Archives for posts with tag: Giants

Let’s be honest–who thought the banged up Redskins would find their way out of Seattle with a win?  Despite the fact that they’re now 4-0 in regular season games on that field. the Burgundy and Gold found a way to get it done against the NFC West-leading Seahawks.  So instead of starting a nine-week ballad about how the 2017 Skins couldn’t get it done, we’re back on the cusp of contention.  Half-full or half-empty at the halfway mark?

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 21 of 31 passes for 247 yards while getting sacked six times.  He directed the game-winning drive despite throwing behind a patchwork offensive line with weapons far less dangerous than previous years.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent?  “Arena”, where Kirk fights the Gorn-a badly costumed green lizard.  It didn’t look good for most of the hour, but Kirk somehow pulls out a victory.

Running in Place- the ground game was held to 51 yards on 23 carries.  That means over the last two weeks they’ve been held to 100 yards on 38 tries.  Not ideal…especially as the weather gets colder.

Third and Just Enough- the Skins moved the chains on 5 of 14 opportunities, with Kirk Cousins completing 6 of 10 passes while getting sacked once.  The two run plays were both sent in to eat up clock (not a ton of 3rd & 18 or 22 plays in the playbook). Vernon Davis made three catches on five targets-converting two of those.  Distance breakdown: 2-for-2 on short and medium yardage, oh-for- nine on 3rd and 7+ yards needed.

Zach Attack-  what can Brown do for you?  The keystone to the Skins’ D tallied 11 tackles and added a sack.  Will Compton added 8 stops.  The defense that was all to accommodating last fall is actually stopping teams for stretches .

Getting off of the Field-  the Skins held the Seahawks to 5-of-14 on the money down, including 1-for-6 in the first half.  Eight of those third downs were by longer than six yardsA.

Special Situations-  Nick Rose made his lone field goal attempt of the day (a 28-yarder).  Tress Way averaged 40 yards per punt.  At least they didn’t leave nine points on the board like their counterparts.

Flying Flags- seven infractions for 62 yards.  Four on the offense, two on the defense and one more on the special teams.  Vernon Davis’ hold was the team’s tenth of the season.  Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference give the cornerback a team-high six penalties on the year.  Most costly flag?  On a first half drive Breeland (Pass Interference) and Josh Norman (Horse-collar tackle) helped move the ball from the Niners’ 29-yard line to the Skins’ 25.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s atop the NFC East at 8-1…and the Eagles are the #1 team in the conference as well.  Dallas (5-3) holds down second place in the division and takes the second wildcard thanks to owning a better conference record than Seattle.  The Redskins at 4-4 have third place in the division all to themselves…and are one of five NFC teams tied for eighth.  Due to conference record tiebreakers, the Skins rest in the 10th spot-fair enough.  The New York Giants are thankful San Francisco remains winless…as the last place team remains 15th in the conference.  Bad news for the 1-7 G-men:  they are just two games away from being eliminated from the division race.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 19-14 edge after nine weeks.  The best division?  How about the AFC East at 19-14?  Even the sad-sack Jets are in the top ten of the conference.  The AFC North is 13-20 thanks to F seasons by the two C’s:  we all know 0-8 Cleveland is awful but 3-5 Cincinnati appears to be trying to keep them company.  the NFC East?  Just one game behind its AFC counterpart at 18-15.  And that’s with the Giants budgeted in there.

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So much for the descent into disaster.  The Redskins never trailed in their 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Rams…and for a while it was cool to see the George Allen-era Skins uniforms go against the George Allen-era Rams uniforms.  Now we have to wonder if week one was the aberration or week two was the mirage.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown…the game-winner to Ryan Grant.  While less than ten yards per completion is less than ideal, Cousins was turnover free this time out and was much better on third down.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “The Tholian Web”, where Kirk is trapped aboard the USS Defiant as it phases into another dimension.  Perhaps the Skins’ offense is phasing into a different dimension of its own.

Running Wild- I couldn’t see too well without my glasses…was that USC’s old “Student Body Right” on display at the Coliseum?  The Skins ran for 229 yards…their highest total since last October’s win over Philadelphia (ironically also a 27-20 score).  Robert Kelley provided the thunder (until he hurt his ribs) while Chris Thompson added the lightning (106 total yards on six touches) and rookie Samaje Perine provided the rain (67 yards on a team-high 21 carries).  Nobody expects “Hogs 2.0” to sustain a ground attack that regularly surpasses 200 yards, but consistently reaching 100 would help Cousins and the air game hit their stride.

Better to Receive- at least this time Terrelle Pryor didn’t have eleven targets.  Jordan Reed led the way with six catches for 48 yards while Ryan Grant acted like it was August all over again with his 11-yard TD grab.  Jamison Crowder notched three of his four catches on third down.

Third and Something- the Skins converted 5 of 13 attempts, with Kirk Cousins completing 7 of 12 passes (5 conversions) and Perine getting stopped for no gain on their lone run.  His top target?  Chris Thompson (4 targets, 1 catch and conversion) followed by Crowder (3, 3 and 2).  Eight of the 13 passes were thrown to the short right…while three more tossed to the short middle and the touchdown came on a pass to the short left.  Distance breakdown:  2 for 2 on short-yardage, 2 for 7 on medium range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1 for 4 in long-yardage situations.  Nine of 13 third downs are medium range or better?  I’ll take that.

Case for the Defense- I’m this close to going back to “Saved by the Bell” references as Zach Brown is producing like a powerhouse preppie.  With 10 tackles, the free agent pickup leads the team in stops for the second straight week.  Linebacker Preston Smith added a sack and two quarterback hits.  Cornerback Josh Norman forced another fumble with his well-placed punch.  Two more takeaways by the team give the Skins four on the season…tying the D for third in the NFL.

Third Down and Lockdown- even though the Rams moved the chains on 5 of 12 attempts, at least the defense didn’t get embarrassed on third and long–holding Jared Goff and LA to 0 for 7 on third and 7+ yards needed.  Bending but not breaking:  Goff completed 6 of 8 attempts but only three of those resulted in a first down (they also sacked him once).  While the Skins allowed both Todd Gurley short yardage runs to keep possessions alive, this was much better than the Philadelphia game.

Flying Flags- four penalties for 25 yards?  Who are these people!?  I’m used to Septembers where this team is committing multiple infractions on the same drive and often on the same play.   Instead– the team’s six penalties accepted over two weeks is the lowest in the league.  Two holds, a defensive hold and a neutral zone infraction were accepted Sunday (a facemask was offsetting and an ineligible downfield receiver was declined).  Jordan Reed is the early leader on the season with two flags (holding and pass interference).

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 51 yards per punt–placing both inside the 20-yard line.  Dustin Hopkins makes two of three field goal attempts, connecting from 22 and 41 yards while missing a 51-yarder.  It would be nice to have more production from the return game, but there were no major embarrassments and the coverage crew didn’t give up the big play.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia leads the NFC East via tiebreaker:  the Eagles and Dallas own 1-0 division marks to the Redskins 0-1 while Philly has the better point-differential.  The Skins are in third while the 0-2 Giants are in last…but take heart as Howie from Hoboken remembers that the 2007 team started 0-2 and won a Super Bowl.

Conference Competition- the AFC holds an early 4-3 edge in the race to 33 wins and interconference supremacy.  The AFC West (6-2) is marginally better than the NFC South (5-2) while each division has at least one 0-2 team.  A different race for #1 is underway…who’s feeling the draft?

SURPRISE!  The Redskins follow another underwhelming August for the starters by losing their regular season opener.  For those who’ve followed this team since coach Jay Gruden took over…did anybody expect anything else?  Backfiring offense?  You got it.  Disappointing defense that made some plays but came up short at the moment you needed them to come through?  Of course.  Special teams stumbles?  Bring on the muffed punt.  The big takeaway from Sunday’s 30-17 loss to Philadelphia was that many saw the seeds of this fruit weeks away.  Now they have to travel cross-country to face a Los Angeles Rams team that is coming off of a 46-9 rout of Indianapolis…and is coached by  Skins’ former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.   Giddy up!

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown…while tossing an interception and losing two fumbles.  The interception was in the red zone and took points off the board…while the second fumble was returned for the defeat-sealing touchdown.  One year after posting a passer rating of 97.3 in two games against the Eagles, Kirk clocked in Sunday at 72.9.  Episode Equivalent?  I’m feeling this is “The Way to Eden”, where space hippies take over the ship and Spock jams with them in the lounge.  The leader of said hippies has weirder ears than Spock.  It’s not Kirk’s fault 100% this episode has issues, but he doesn’t help it.

Running on Empty- one thing Kirk did do well was make plays with his feet, leading the Skins in rushing with 30 yards on four carries.  Running backs Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson combined for 34 yards on 13 tries.  Anytime the quarterback leads the team in rushing, it better be 1975 and his coach better be Darrell Royal, Barry Switzer or Frank Broyles.

Receiving Roulette– in the first game minus the DeSean & Garcon duo, Terrelle Pryor led the team with six catches for 66 yards.  But none of those grabs came on the team’s last three possessions.  Josh Doctson?  No receptions for the 2016 first-rounder.  Jordan Reed (injured toe that isn’t lingering, they promise) added five grabs for 36 yards and Ryan Grant proved he’s not merely a preseason sensation with four receptions for 61 yards.  And we wonder why Kirk Cousins didn’t sign a long-term deal in the offseason.

DeSean & Garcon- I wish I could quit those guys…but the former Skins receivers will feature prominently here this season.  Pierre caught six passes for 81 yards in the Niners loss to Carolina while Jackson’s regular season debut was pushed back as Tampa Bay’s game in Miami was postponed.

Hold the Line- the Redskins front five didn’t live up to their “Hogs 2.0” moniker, allowing four sacks while breakdowns in the running game forced the offense into more than their share of long-yardage situations.  Hopefully Trent Williams isn’t too banged up– the line needs their best player at 100%.  A legendarily bad offensive line is what helped cause the 4-12 crater of 2009…and the thought was that smart drafting and player acquisition over the last eight offseasons had made this unit a strength instead of a weakness.  Sunday seemed to be a step back after many steps forward.

Third and Less than Ideal- the Skins moved the chains on 3 of 11 opportunities, calling pass plays on each occasion.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 passes for 2 conversions, while scrambling for one first down while getting sacked once.  Three passes to the short middle (two conversions), three to the short left and three to the deep middle.  His top target?  Jermaine Crowder (three passes, three incompletions including the interception in the red zone).  Yardage breakdown:  1-1 in short yardage, 0-3 in mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-7 in long yardage.  Needing 7+ yards on 7 of 11 third downs is no way to move the ball.

What Brown can do for you- linebacker Zach Brown led the defense with 12 tackles…with two of those stops for losses.  One is always wary of free agent pickups in the world that gave us Adam Archuleta and Albert Haynesworth, but this move appears to be the right one from the start.

Quality not Quantity- Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t intercept a ton of passes, but he makes his picks count.  Sunday #91 returned a first half INT for a score…his third pick six in three career interceptions.  He also notched half of a sack to go with three tackles.  If the veteran can stay healthy and continue to wreak havoc this fall, the defense that ranked 28th last year will be much improved.

Third Down on D earns one- the inability to get off the field was an issue last year, and Sunday was no different.  The defense allowed the Eagles to move the chains on 8 of 14 attempts, including 5 of 9 on third and 7+ yards needed.  The defense was able to hold the Eagles on both of their third down plays, but was only able to sack Wentz once.

Flying Flags- just a pair of penalties for 15 yards to start the season.  That is marked improvement for a team that in recent years has consistently been near the top of the league in most flags.  The first-on Jordan Reed for holding-turned what would have been a 2nd and 10 into a 1st and 20 at midfield-the offense wound up punting.  The other-on Ryan Anderson for offsides-wiped out a Junior Galette sack and moved the Eagles in position to make a 42-yard field goal.  What did we say about quality verus quantity?

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 40.5 yards over four punts while Dustin Hopkins made his only field goal attempt (a 33-yarder)…and there were no situations where the Skins eschewed a long field goal for a punt.  The return game?  Jamison Crowders’ muff set up the Eagles second touchdown.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas is the week one leader, edging Philadelphia on point differential (+16 to +13).  The Skins are in third place due to the same tiebreaker over the New York Giants.  Again, it’s only week one…they’ll get things turned around, right???

 

The Redskins learned their upcoming regular season schedule last Thursday night…three months after learning all of their opponents for 2017 (beware that third place schedule).  Which brings in my two best Burgundy & Gold Buddies, Positive and Pessimist.  Both have plenty of thoughts about how the upcoming slate will progress.  Their projections average out to a final record of 6-7-3.

September 10- Philadelphia, 1 pm.  The Eagles enter year two of coach Doug Pederson’s regime…with Carson Wentz that much more polished than the guy who got swept by the Skins last year.  Can’t wait to see Kirk Cousins now that he finally has great new shiny toy in Terrelle Pryor plus a healthy Josh Doctson!  Don’t the Redskins always sleepwalk in September after going easy during the preseason?  Not feeling good at all here.

September 17- at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 pm.  First game back in the Coliseum since…when did they visit the LA Raiders?  Former Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay has a major rebuilding project on his hands.  Easy pickings- the Skins D will know McVay’s offense inside and out.  Chalk up another W!  Wouldn’t McVay know the ins and outs of the sad-sack Skins D?  But it’s impossible not to think of a successful sunny afternoon against these Rams-at least this year.

September 24- Oakland, 8:30 pm.  The first of five prime-time games for a team coming off an 8-7-1 record.  Hey, the NFL has to put somebody on.  Do we have to refer to them as “Oakland”?  I’m feeling there may be some tension between the city and team that will have them less than focused.  Whatever city they’re calling home, the Raiders boast Derek Carr at quarterback.  The first legit QB to face the Skins D will enjoy some easy pickings.

October 2- at Kansas City, Monday at 8:30 pm.  Consecutive prime-time games this early means the NFL is hedging their Burgundy & Gold bets…because a 1-2 Redskin team is so much better than a 2-7 squad.  Can you say 4-0 entering the bye?  I’m thinking Andy Reid finds a way to bungle this one.  Didn’t Reid own the Skins when he coached the Eagles?  And isn’t this game on Monday night?  Just what we need–two weeks of desperation.

October 15- San Francisco, 1 pm.  The coordinator reunion tour continues with a visit from Kyle Shanahan.  They needed two weeks to prepare for the 2-14 Forty-niners?  I’m never a fan of a west coast team playing at 1 ET…except when it helps the Skins.  W.  There’s no way they can lose this game, right????

October 22- at Philadelphia, Monday at 8:30 pm.  Another prime-time game?  Guys in the beltway area will be dragged to apple picking, brunches and antiquing early and often Sunday afternoons this fall.  Seriously, Carson Wentz got locked in a gas station bathroom last offseason!  Didn’t the Skins escape both games last year?  Philly will be better, and Wentz will be wiser (at least, he’ll take his cel in the bathroom with him).

October 29- Dallas, 4:25 pm. Six of the Skins’ first eight games will be on national TV.  They return a bottom-10 defense and are going through trust/confidence issues with a quarterback who loses both of his wideout weapons?  Hmm.  Next to fans fighting in the stands, nothing is more certain about a Redskins-Cowboys game than it will go down to the wire.  I feel good.  Dallas will be that much better with Dak Prescott…at least during the regular season.  I have a feeling we’ll see Colt McCoy that day.

November 5- at Seattle, 4:05 pm. Technically a part of FOX’s regional package…back in the day when there were blackouts this always used to be referred to as the “Curt Menefee-Brian Baldinger” slot.  Tough to keep the glass half-full out west…where this team never plays well.  Doubling down on that–it gets loud out there and it could get ugly.  The late-afternoon start means more apple-picking.  Great.

November 12- Minnesota, 1 pm.  Two teams trying to get back into the playoffs after each barely missed the postseason in 2016…and both should be in the mix again this fall.  Will Teddy Bridgewater be healthy?  If not, I’m looking forward to facing Ryan Reynolds-lookalike Sam Bradford.  A win? Definitely Maybe.  The Vikes should have won here last year…and they’ll likely have a better QB.  Deadpool rocked!

November 19- at New Orleans,  1 pm.  The pre-Thanksgiving Sunday game gets them home by 8 Sunday night…unlike last year when they were supremely hosed by the league.  The Superome features no D whatsoever by the home team…and Drew Brees is a year older.  I’ll take it.  Brees can still pick apart most defenses…and the Skins aren’t like most defenses.  They’re likely going to be worse.

November 23- NY Giants, Thursday at 8:30 pm.  Who gets this call- Al Michaels or Mike Tirico?  Either way, NBC has an NFC East showdown supreme.  How did we lose to this team in week 17 last year?  Eli’s good for at least two ill-placed interceptions.  Break out the pumpkin pie!  Thanksgiving Night?  Great–after dealing with relatives I don’t want to see I have to head over to Fed Ex Field for a late-night travesty.  Thanks for nothing…

November 30- at Dallas, Thursday at 8:30 pm.  Finally a Thursday night game where both teams aren’t working on short rest.  Why doesn’t the league have its TNF foes be the ones coming off byes?  They’d be better rested and prepared.  This should be for first place in the NFC East…I can already see Pryor turning the Cowboy secondary inside-out.  The Cowboys get consecutive Thursday night games?  Further proof the NFL is out to get this team.

December 10- at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 pm.  They’re playing this game not at the Coliseum but in a soccer stadium.  Anything to get that second team in LA.  Rested and refreshed, the perfect way to begin the stretch run.  Philip Rivers can still play, and after back to back prime time games against division foes this is prime time for a major letdown. Don’t let the palm trees hit you on the way out…

December 17- Arizona, 1 pm.  Another morning body-clock game for a team out west!  Although doesn’t Arizona become Mountain Time in the in the winter?  I forget.  Daylight Saving is such a scam.  Skins take advantage of a sleepwalking Cardinals team that’s probably out of contention.  Did you see what they did after a slow start last year?  If Carson Palmer is healthy…watch out.

December 24- Denver, 1 pm.  Odd to see an interconference game this late in the schedule.  Sucks for the Broncos to have to fly across the country on Christmas Eve.  Another early game against a team from the west?  Is this a makeup for last year’s BS?  We’ll take it on the way to the playoffs.  These are precisely the games the Skins lose late in the year against non-division foes that might be out of the hunt.

December 31- at NY Giants, 1pm/4:25pm/8:30pm.  Face it, this game will probably be flexed in some way.  Unless it’s like 2013 when probably the worst game ever played ended the Mike Shanahan era.  Ringing in the new year with another Division Title banner.  Nothing like having a New Year’s hangover on New Year’s Day.

 

 

Did you expect the Redskins season to wrap up any other way?  The Burgundy and Gold are in prime playoff position after their 41-21 win at Chicago…within striking distance of making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1990-92.  As in the end of Gibbs I.  As in eight coaching regimes ago.  Special thanks to Tampa Bay and Detroit for losing two straight games as the Skins were able to capitalize this time.

Playoff Picture- Redskins are in with a win plus the Green Bay-Detroit game not ending in a tie.  If that is the case then the Packers win the NFC North and the Lions take the wildcard.  A Skins loss ends the season.  A tie (heaven forbid) means the Burgundy and Gold need a Green Bay loss plus a Tampa Bay loss or tie to play the following weekend.  Take heart…the Buccaneers and Packers if tied for a playoff berth the “strength of victory” tiebreaker would be used to parse two 9-7 teams.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 270 yards and a touchdown while running for two more scores (shades of RG3! not really).  There’s quite a bit of debate surrounding whether or not to pay #8 what he’ll demand…but Cousins has given the franchise stability at a position that has had eight primary QB’s this century. Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “Journey to Babel”.  Spock’s parents show up and there’s a murder mystery aboard the Enterprise…with Kirk making just the right moves while not upstaging anybody else.

Tragedy of Robert III- the former face of the franchise continues to thrive in exile, throwing for 164 yards while running for 42 more in directing Cleveland to their first win of the season.  Sadly he suffered a concussion in the Browns’ victory, and remains a question mark for the season finale against Pittsburgh.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown…or at least the helmet.

Resurrecting the Run-  from 29 yards on the ground against Carolina to 208 against the Bears!  Sadly, these aren’t the Singletary Bears of the 80’s…or even the Butkus Bears of the 60’s.  Still, Robert Kelley pounded out 76 yards on 19 carries while Mack Brown delivered a 61-yard knockout punch in the fourth quarter.

DeSean & Garcon- the duo delivered again, notching nine catches for 208 yards.  On a week where the Skins were without tight end Jordan Reed, those two secondary-smashers were even more important.  This is going to be one tough offseason…

Third and Solid- after going 2-for-12 on the money down against Carolina, the Skins moved the chains on 8 of 13 attempts against Chicago.  That’s not including two penalties against the Bears that moved the marker on third down after the Redskins were stymied.  Kirk Cousins went 6-for-9 with 4 conversions while scrambling for another first down.  They ran three times…moving the chains all three times.  DeSean Jackson was the top target, catching both passes intended for him and moving the marker once.  Cousins’ safe spot?  Short and to the right (3-4 with one conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-4 on short yardage (including 2-2 on the ground), 3-for-6 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), and 2-for-3 on third and long.  Stat you don’t see:  10 of the 13 attempts needed six yards or less, meaning the gameplan got things done on 1st and 2nd down.

Defense?  I’m all for it- the Skins rank 15th in the NFC in total defense and Saturday saw a season’s worth of highs and lows.  They tallied five interceptions but still coughed up 458 total yards to a bad offense directed by a quarterback who may be taking his next snaps in Canada.  The Bears converted 7-of-10 third downs and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.  One will take the win…but now one wonders what happens when they face a real offense again.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 73 yards this time (Skins commit the 11th most infractions in the league).  Two were on offense (illegal substitution plus a hold on Brandon Scherff), three were on defense (Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference,  Duke Ihenacho’s horse-collar tackle and Mason Foster’s illegal use of the hands) and two more were on special teams (illegal block by Terrence Garvin and Ty Nsekhe’s “leverage” penalty on an extra point).  Most costly penalty?  Foster’s illegal hands turned a 2nd & 9 at the Bears’ 28 into a 1st & 10 at the 42…jumpstarting a touchdown drive for Chicago.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas takes their 19th NFC East title at 13-2…but they had already wrapped up the division plus home field advantage when the NY Giants lost to Philadelphia.  The Giants are already assured of the #5 seed in the conference, while Philadelphia had locked up last place the previous week.  So for the first time since the 2007 season the Skins don’t finish first or last.  Ricky Bobby has to be smiling somewhere…

East is the Beast- the NFC East takes top division honors with one week remaining…posting a composite mark of 37-22-1.  The AFC West (36-24) takes second while some last-month maneuvering by the AFC North (24-35-1 but 9-6 in December) puts the NFC West (21-37-2 and 5-11 over the last month) in the lowlight spotlight of the league’s most depressing division.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM in September-little did we know at the time that Dak Prescott would be awesome and the Giants would go 8-2 in one-possession games.

How did the world get flipped in such a manner over the last 12 months?  It’s amazing how one year ago the Redskins were viewed as the hot mess of the NFC East compared to the “stable situations” in Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants.  Instead of being picked for another last place finish (there were eight over an eleven year stretch from 2004-14), the 2016 Redskins are a consensus selection not only to win the division but also (heaven forbid) win a playoff game.  Baltic Avenue has suddenly become Park Place.  How on earth did we get here?

For years the rest of the division laughed at the slippery sand the Skins built successive foundations on.  Norv Turner’s demise one year after a playoff berth?  The Schottenheimer experiment?  Spurrier and the signing of every available Florida Gator free agent?  Gibbs 2.0 calling 2 timeouts in a loss to Buffalo?  Zorn’s “Maroon and Black” outfit?  The hits (actually misses) kept on coming before the failed Shanahan & Son regime that featured a brittle quarterback the franchise gave away the house to acquire.  In the meantime, the Giants were winning Super Bowls, the Eagles were at least disappointing their fans on the NFC Championship/Super Bowl stage, and the Cowboys were racking up double-digit victory seasons with which to tease their faithful.  The team that called Fed Ex Field its home delivered nothing but misery for its burgundy and gold jersey wearing crew.

A franchise is nothing if it doesn’t have a strong chain of command.  Whatever you think of the owner, his hire of Bruce Allen at least rid the team of Redskin Rasputin Vinny Cerrato (seriously, I’m still wondering how he was gainfully employed by this franchise for most of the last decade).  And whatever your impression is of what exactly it is Allen does, he provides a buffer between the throne room and coaching office.  Jay Gruden may be the younger brother of a larger-than-life ESPN personality, but despite the fact that he consistently drops his “G’s” in press conferences the hire paid off with an NFC East title last fall.  Scott McCloughan came to Ashburn with a little baggage but a lot of potential as a franchise-builder…and while the roster is still in the process of being reshaped, at least he pronounces his draftees’ names correctly (I still can’t forgive Cerrato for Brian “Orapko”).  That brings us to having a solid quarterbacking situation.

Kirk Cousins enters his second season as the starter…and the Skins boast the only coach-QB combination in the division that returns from 2014.  This all of a sudden is the most stable signal-caller situation in Ashburn since…Mark Rypien in the early 90’s?  Please go ahead and tell me that Brad Johnson was on stable footing with Jeff George brought in as a free agent in 2000…

Normally one wouldn’t be so confident about a 9-7 squad that didn’t beat a playoff team en route to the postseason…but have you seen the rest of the neighborhood?  I mean have you seen it???

Dallas?  Jason Garrett has all of the legitimacy of an Iron Curtain regime…and the quarterback situation there is less than ideal.  For the third time since 2010, injuries have derailed Tony Romo’s season and now we get…rookie Dak Prescott?  Fear not, the same Mark Sanchez that couldn’t beat Trevor Sieman for the starting spot with Denver is waiting in the wings.  QB issues aside, there’s always an arrest around the corner with the Cowboys as well.  Dumpster fire…

New York Giants?  Yes, Eli Manning is back…and the 35 year old actually has played better lately (30 and 35 touchdown seasons after tossing a league-high 27 interceptions in 2013).  And he has his offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo running the whole show now.  Before you start saying Ray Handley, the issues of this team will be on the defensive side of the ball–the Giants allowed the most yards and third most points in the league last fall. Grease fire…

Philadelphia?  Somehow the team that posted back to back 10-6 seasons completely imploded last fall.  After handing all of the personnel power to Chip Kelly only to see the coach dismantle what was a playoff team, the Eagles fired the coach and brought aboard former assistant Doug Pederson to rebuild this wreck.  They’ll start their fifth primary quarterback in five years…with rookie Carson Wentz getting the nod Sunday after playing one quarter in the preseason.  Eagles fans hope the first-round pick will be “locked in”.  Figuratively of course…not like when Wentz found himself trapped in a New Jersey gas station bathroom in the offseason and they needed garden shears to rescue him. Tire fire…

Monday Night Football is a four-letter word around the district, beltway, commonwealth and select Maryland counties.  MNF could almost be transposed to “MF!” (kids under a certain age, that stands for “Massive Failings!”).  The Redskins had a chance to hold on to the #6 playoff spot handed to them last night when Tampa Bay lost to Dallas.  Instead, they coughed up a 26-15 clunker loss to Carolina and slid back into the NFC wildcard swamp.  

Much like Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three ghosts, the Burgundy and Gold was haunted by three visitors:  the Ghost of MNF Past (the team is now 2-16 in Landover on Monday night), the Ghost of Playoff Picture Present (Skins need to win out plus get help from multiple teams to make the postseason) and the Ghost of Kirk Cousins Contract Conversations Yet to Come (that’ll be a nice thing to focus on this offseason).  God bless us, everyone!

For Starters- the worst-kept secret around the league is how the Redskins are slow to get in gear.  Over the last four games they’ve been outscored  53-28 in the first half and 27-3 in the first quarter.  This means the team has had to abandon the run during the second half as they’re playing catch-up.  Monday three of their first six possessions failed to yield a first down…and a fourth saw an interception. If they get outscored in the first half by the Bears…watch out.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 315 yards…but tossed a first-quarter interception that set up a Carolina field goal and lost a third-quarter fumble that set up the Panthers lone touchdown after intermission.  Third down was a nightmare again…as the red zone was more maroon and black than burgundy and gold.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “That Which Survives”, an episode that gets off to a confusing start and meanders for sixty minutes while producing drama yet not delivering greatness.

Tragedy of Robert III- well, the House of Griffin continues to attempt to re-establish itself as a pretender to the thrown in the Bailiwick of Brown.  RG3 threw for 196 yards while running for 48 more and the team’s lone touchdown in a 33-13 loss to Buffalo.  Meaning he gets to start in week sixteen against San Diego.

Running in Place- 13 carries for 29 yards…and running the ball on fewer than 20% of their plays from scrimmage.  Robert Kelley had his lowest output since a 15 yard effort against Detroit.  As it gets colder, the ground game becomes more important…and since the win over Green Bay it’s become much less productive.

DeSean and Garcon- the duo combined for 14 catches and 189 yards but nary a touchdown.  Two of Jackson’s grabs were of the sweet-scraping-both-feet-in-bounds variety, while Garcon was the usual tough customer.  Makes up for Jordan Reed tallying as many punches reaching opponents helmets (he was ejected in the second half) as receptions.

Third Down and Really Down- the Skins moved the chains on 2 of 12 attempts…and were 0-for-6 after halftime.  Robert Kelley was stuffed on 3rd & 2 in a run up the middle on the Skins’ lone run.  Kirk Cousins completed 3 of 11 passes on the money down, moving the chains twice.  The top target?  A tie between…guess who?  DeSean & Garcon each were thrown to four times…each reaching the marker once.  Cousins was 2-for-6 with one conversion throwing short to his right…and 1-for-4 with one conversion throwing short to his left.  Yardage breakdown? An ugly 0-for-3 on short-yardage, 1-3 on 3rd & 4-6 yards needed, and 1-6 on 3rd and long.  That 50% of the team’s third downs needed 7+ yards was a symptom of an ineffective offense on first and second down.

Defense, for Starters- Martell Spright notched 15 tackles in his first NFL start.  Mason Foster adds 13 stops.  They also held the Panthers to 4 of 15 on third down…forcing field goals to prevent the game from getting out of hand.  The defense bent but did not break…although in a game where the 2nd ranked offense produces just 15 points, bending was bad enough.

Semi-Special Teams- Tress Way after six punts the previous three weeks had to kick six times against the Panthers, averaging 47.7 yards per attempt.  Kicker Dustin Hopkins made field goal attempts of 26, 34 and 43 yards but missed an extra point.  The return game saw Will Blackmon bring the second half kickoff out of the endzone and get stopped at the 14…preceding the possession that ended on Kirk Cousins’ fumble that set up a short field for Carolina.

Flying Flags- the Skins were penalized seven times for 70 yards.  Four on offense (two holds, illegal hands and an unnecessary roughness), one on defense (facemask on Greg Toler), and two on special teams (illegal block and illegal formation).  While Josh Norman avoided dirty laundry this week his 12 penalties remain the most on the team.  Brandon Scherff’s hold gives him four of those calls this year and seven penalties on the season, good enough for a tie for second with Vernon Davis and Bashaud Breeland.  Worst penalty?  Jordan Reed’s punch/unnecessary roughness that turned a 2nd & goal from the 12 into a 2nd and 27.  Down two scores they had to settle for a field goal.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas  (12-2) topped Tampa Bay 26-20 to move within one win or one Giants loss away from locking up the NFC East.  One victory or one New York Giants loss delivers the division.  The Giants 17-6 triumph over Detroit clinches at least second place in the division and puts Eli Manning and company on the threshold of the Wildcard.  The third place Skins’ loss means they’re 7-6-1, 9th place in the conference and needing to finish 2-0 plus get help from orators.  Philadelphia’s 27-26 loss at Baltimore means the Eagles are officially eliminated from playoff contention and assured of last place in the NFC East.

East is the Beast- even with the Monday night loss, the NFC East remains the gold standard (34-21-1) while the AFC West is one half game back at 34-22.  The AFC North remains the division of depression.

Path to the Playoffs-in order for the Redskins to make the playoffs as a wildcard, they need to finish 2-0 (I’m not going the 1-0-1 route, even though an 8-6-2 season would be divine).  They then need to have Green Bay or Tampa Bay each lose once…or one of those teams plus Detroit go 1-1.