swings the burgundy and gold pendulum back over .500–and in a league where 16 of 32 teams are within a game of breaking even the “every week a new season” mentality is not even halfway over.  Buckle up and prepare for the pendulum to swing again.  And again.

Mr. Smith goes to the Endzone- Alex tossed a pair of first-half touchdowns, and while he only threw for 163 yards on the afternoon didn’t have any back-breaking mistakes.  And that was all minus Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder (a combined 39 catches, or 44% of Smith’s completions this year).   And that was with a banged up Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson.

Captain Kirk in Exile- Cousins threw for 233 yards and a touchdown while running for another score in 3-2-1 Minnesota’s 27-17 win over Arizona.  For the season the former franchised one has a passer rating of 102.7 (10th in the NFL) while the new kid in town has 90.9 (18th).  Not that anyone is keeping track.

Running is Back- Adrian Peterson and the ground game continued their rollercoaster ride.  One week after the Skins rushed for just 39 yards at New Orleans, Peterson (and his banged up shoulder) rumbled for 97 of the team’s 132 yards.  In three wins the team has averaged 160 yards rushing, and in three losses they’ve been held to 52 yards per game.

Best Run of the Day- the biggest run was not by Peterson but by his former Oklahoma teammate Trent Williams.  The left tackle somehow found a fumble in his hands on a third and long…and instead of going to the ground rumbled ahead eight yards.  He didn’t reach the first down marker, but got to the Carolina 38 and Dustin Hopkins’ 56-yard field goal was good.  Instead of the Panthers needing a field goal to tie with under a minute left, they had to go for the endzone.  Perhaps going forward this might be a new wrinkle in the playbook.

Tight End Tandems- Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis received 12 of the 34 targets,  with the duo combining for 8 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.  Reed had one sweet one-handed grab to help keep a first half drive alive and Davis caught the game’s first touchdown.  The TD was set up by a fumble recovery by fellow TE Jeremy Sprinkle on a special teams play.

Third and Reed-  the Skins moved the chains on 7 of 16 money downs…running the ball just once (a sneak by Alex Smith that got the job done).  Smith completed 8 of 13 passes for 6 conversions while getting sacked once.  Jordan Reed was the top target–with four passes thrown his way (two catches for one conversion).  Paul Richardson caught both of the passes thrown his way while generating one first down and one touchdown.  Yardage breakdown:  5-6 on 3rd and short, 1-3 on 3rd and manageable (4-6 yards needed), 2-7 on 3rd and long.

Norman Invasion Leads the Defense- six days after being benched in the loss at New Orleans, Josh Norman tallied his first interception since December of 2016 while also forcing a fumble that would lead to a field goal.  DJ Swearinger paced the team with seven tackles and recorded their only sack.  The D earned an A on third down, holding the Panthers to 3 for 9 while keeping Cam Newton and company out of the end zone on their final drive of the day.

Special Situations-  Dustin Hopkins connected on 29, 49 and (a career-long) 56 yard field goal attempts while Tress Way averaged 41 yards per punt.  But the big play came on a fumbled punt return by Carolina’s DJ Moore.  Jeremy Sprinkle recovered the loose ball and the Skins would convert on the very next play with the previously mentioned 22-yard TD pass from Smith to Davis.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 43 yards gives the team 33 for 300 on the season (seventh fewest infractions and ninth fewest yards in the NFL).  Two holds (Trent Williams and Morgan Moses) plus an intentional grounding on Alex Smith were the offensive flags.  Preston Smith picked up a neutral zone infraction while DJ Swearinger was whistled for taunting after the Panthers went incomplete on fourth down with under a minute to play.  Most costly flag– Smith’s grounding took the team out of field goal range after they had the ball on the Panther 33-yard line.

Dissecting the Division- the victory keeps the Skins ahead by one half game in the NFC East and owns the tiebreaker over Chicago for the #3 seed (common opponents).  Philadelphia owns the common foes tiebreaker over Dallas for second place.  Both the Eagles and Cowboys are a half game out of the Wildcard (Green Bay’s MNF win puts the Packers in the #6 spot).  The New York Giants remain in the cellar and dead last in the conference…and the gap is widening by the week.

NFC Least- well, the 10-13 composite record of the division is the seventh best in the league…only better than the AFC South (good news, the Skins have three more games against the South this year).  The AFC North is tops at 13-9-2 (boosted by 2-3-1 Cleveland) …with the NFC North (11-9-2) and AFC East (13-11) helped by last-second field goals in prime time.

 

With the NFL Draft still a day away, my Burgundy & Gold pals are focused on the schedule that was released last week.  I was personally hoping they would release one week at a time each week following the Super Bowl…so right now we’d be breaking down the week 11 matchups.  Sadly that was not the case so instead we got all 17 weeks last Thursday…albeit in prime time.  It took me awhile to catch up with by Skinsanity Siblings, Postive Pete and Pessimist Paul.  They now provide their exclusive analysis:

September 9- at Arizona, 4:25 pm.  The Cardinals have a new coach in Steven Wilks and a new quarterback in Ryan Reynolds lookalike Sam Bradford–unless the brittle one gets banged up in the preseason.  Bring on the Alex Smith era–he’s going to carve up the Cardinals D while the Skins will sack Bradford into submission (Cardinals allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL last year).  Will we even see Smith in the preseason?  If there’s one thing the Skins do well, it’s rest starters in August–only to be smacked upside the head in September.

September 16- Indianapolis, 1 pm.  It’s a semi-homecoming for Colts coach Frank Reich, who played quarterback at the University of Maryland in the 1980’s.  It’s also the home opener for the Skins, so expect the usual traffic issues.    Will Andrew Luck’s arm still be attached to his body?  I hear he’s throwing NERF balls.  Thank you NFL for scheduling us to a 2-0 start!  AFC fans ALWAYS pack FedEx Field–because they know their team plays once every eight years in Landover and Skins fans care less about games with Miami or Jacksonville.  Home field disadvantage leads to one sorry afternoon.

September 23- Green Bay, 1 pm.  Aaron Rodgers comes to town as the Packers try to bounce back from a rare non-playoff season.  Which is the opposite of how things work in these parts.  Funny how the cheese-heads root for a swiss cheese defense. How do you like me now?  Oops, wrong quarterback.  A healthy Rodgers will be tough enough…but to finally face a team with their stuff together will certainly catch the Skins off-guard.  Bring on the bye week…

Monday October 8- at New Orleans, 8:15 pm.  The site of last year’s fourth quarter collapse welcomes the Skins back after a way-too-early bye week.  Doesn’t it feel like they take their hiatus in September every other year?  Chris Thompson stays healthy and finishes the job this time–and the Redskins enact revenge on an aging Drew Brees.  The defense isn’t much better than 2017–and the Skins have had performance issues on Monday night to begin with.  Add into the equation a stay in the Crescent City?

October 14- Carolina, 1 pm. Redskins battle playoff teams on back to back weeks after their bye.  We should know if this team is a contender or a pretender by now.  Cam Newton isn’t all that…and Charlotte is technically still Redskins Country.  So their fan base isn’t even there to travel well.  Pretender. Man, Cam’s tough to bring down…and not having Kendall Fuller has to haunt the Skins’ secondary sooner or later–right?  Pretender.

October 21- Dallas, 4:25 pm.  How is this game on CBS?  Not a fan of the NFL flipping games to other networks.  Dak Prescott looked so-so last year minus Ezekiel Elliott– I have a feeling he’s going to look pedestrian without Dez Bryant.  Somehow the Cowboys bring out the worst in the Skins-and it’ll happen again.

October 28- at NY Giants, 1 pm.  The Skins are back in their familiar slot–this being one of ten scheduled 1 pm games.  Just be thankful there isn’t a 9:30 London game this year.  The Fall of the House of Eli continues with the Skins taking advantage of a rebuilding franchise.  Somehow one feels that last year was an aberration–for the Giants being bad and the Redskins being good.

November 4- Atlanta, 1 pm.  The NFL is having the Burgundy & Gold blow through the NFC East in short succession with four games against that division over six weeks.  Matt Ryan can’t be efficient forever, right?  Shame the Skins can’t get a top-3 pick for a QB.  One doesn’t feel confident in a defense that played well in 2017–but didn’t make the plays when it mattered.

November 11- at Tampa Bay, 1pm.  Will the Buccaneers at least be wearing their creamsicle uniforms?   Nobody plays the ambiguous pirate card better.  The Redskins beat a bottom-feeder on their way to the postseason…you like that?!  Sorry again, wrong QB.  Last year the Skins went 2-6 on the road…and the Buccaneers are in bounce-back mode with a quarterback that’s tough to bring down.

November 18- Houston, 1pm.  The Texans were a quarterback away from being good last year…only to start Deshaun Watson.  And then once they found their QB of the future they lost him for the present to injury.  The Texans defense is a shell of its former self…and by now Alex Smith and the offense will be humming like nothing else.  For the third straight year the Skins have to play Sunday and Thursday on Thanksgiving week. The tight turnaround hurts a team both ways.

Thursday, November 22- at Dallas, 4:30 pm.  The Ghost of Clint Longley haunts the Redskins one holiday after Halloween.  And nothing good ever happens on November 22nd in Dallas.  If #2 overall pick RG3 can win in Arlington TX on Turkey Day, why not #1 overall selection Alex Smith?  A short prep week, bad sun through the Jerry World windows and the triumph of an uncluttered mind all give Skins fans indigestion.

Monday, December 3- at Philadelphia, 8:15 pm.  Skins play the defending Super Bowl champs twice in the last month of the season.  Couldn’t they have gotten one game in with the Eagles minus Carson Wentz?  Eleven days to prepare for the Eagles?  How can you not feel good?  The Skins had ten days to prepare for the Chargers last year–and got roasted on the road.

December 9- NY Giants, 1 pm.  The third straight NFC East game will no doubt have playoff implications, as the Redskins will either be winning their fifth straight to jump into contention…or be 5-6-1 and need a victory to stay on the precipice of elimination.  Have we already done the “Eli is old” thing?  I can’t wait to see who they take with the #2 pick in the draft…perhaps a quarterback that gets his first start in week 13?  Part of me fears they take Saquon Barkley–and he powers the Giants to the division title while becoming the headache to the Skins that Tiki Barber was (minus the bleep-eating grin).

December 16- at Jacksonville, 1 pm.  UH-OH!!! I command you to go on youtube.com and check out “Uh Oh- the Jacksonville Jaguars Super Bowl Song”. It’s a beaut.  What is it with the two-tone helmets?  The Jags can’t possibly be competitive consecutive years with that ham sandwich playing quarterback.  The Jaguars play December ball- good defense, solid special teams and minimal mistake-making offense…something foreign to the Skins.

December 22-23, at Tennessee, TBA.  Not just flexed from 1pm to 4pm or 8pm on Sunday—but flexed Saturday OR Sunday.  Can you believe the Titans fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after they went 9-7 and won a playoff game?  Wow- you only get fired as Skins coach if you go 4-12 (Zorn) or 3-13 (Shanahan).  Christmas comes early for the Burgundy & Gold as Alex Smith punches their playoff ticket with a win in the Music City.  Sour notes of the season continue as the hanging by a thread Skins are eliminated with another underwhelming loss.

December 30, Philadelphia 1 pm.  The season ends against the defending champs…I don’t know if you heard, but the Eagles ended a 57-year championship drought this past February.  Does this mean the Skins have to wait until 2049?  Okay, so Philly rolls to a second straight NFC East title.  Simply allows the Skins to have their way en route to locking up #1 wildcard berth.  If we can return Christmas presents the week after the holiday, what is the return policy on Alex Smith?  Another losing season ends in Landover.

 

They don’t give out banners for finishing 8-8.  And they don’t even have last year’s “first place schedule” to hide behind…although the first ten games were a brutal gauntlet.  And the Redskins are going to finish out of contention for the fourteenth time in eighteen years this century.  But coach Jay Gruden’s team can salvage some dignity by finishing .500- it would give them a non-losing record for a third straight year (longest streak since…1999-2001).  And it would give the team a 25-22-1 mark over his last three seasons.  So even though Sunday’s 20-15 win over Arizona only affected the Cardinals’ playoff hopes, it was necessary for the Skins to end their slide and get in position to be in position to scrape their way back to .500.  With last-place Denver and last-place New York on the horizon, the avenue to 8-8 is there.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 18 of 26 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns while getting sacked just once.  A passer rating over 100 for the sixth time this year.  No fumbles were lost…but the offense only had two solid drives on the day.  Thank goodness the Cardinals were even more offensively challenged.  Episode Equivalent:  “Operation Annihilate!”- where flying amoebas attack the landing party and one attaches itself to Spock.

Running in Reverse- one of the reasons why this year pales compared to the last two for Cousins production-wise.  Thirty-one yards on 20 carries…with Samaje Perine (14 carries for 37 yards) being held to under 50 yards for the third straight week despite being the main ball-carrier.  Will this be addressed in the offseason with a band-aid or a big-time prospect?

Chilly Receptions- Jamison Crowder led the way with 5 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown, giving him 59 for 717 on the season.  Great for a #3 option.  Which sadly this year he is not.  The duo of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have combined for 640 yards on 49 catches–and even though Pryor has been on the shelf for a while this is still not good.

Third Downers- how about 1-for-9?  Cousins completed 3-of-6 passes for the lone conversion (to Crowder his top option with three targets and two catches), while getting sacked once and scrambling short of the marker once. Their lone run came on a 3rd & 8.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-for-5 on third and medium and 0-for-4 on third and long (7+ yards needed.  Meaning yes, they didn’t face a third and short.  One of the many reasons why this team is fighting for 8-8 and not a playoff berth.

Zach Rules- okay, so Zach Brown didn’t play.  But Zach Virgil did the Bayside faithful proud with 8 tackles which tied for the team lead.  More importantly, the defense kept the Cardinals out of the end zone and got off of the field on 15 of 19 third downs.  Preston Smith notched a fumble recovery which set up the Skins’ first TD and an interception in the red zone.  Easily the best Sunday for a Preston since I crushed 20 wings (13 drums and 7 flats) at the Rhino circa 2006.

Kicking Game and Screaming- tough to get past the missed kickoff in the second half.  Not acceptable.  Still Tress Way averaged over 53 yards per punt and Dustin Hopkins made both field goals (long of 32 yards).  So there’s that.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 82 yards.  Three on offense (two false starts and a hold), three on defense (pair of PI’s and an unsportsmanlike conduct) and a special teams infraction (leveraging).  Holds and false starts (16) are now the most common offensive fouls, while pass interference (7) is the most common defensive whistle.  Most costly?  a while Josh Norman’s PI in the second quarter set up a Cardinals field goal, Kendall Fuller’s PI with under a minute left put the ball on the Washington 21…and gave Arizona another chance to steal a victory in Landover.

Dissecting the Division-  Philadelphia (12-2) has locked up a first round bye and needs just a Vikings loss to wrap up home field in the NFC.  Dallas (8-6) is assured of second place in the division thanks to their win over Oakland and is currently in ninth place of the conference–meaning they need to leapfrog three teams to make the playoffs.  Two wins plus 0-2 finishes from two of the three NFC South contenders (Atlanta-Carolina-New Orleans) plus Detroit and Seattle each losing once will do the trick.   The Redskins (6-8) are assured of third place, meaning that for the first time since 2001-03 they won’t finish in last for three straight seasons.  The New York Giants can still finish out of the NFC cellar by winning two straight and Chicago wrapping up their year with two more defeats.

Conference Call plus the Mouth of the South-  the NFC leads the AFC 36-22 with six games remaining–and it isn’t even that close.  The NFC South owns the best mark at 33-23 while the AFC North brings up the rear at 23-33 (Browns are responsible for 14 of those losses).  The NFC East is 28-28…tied for fifth with the NFC West.

Elimination Island- Green Bay was bounced from contention with their loss to Carolina plus Atlanta’s win on Monday night.  Other hopes terminated along with Arizona’s (thanks to their loss to the Redskins):  Green Bay and Cincinnati.  Tennessee’s loss to San Francisco keeps Miami and Oakland hanging by a thread.

So this is the team we have.  A 3-4 squad that has more than a few injuries on an offensive line currently being held together by duct tape and paper clips (plus the occasional stapler).  A running game that scares nobody…and a receiving corps where the supporting players are forced to carry the show.  The Redskins are at a crossroads after Sunday’s 33-19 loss to Dallas…because their next three games are against division leading Seattle, New Orleans and Minnesota.  Teams that are a combined 16-6.  Teams that could put the Burgundy and Gold four games under .500 as they enter Thanksgiving week.  They say March enters a lion and exits like a lamb…I’m feeling that November enters for the Redskins like a deer that just stepped on a nail that’s about to cross the GW Parkway.  Brace yourselves…

 

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 26 of 39 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown.  Unfortunately he lost a fumble and tossed an interception–and the Cowboys were able to generate 10 points off of those turnovers.  The pick-six reminded fans real quick about the Giants loss last year.  He was also sacked four times behind a makeshift offensive line and had minimal time to look deep.  The real loss for Kirk though was learning the SS Niners traded for a new captain in Jimmy Garoppolo.  This takes another ship away from Kirk–as Jared Goff is playing well for the Rams.  In the offseason one would have guessed that the Rams and Niners–with former Redskins Offensive Coordinators in charge–would be prime landing spots for Kirk.  Now I’m thinking Jacksonville might be the best place for his next five-year mission.  Episode Equivalent- “Elaan of Troyius”.  As bad as it sounds…with tears being used as a drug.

Running on Empty- the ground game gained a season-low 49 yards on 15 carries…with ten of those coming on the final play from scrimmage.  On a day where the rain and wind was less than ideal, the Skins ran the ball just 15 times.  For comparison, Ezekiel Elliott had 18 carries in the second half alone.

Catch Me if You Can- nine receptions for 123 yards gives Jamison Crowder a major game-ball…while Chris Thompson adds eight grabs for 76 yards.  That’s 65% of the day’s completions and 76% of the receiving yardage made by two guys who in an ideal world are complimentary players.  Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson & Terrelle Pryor combined for two catches for six yards.

Third and Maybe Not- the Skins moved the chains on 4 of 13 attempts.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 passes while getting sacked twice–losing a fumble on the first possession of the second half.  Ryan Grant was the top option with two conversions on three catches and four targets overall.  Distance breakdown:  1-for-1 on short yardage, 2-for-4 on medium (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1-for-8 on long yardage.  So…over 60% of their third downs were long yardage?  The Skins had more third & 20’s than third and shorts.  Not good…

Zach Brown Band- Bayside’s best led the team again with 12 tackles…as the free agent pickup currently leads the NFL with 75 stops.  As in over ten per game.  Unfortunately he’s playing behind a banged up line and in front of a shattered secondary.

Third Down D- the Skins held the Cowboys to 5 of 14 on the money down, forcing four field goals in the second half.  Truth be told there were a few plays wiped out by holding calls that would have resulted in big gains or touchdowns, but the D held its own on a short field.  Dallas twice converted on third and short by using running plays (I know, seriously?) and was 2-for-4 on the ground while 3-for-10 through the air.  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-4 on short yardage, 2-for-6 on medium yardage and 0-for-4 needing 7+ yards.

Special Situations-  well, well.  We’re not going to call the kicking game “special” this week because there were issues.  A blocked field goal that turned a potential nine-point lead into a one-point deficit. A missed extra point.  A penalty on a punt that resulted in 30 yards of field position gained by Dallas.  And Jamison Crowder muffed a punt.  Plenty to chew on this week.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 32 yards…with two contributing to Dallas scoring drives.  Just one on offense (false start-Moses), two on defense (offsides on Galette and unnecessary roughness on Brown) and two on special teams (low block on Way, illegal touch on Holsey).  The Way penalty was actually okay…as his low block prevented a Dallas TD on the blocked kick return.  At least the Skins forced them to run two plays inside the five.  Most costly penalty?  Brown’s flag put the Cowboys within field goal range…and gave them their final points of the day.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia leads the NFC East at 7-1 while also owning the #1 seed in the conference.  Dallas at 4-3 is in second place of the division;  the Cowboys are 9th in the NFC as they lose out on tiebreakers with Atlanta (conference record) and Green Bay (head to head).  The Skins 3-4 mark has them in third of the NFC East and 11th in the conference;  NFC records have them one spot behind Detroit and one slot ahead of Arizona.  The New York Giants after their bye week are 1-6 and in last place of the division;  they’re 15th in the NFC with winless San Francisco not chasing them as much as running in the other direction.

Conference Call- the NFC is 15-13 against the AFC after eight weeks.  The best division is the AFC East at 18-10 while the AFC North is a league-worst 13-18 (the Browns will do that to you).  The NFC East is 15-14 and trending in the right direction…I think.  How many more bye weeks to the Giants get?