Archives for posts with tag: Kirk Cousins

Saturday’s 21-17 Preseason loss might not eliminate the Redskins from an NFC East Preseason banner…but a lot would need to happen for coach Jay Gruden to capture their first August trophy since 2013.  What is obviously more important is how the team is coming together.  The preseason is such an easy time to write off…or see what one wants to see as a team gets ready for the regular season.  But despite the fact that the Skins went 3-1 in each of coach Gruden’s first three preseasons, his team stumbled out of the gates at 1-2 each fall.  So maybe an 0-2 start in August is a good omen.  Just don’t look at the 2006 team the sleepwalked through the preseason before finishing 5-11 (not too good).

Captain Kirk- now that is what we wanted to see!  More than two possessions!  The franchise tagged one competed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown while playing the whole first half.  It did take Cousins and the first team a while to find themselves, gaining just 8 net yards over their first 10 plays from scrimmage.  But Cousins finished with the bang of a 10-play, 78-yard march that resulted in a 4-yard TD toss to Jamison Crowder.

Back Up Bingo- the other QB’s mirrored Cousins’ performance, combining to hit 14 of 22 passes for 134 yards and a score.  Colt McCoy directed the Skins to 115 yards on 19 plays  (6.1 yards per play) over three third quarter possessions, while Nate Sudfeld led the team to 81 yards on 15 plays (5.4) over 3 drives.

Running on Empty- the ground game garnered just 64 yards on 22 carries.  Samaje Perine (45 yards on 8 carries plus a 29-yard reception) impressed again after leading the team in rushing against the Ravens (albeit with just 15 yards).  The rest of the running backs?  A less than productive 14 yards on 13 carries.  In coach Jay Gruden’s three previous seasons the team ranked 19th, 20th and then 21st on the ground.  Who’s ready for finishing #22 this fall?

Thompson Time- even though he gained just 1 yard on 2 tries, Chris Thompson made his presence known in the passing game with 5 catches for 52 yards.  In a week without Jordan Reed, the air attack saw some contributions from rookie Robert Davis (4 grabs for 36 yards) and Josh Doctson’s first-ever preseason reception (a 12 yard catch!).  One remains bummed that Ryan Grant (2 catches for 7 yards on 4 targets) has yet to reach his customary August awesomeness.

Third Down and Downer- moving the chains on 6 of 17 attempts is technically better than the 2-for-13 shown last week.  Thank goodness it’s only August.  Cousins converted on 3 of his 9 chances, while Colt McCoy moved the marker on 3 of 5 opportunities.  Nate Sudfeld?  A “he’s just a second-year player 0-for-3”.  The Skins ran 14 pass plays (4-14 conversions) and 3 running plays (2-3).  Yardage breakdown: 4 for 5 when under 4 yards were needed, 1 for 6 when 4 to 6 yards were necessary and 1 for 6 on third and 7+.

Case for the Defense- Chris Carter led the sack pack with 1.5 of the team’s 5 against the Packers…while Zach Virgil and Nico Marley each notched 4 tackles with 3 solo stops to pace the D.  No turnovers for the defense though–and they did allow Green Bay to move the chains on 7 of 15 attempts.  Will Junior Galette ever suit up for this team and will be be the silver bullet they desperately need…especially with Trent Murphy done for 2017?

Special Situations- Niles Paul recovered a fumbled punt…and that resulted in the Skins’ first points of the night.  The return game may have averaged less than 20 yards on kickoffs and less than 5 yards on punts, but the coverage team wasn’t embarrassed either.  Dustin Hopkins connected on a 43-yard attempt and Tress Way averaged over 43 yards per punt.

So much for a Preseason banner.  The franchise that has treated us to three straight 3-1 Augusts under coach Jay Gruden is in danger of its first non-winning preseason since 2010.  On the bright side, it’s August.  Many of the players you saw in Thursday’s 23-3 loss at Baltimore will not be around September 10th when Philadelphia drops by Fed Ex Field.  So there’s that.  Also, many of the players expected to be major contributors either saw minimal snaps (Kirk Cousins) or didn’t play at all (Junior Galette) against the Ravens.  Lastly, as it was an interconference loss the Skins would still look pretty good on tiebreakers for an NFC East Preseason title.  As dominant as they’ve been this decade (21-8), the Burgundy and Gold haven’t been the top division team in August since they went 4-0 in 2013.

 

Captain Kirk- the franchise tagged one played just two series, completing 1-2 passes for 5 yards and got sacked once.  He completed no passes to Jordan Reed (who didn’t play) and couldn’t find Josh Doctston downfield (he also sat).  Minus his usual array of weapons and a small sample size, this wasn’t as impressive as last year’s 5-for-5.  But it’s only August.

Backups Back Up- instead of thrilling us like Colt Brennan or the legendary Babe Laufenberg, the Skins backups combined to complete 11 of 25 passes for 108 yards and an interception.  Don’t Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld know that this is August?  That’s when Ryan Grant explodes for 5 catches and 100 yards!  Instead, the perennial preseason star notched just one grab for 17–although it did lead to one of the team’s eight first downs.

First Half Glass Half Empty- if you write off the second half as the back ends of both rosters saw the majority of playing time after intermission, they gained just 48 yards on 24 plays from scrimmage in the first and second quarters.  The Ravens? A robust 155 yards on 39 plays.  So the D wasn’t exactly rock-solid either.  Repeat after me: it’s only August.

Running on Empty- the ground game gained just 39 yards on 18 carries…with Samaje Perine leading the way with 15 yards on 6 tries.  But the rookie from Oklahoma also fumbled, dropped a pass and struggled in pass protection.  Decidedly less than ideal…even if it is only August.

Three &…it’s only August- the Burgundy and Gold converted just 2 of 13 third downs against the Ravens.  QB breakdown:  Cousins was sacked, Colt McCoy went 2-4 with one conversion, and Nate Sudfeld went 0-4 with a punt-inducing sack.  Run-pass comparison:  1 for 2 on runs and 1 for 11 on pass plays.  Yardage:  1-3 on short-yardage, 0-3 on medium yardage (in between 4 and 6 yards needed to move the chains) and 1-7 on long-yardage.

Defensively- they did hold the Ravens to 5-15 on third down.  If there was one achilles last year for this defense that did not involve Junior Galette, it was the team’s inability to get off the field on third down.  Zach Virgil and Josh Harvey-Clemons led the D with six stops apiece…while Nico Marley tallied four tackles and a sack.  Zach Brown also had four stops…and gives me hope that I can use his weekly performances to talk “Saved by the Bell”.

Special Situations- remember just a few years ago when the Skins’ kicking game was a nightmare?  Not so in 2017…as Dustin Hopkins connects from 49 yards in his only field goal attempt.  Tress Way punted nine times for an average of 46 yards per kick…and the return game averaged just under 20 yards on kickoffs and 10 yards on punts.  Kick coverage was solid (10 yards per return)…and despite Keenan Reynolds 46 yard punt return, the punt coverage wasn’t embarrassing.  I like the fact that only 2 of Way’s 9 punts were returned…although the 2 touchbacks were less than ideal.

Flying Flags- 7 penalties for 91 yards.  Again, many of these infractions are by players who will not be here this time next month.  So we move on…unless it gets worse as the regulars play more.

Injuries- the defense took a hit with Trent Murphy and Su’ah Cravens both suffering knee injuries.  No word on the severity of either.  The team was going to miss Murphy anyway with the linebacker serving a suspension for PED’s from weeks one through four of the regular season…but the loss of Cravens hurts as the converted linebacker still has strides to make settling into his new position.

One more weekend in Richmond- the team finishes its stay in the Commonwealth’s capital with workouts Saturday and Sunday.

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.

 

One down, three to go.  The Redskins traditional sprint to the finish begins with another underwhelming first half but a victory at slowly sinking Philadelphia.  The 27-22 victory might not propel the team into the second wildcard just yet, but with three weeks remaining the Skins are in position to be in position.

Another Close Call- anyone surprised this came down to the final minute?  Ten of the team’s 13 games this year have been decided by eight points or fewer…and while the Skins are 5-4-1 in those games, it doesn’t help anybody sleep any easier.  What is nice is the team’s second half surges…since starting 0-2, the Burgundy and Gold has outscored opponents in 8 of their last 11 games.

Captain Kirk-  yes, he threw a pick-six.  What is it about the Eagles?  The face of the franchise completed 14 of 21 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns…while leading the team back from another halftime deficit.  Another 4,000 yard season in the books…with a 100+ passer rating.  For those curious, that’s the third time in four weeks Cousins has guided the team to 20 points or more in the second half.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “The Trouble with Tribbles”- frustrating at times, but all the elements of a tough win are in place.  The Enterprise has to deal with little fur-balls that multiply while eating nonstop.  Tribbles also irritate Klingons, so Scotty gets the last laugh by transporting them onto their ship-“where they’ll be no tribble at all”.

Tragedy of Robert III- the former face of the franchise returned to action for Cleveland, completing 12 of 28 passes for 104 yards and an interception in the Browns’ 23-10 defeat against Cincinnati.

Running on a Balanced Ticket- Robert Kelley led the way with 63 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while Chris Thompson provided the ideal mixer with 38 carries on three tries (including the game winning 25-yard scamper for a score).  As a team, the Skins ran 23 times and had 23-pass plays called.  In 2016 that’s downright conservative.  Here’s to making the running game great again!

Garcon & DeSean- a lot has been made this season about how the team will not be able to afford both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon after their contracts expire.  Sunday, each made their case for retention:  Jackson with an 80-yard TD reception in the third quarter to provide a spark when the team needed one most and Pierre with a clutch grab on 4th and 1 to set up the game-winning score.  DeSean provides the sizzle, Garcon the steak.  Enjoy this next month, because this may be the final dance for this veteran duo in DC.

Third and Limited- the Skins went 2 for 7 on the money down, with Kirk Cousins suffering through a rough 0-for-4 with one sack performance.  He did run for two yards on a third and one while Robert Kelley had a five yard gain on a third and one…hold on.  Running on third down?  I know, miracles never cease.  Jermaine Crowder was the top target with three.  Yardage breakdown:  2-for-4 on third and short, 0-2 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed) and 0-1 on third and long.

D earns a C- yes, they were pushed around for most of the afternoon as the Eagles had six drives of 10 plays or more…and ran 39 plays from scrimmage in the first half.  And my pet peeve of defensive backs making way too many tackles continues with four of Sunday’s top five tacklers being DB’s.  But Mason Foster (12 stops and a sack), Deshazor Everett (interception in the end zone) and Ryan Kerrigan (a sack/forced fumble on the Eagles final drive) made up for an underwhelming afternoon where Philly had the ball for over 36 minutes.

Flying flags- only five penalties this time…for 86 yards.  One on offense…any guesses?  Yes, false start (Morgan Moses this time)- the team’s 24th (tied for the most in the NFL) this fall.  Pass interference (Quinton Dunbar) was the only defensive infraction…while three of the penalties came on special teams.  Deshazor Everett was whistled twice-for an illegal block above the waist on a punt return and “interference with an opportunity to catch” on a punt.  The other flag was a hold on a kickoff return.  Most costly penalty?  Everett’s illegal block meant the Skins’ drive began at their 16 instead of the 31-right before Cousins threw the pick-six.

Special Circumstances- Dustin Hopkins missed a 38-yard field goal, awakening the same villagers who stormed other kickers in previous years with torches and pitchforks.  He’s now 28 of 35 on the season:  80% is good enough for 20th in the NFL.  Tress Way averaged 47 yards per punt.  The return and coverage games provided neither feast nor famine.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas (11-2) missed a chance to clinch the NFC East, as their 10-7 loss to the New York Giants was their first defeat since they fell at home to…well, the Giants in week one.  Now other teams have two gametapes to pore over when preparing for the Cowboys, who remain in first place in the division and NFC overall.  The Giants (9-4) moved one step closer to the playoffs; their next game against Detroit could very well be a Wildcard Round preview.  The Redskins (7-5-1) remain in third place while still standing one half game behind streaking Tampa Bay (8-5 with five straight wins) for the final playoff berth in the NFC.  The Buccaneers battle Dallas Sunday night.  Philadelphia?  Eight losses in ten games drops the Eagles (5-8) to the precipice of playoff elimination:  a loss in week 15 at Baltimore or wins by Tampa Bay or the Redskins move Philly into draft-mode.

Best Division Banner up for Grabs- the AFC West (33-19) has a half game lead over the NFC East (32-19-1)…while there’s a new division of depression.  The NFC West after an 0-4 weekend that saw Seattle get smacked, Arizona come up short in the rain, San Francisco collapse, and the Rams finally rid itself of the Jeff Fisher Virus is 18-32-2.  Hats off to the AFC North that has to swim through the waters of the 2016 season tethered to the anvil that is Cleveland.

So much for the cushion the Burgundy and Gold possessed just a few weeks ago at 6-3-1. The combination of the Thanksgiving turkey at Dallas and Sunday’s 31-23 loss at Arizona means the Skins once again enter the final quarter of the season on the outside of the playoff pack…and wouldn’t we have it any other way?  What is December without this team making a playoff push while needing multiple dominoes to fall?  Unless it’s one of those Decembers when disaster is in full bloom and a regime change is in the offing.

Destiny- over the last few weeks there’s been quite some talk about trying to “control one’s destiny”.  Let the record show that I understand that one does not “control” one’s destiny, our destiny controls us.  That is why I pledge until the end of time to say “control one’s path to the playoffs/postseason”.  You’re welcome and thank you.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise completed 21 of 37 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown…while losing a fumble and tossing an interception.  All without much of a running game to speak of…and against the leagues #1 defense overall and second best pass defense.  He played well…just not well enough.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- Return of the Archons:  nice episode that somehow doesn’t stay with you as much as the others but still more than watchable.

Running in Circles- well, at least they gained more than 56 yards this week…even though the ground game failed to reach the century mark for the second straight game.  Robert Kelley’s 14 carries for 63 yards led the stable of backs-actually Chris Thompson’s 2 tries for 24 yards feels more like an accounting error than anything else.  With a defense that’s not exactly defending…it’s nice to be able to run more than 18 times over the course of a game.

Receiving Praise- I will admit I didn’t know how much Vernon Davis had left in the tank when he was signed in the offseason.  He felt like one of those guys (Larry Johnson) who the team picked up at the end of his career…only to see the player not last through final cuts.  He has more than enough left in the tank:  filling in for the injured Jordan Reed Davis tallied 5 catches for 47 yards.  Garcon will have more receptions and Jackson will have more yards, but Davis’ presence can be one that could power this team to the postseason.

Third and Just Not Good Enough- the Redskins converted 5 of 11 third downs, with almost half of those attempts needing seven yards or more.  The team went 2 for 3 on third and short (less than four yards needed) and 2 for 3 or third and medium (4-6 yards needed) but 1 for 5 on third and long.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 third down passes for 4 conversions while getting sacked once and running the ball himself for the other yardage marker-mover.  The top target?  Jermaine Crowder (4 targets with 1 catch & conversion) while Pierrer Garcon moved the sticks twice with both of his targets/receptions.

Defense Going from Decent to Dismal- three of the top four tacklers were defensive backs…already a bad sign.  A bad first drive where the Cardinals moved the ball 75 yards on 15 plays for a touchdown.  A last-minute drive in the first half that saw Arizona move 65 yards after the two-minute warning to kick a field goal.  Two more 75-yard drives in the second half to seal defeat.  The inability to stop Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson when it mattered cost the team Sunday, but at least they’re facing free-falling Philadelphia in week 13.

Kicking with Confidence-  Dustin Hopkins drilled field goals attempts of 20, 47 and 53 yards through the uprights (amazing what not having major glare in your face will do) while Tress Way averaged 44.5 yards per punt.  No kickoff returns and no major disasters from a return or coverage standpoint on punts.  Move along…

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 35 yards.  Definitely not ideal, but at least they got off with the bare minimum of yardage per infraction.  Four of the five offensive penalties were false starts (illegal shift the outlier);  the team’s 23 this season are the most in the NFL.  Two of those false starts were against Shaun Lauvao…giving him four for the year.  The defensive penalties were offsides (Kerrigan) and holding (Norman- his 15 flags this fall lead the team).  Most costly infraction?  A tie between false starts from Vernon Davis and Lauvao on the opening drive that turned a 2nd & 1 into a 2nd & 11.  Even in the desert, when it rains…

Dissecting the Division-  Dallas (11-1) after their 17-15 win over Minnesota clinched a playoff berth when the Redskins lost and now is on the precipice of wrapping up the NFC East.  A win plus a Seattle loss locks up home field advantage for the playoffs.  The New York Giants’ six game winning streak ended with a 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh;  at 8-4 they still own the #1 wildcard spot.  The Redskins (6-5-1) slip one half game behind Tampa BAy for the final playoff berth in the conference.  Philadelphia?  The 32-14 loss at Cincinnati drops the Eagles to 5-7…and after starting September hot this team has cooled down to the tune of seven losses in nine games.  They’re currently in 12th place of the NFC.

West now Best- with three losses Sunday, the NFC East (30-17-1) fell behind the AFC West (32-16) in the race for best composite divisional record.  They hang a banner for that, right?  The AFC North (18-29-1) suffers from having Cleveland in their quartet-but Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are 3-7-1 against the NFC this fall.