Archives for posts with tag: NFL

The official attendance figure at FedEx Field was 61,459–although if we’re playing the “Price is Right” game I’m going to say it was more like 41,596.  The other number of note was 9-0, as the Redskins fell to San Francisco in the rain.  It was also Alumni Day, which we repeat IS NOT HOMECOMING as the franchise recognized former players who came back home.  Instead of the lineup this year, former Redskins gathered by the decade of service.  I’m just glad that former assistant coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t try to stand with the 2010’s alums.  Or bring his father, who certainly qualifies as a Redskins alumnus.  Instead–Kyle gave his dad the game ball.

The Case Against Keenum- proof that while figures do not lie, liars do figure.  A 91.3 passer rating looks impressive-until you realize that the 9 for 12 was built on short throws with a long gain of 19 yards.  The Skins averaged under nine yards per completion–and with sacks taken into consideration managed 3.3 yards per pass play.

Grinding on the Ground- Adrian Peterson began the day with a bang, getting the ball on the first seven plays from scrimmage. He’d post 49 yards on 8 carries before finishing with 81 yards on 20 tries, meaning after that first possession the veteran was held to 32 yards on 12 attempts.  He also got stuffed on a fourth and one, and fumbled in the second half to set up a San Francisco scoring drive.

McLovin McLaurin- Terry had just two targets on the afternoon, making one catch for 11 yards.  The rain really reined in the passing game; Steven Sims made a team-high three receptions went for a combined five yards–all on third down.

Third and Wrong- the Skins converted on just 3 of 9 attempts, with seven runs and two pass plays called.  Keenum was sacked twice and completed 4 of 7 passes for two conversions. Peterson ran the ball twice, moving the chains once.  As mentioned, Sims was the top target.  Yardage Breakdown: 1-1 in short yardage, 0-5 in medium (4 to 6 yards needed), 2 for 3 in long yardage situations.

D earns a rain-assisted B- they shut out the number three offense in the NFL for the first thirty minutes and held Joey Garoppolo to a passer rating of 59.8.  But when they needed to make stops after intermission, the Skins couldn’t keep the Niners out of field goal range.  San Francisco scored the final three times they had the football.  The Redskins didn’t break, but they bent enough to come up short.   Matt Ioannidis led the team with nine tackles, Noah Spence had one sack, and Troy Apke notched an interception.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins missed a 39-yard field goal in the wind and rain, while Tress Way averaged 49.5 yards per punt.  There were no disasters in the return game, although Richie James Jr. did have punt returns of 13 and 17 yards.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 47 yards, giving the team 58 for the season-third most int the league.  The five on offense featured three holds (two on Brandon Scherff) and two false starts.  The two defensive flags were illegal hands and pass interference.  Their 18 offensive holds this year is tied for the most in the NFL, while the 10 false starts are eighth most in the league.  What’s additionally disturbing is back to back penalties, something that happened once in each half.  The most costly flag?  A first quarter hold on Scherff that turned a 3rd & 8 into a 2nd & 18, helping push the Skins back from the Niners 21 to the 31 before missing a 39-yard field goal.

Dissecting the Division- how ’bout them Cowboys?  Dallas’ 37-10 win over Philadelphia gives them a 4-3 record and first place in the NFC East, as well as ownership of the #4 seed.  Philadelphia (3-4) is in second place of the division and is 11th in the NFC.  The New York Giants (2-5) are in third place while holding down the #14 spot in the conference. The 1-6 Redskins are in last place of both the East and the NFC, thanks to Atlanta owning a better conference record.

West is Best- the NFC West owns an 18-8-1 composite record, best of the league’s quartets.  The AFC North brings up the rear at 9-17, but the NFC East is not far behind (or ahead, depending on your perspective) at 10-18.  The NFC owns a 20-11 mark against the AFC in the highly useless interconference contest.

After a week where the team got blown out by New England and fired head coach Jay Gruden, the Burgundy and Gold bounced back Sunday with their first victory of the year.  In response to questions about the team’s culture Monday, it may not have been “DAMN GOOD” against the tanking Dolphins but it was good enough to eke out a one-point win against the worst team in the NFL.

The Case For Keenum- the starting quarterback of the moment threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and wasn’t sacked at all.  That’s what happens when you face the Dolphins defense.

Peterson’s Progress- Adrian tallied his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, a far cry from being inactive in the week one loss.  He also caught a pair of passes.

McLovin McLaurin- the rookie receiver caught 4 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.  He’s now on a pace to record 69 catches for 1224 yards and 15 scores.  Glad they took a flier on the Ohio State wideout to keep Dwayne Haskins company in camp.

Third and Lost- the Skins converted on 2 of 11 money downs, calling 11 pass plays.  Even on six third and shorts.  Keenum completed four of those throws for two conversions. The top target? Trey Quinn and Paul Richardson each had three.  Yardage breakdown: 2 for 6 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 0 for 3 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 0 for 2 on third and long (7+).

D earns multiple grades- how do we properly evaluate this unit?  Do we weigh more how they handled Josh Rosen or how badly they defended Ryan Fitzpatrick?  Landon Collins had the game he wished he would have posted against the Giants, notching 12 tackles with a sack.  The D posted five sacks on the afternoon, while also recording a pair of interceptions.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made both extra points and connected on a 21-yard field goal while missing a 55-yarder.  Tress Way averaged 45 yards per punt.  Trey Quinn had a punt return of 15 yards.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 56 yards feels like an improvement over previous weeks (they averaged nine through the first five games of the season).  After six weeks, the habitual offenders have been 15 offensive holds, 8 false starts and 6 defensive holds. Donald Penn’s five flags leads the team at this time. Sunday’s big penalties?  Back to back plays where Fabian Moreau’s defensive hold and Ryan Anderson’s roughing the passer turned what would have been a fourth down at the Miami 42 into a first down at the Redskins 39.  The Dolphins would get their only first half points on that drive.

Dissecting the Division- losses by Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants tighten things up.  Philadelphia (3-3) owns the NFC East lead and #4 seed in the conference thanks to the common games tiebreaker over Dallas, while the Cowboys have dropped three straight and are now in 10th place of the NFC.  The Giants are in third place of the division and 13th overall, while the Redskins remain in sole possession of the East Cellar and on the NFC’s bottom rung thanks to the conference tiebreaker.

North Stars- the NFC North owns the best record of the eight divisions, carving out a 14-7-1 start that’s one half game better than the NFC West.  The AFC North is at the opposite end of the spectrum at 8-16, while the NFC East is 9-15 at this point.

Interconference Contest- the NFC owns a 19-10 lead over the AFC, and that’s with the Redskins going 1-1.  They still play the Jets and Bills…so beware.

Perhaps Monday Night Football isn’t the best showcase for the Redskins.  Once again, the Burgundy and Gold get blasted under the glare of the prime time lights in a 31-15 loss that wasn’t as close as things appeared (this is becoming a trend).  At 0-3 the Skins are sinking faster than you can possibly imagine.  And just when you thought things eased up after an early rough patch (and it was rough with three games against playoff teams from 2018), three of the Skins’ next six games before their November bye are against 3-0 teams (a fourth is against 2-1 Minnesota and Kirk Cousins).  Even with the NFL being a week to week league, things do not look good in Ashburn.  To add to the fun, at halftime the team honored London Fletcher by adding the former linebacker to the Ring of Honor at FedEx Field-only to spell his last name “Flecther” on the scoreboard.  And the beat goes on…

The Case Against Keenum- the Redskins quarterback threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears.  That’s the good news; he also threw three interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles.  Nobody was expecting Keenum to  be the QB of the future, but the present is far from ideal.

Running a Little Better- from 28 yards against Philadelphia to 47 against Dallas to 69 against the Bears, the Skins are making progress. In theory.  Adrian Peterson ran 12 times for 37 yards, giving him 62 on 22 tries over two games.  Keep in mind that the veteran had seven games in 2018 where he gained fewer than three yards per carry.

Catching On- Terry McLaurin grabbed six more receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, giving the rookie 16 for 257 and three scores (prorates to 85-1370-16).  One extremely bright spot in a sad start to the season.

Toppings Update- back in the day Papa John’s would offer free toppings on Monday for touchdowns the Redskins would score, and then double the toppings for a Skins win.  Rick Snider (formerly of the Washington Post Express) and I hash out toppings picks each week, although he doesn’t believe in the doubling part of the exercise (which I think only adds to the intrigue).  We have our own quirks;  for example Rick is not a banana peppers guy.  My quirk is when the Skins get a TD garbage time, you get a garbage topping. So instead of pepperoni and mushrooms, last night’s effort generated beets and summer squash (I used broccoli in week one and cauliflower in week two).  Meaning four of the eight touchdowns tallied this year have come after the game was no longer in doubt.

Third and Long Gone- the Skins moved the chains on 3 of 9 attempts, with seven pass plays and two planned runs.  They went 0 for 2 on the ground. Case Keenum completed 3 of 5 passes (two conversions), was sacked once and scrambled for a first down.  Trey Quinn was the top target (two passes thrown to) while Chris Thompson had a carry and a catch (but no conversions).  Yardage breakdown?  They converted 2 for 5 short yardage (1-3 yards needed), 1-1 medium (4-6 yards) and 0-3 on third and seven yards or longer.  Bright spot:  five of the nine third downs were short yardage.

D earns one- the Bears converted 6 of 8 third downs in the first half, including a 3rd and 17 that put Chicago up 28-0.  While they played better after halftime (a season-low three points allowed after intermission) and generated three sacks (one more than their total through two weeks), they also had two linebackers leading the team in tackles. Baby steps.

Special Situations- Tress Way punted just once for 48 yards.  Dustin Hopkins made a 35-yard field goal but missed a 43-yarder. Steven Sims Jr. averaged 34 yards per kickoff return with a long of 45. Trey Quinn averaged 7.5 yards per punt return.  Punt and kickoff coverage wasn’t disastrous.

Flying Flags- NINE penalties for 61 yards (not including one that was offsetting).  Three on offense (plus the offsetting flag) with six on defense.  Just one hold after eight the first two weeks.  A pair of neutral zone infractions on defense was the only recurring violation.  Donald Penn’s the early leader with three accepted penalties (this week’s hold was added to a chop block and a false start) after three weeks.  The most costly flag?  Actually a sequence where the defense was whistled for a neutral zone infraction, an offsides and an illegal contact that kept alive the Bears’ longest drive of the night.  A drive that would result in a touchdown that would put the visitors ahead 14-0 in the second quarter.

Digesting the Division- Dallas (3-0) leads the NFC East and currently owns the #3 seed due to the strength of victory tiebreaker.  Philadelphia (1-2) is in second place and 13th in the NFC due to their division record (1-0) while the New York Giants (1-2 and 0-1 in the East)  are in third and 14th in the conference.  The Redskins reside in last place and are the only 0-3 team in the NFC (there are five 0-3 teams in the AFC).

North Stars and Stumbles- the NFC North is the early leader in the clubhouse with a 9-2-1 start, while the NFC West has the the second best composite record at 8-3-1.  The AFC North has the worst mark at 3-9.  The NFC East?  Middle of the pack at 5-7.

Interconference Affairs- the NFC is crushing the competition, with 11 wins in 14 games.  The NFC has dominated each of the last four odd-numbered seasons.  Since the merger, the conference with the better record has produced the Super Bowl winner 27 times in 49 years (there were eight seasons where the NFC and AFC finished even).

Somebody has to start 0-2.  Actually, nine NFL teams (over 25% of the league) began the regular season with two straight losses.  The Redskins are one of those teams, and after Sunday’s 31-21 loss to Dallas the faithful find themselves wondering how bad this year might get- or if the sorry start is simply a byproduct of playing two playoff teams from last year.  Once again a strong start fades in the early afternoon sun.  Once again a garbage-time touchdown makes the game seem closer than it actually is.  What will become of this less than ideal beginning to the season?

The Case for Keenum- the quarterback didn’t throw for 380 yards like he did in week one (the biggest opening day for a Skins QB since Brad Johnson in 1999), completing 26 of 37 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns.  A lot of short stuff.

Running Aground- Adrian Peterson was active this week, and gained 25 yards on 10 carries (or seven yards better than Derrius Guice ran for against the Eagles).  Over two games the Skins have managed just 75 yards rushing.  That’s good enough for 30th in the league.

Better to Receive- one of the bright spots of the early season, Terry McLaurin, backed up his dynamic debut by notching 5 catches for 62 yards;  the rookie is now on pace to make 80 receptions for 1496 yards and 16 TD.

Third and Sour- the Skins converted 2-9, and went 0-3 in the second half.  Nine pass plays saw Keenum complete 5 of 8 passes while getting sacked once.  The top target was Trey Quinn (3 targets, one catch & conversion) while every pass was short left (2), right (3) or center (3).  Yardage breakdown: 1-4 on one to three yards needed, 1-2 on four to six yards needed, and 0-3 on seven or more yards needed.

Disappointing Defense- Landon Collins led the team with 12 tackles, and the disturbing trend is that three of the top four tacklers were defensive backs.  The defense once again coughed up more points in the second half than the first, and once again had issues getting off the field to a greater degree after intermission (Dallas went 4-5 after going 3-6 in the first half).  So far this year the Redskins’ foes are 12-15 on third down in the second half after going 6-13 before the break.

Flying Flags- the Skins were whistled 6 times for 44 yards.  Four on offense and two on defense.  Three offensive holds, a false start, a roughing the passer and a defensive hold.  Brandon Scherff had a pair of holds to lead the way.  The most costly flag was the second hold against Scherff, turning a 1st & 10 on the Cowboys’ 35 to a 1st & 15 on the 48.  It pushed the Skins out of field goal range and stalled the drive.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas due to its 2-0 start leads the NFC East, with 1-1 Philadelphia one game back.  The New York Giants own the conference record tiebreaker and are currently in third place, while the Skins occupy the East cellar and are at the bottom of the NFC.

West remains Best- the NFC West is 6-1-1 to start the year, including multiple wins by Pacific time zone teams in games beginning at 10 a.m. EDT.  The NFC East is 3-5 to start the season.

Every so often in Redskins Nation, there are defeats that signal the perhaps not the end of an era but certainly the beginning of the end.  One thinks of the 45-10 home loss to Kansas City in 2013 that set the wheels in motion for Mike Shanahan’s departure or the infamous “swinging gate” game for Jim Zorn against the New York Giants in 2009. Or Steve Spurrier’s team getting shut out by Dallas on a day where Tim Hasselbeck went 6-26 with 4 INT’s.  One even glances at Joe Gibbs calling consecutive timeouts against Buffalo in 2007.  Sunday certainly felt like one of those games.  The 40-16 dismembering by the Giants dropped the Skins to 6-7 and turned what was their best start in ten years into another likely non-playoff campaign (that would be nine in the last eleven years if things hold).

Quarterback Carousel- Mark Sanchez did not have a good day.  His pick-six put the Skins in a hole while his second INT led to another Giants score.  Thank goodness for Josh Johnson, a journeyman who has been with 11 teams previously.  The 32-year old threw for one touchdown while running for another…and will start against Jacksonville.  This is the first time the Skins will have started four different quarterbacks in a season.  Not under Zorn or Spurrier.  Not even in the post-Sammy Baugh/pre-Sonny Jurgensen days.

Running Aground- Adrian Peterson finished with 16 yards on 10 carries, the fourth time he’s been held under two yards per carry.  Tough to find running room when your offensive line is changing by the week.  Tough to get carries when you’re trailing by 34 points at the half. He’s still within shouting distance of 1000 yards.

Catching Cold- it’s also a challenge when a team’s top target is on the shelf.  Jordan Reed’s injured toe could keep the tight end on the shelf for the rest of the season.  Josh Docston enters the concussion protocol.  Jamison Crowder has been limited to six games due to injury.  It’s amazing how this team once had a tandem of weapons in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson stretching secondaries.

Third and Nightmarish- the Skins moved the chains just twice on 11 attempts, both with Josh Johnson at the controls after the game was no longer in doubt.  Mark Sanchez went 1-4 with two sacks and no conversions.  Jamison Crowder was his top target–but all three passes to Crowder fell incomplete.  Both of Johnson’s first downs came off of scrambles.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-3 on short-yardage, 1-1 on medium (4-6 yards needed) and 0-7 on third and long.  So…64% of the time you’re facing third and long with a third or fourth string quarterback, both of whom have been with the team less than three weeks.

D earns an F- remember when the defense was a strength?  For the fifth time in six weeks the Skins coughed up 400+ yards.  Big gains by Saquon Barkley (52 & 78 yards) turned the tide as all eyes are on 2019 and who potentially stays.

Special Situations- thank goodness for Tress Way who averaged 51 yards per punt.  Greg Stroman did not have a standout day returning kicks.

Flying Flags- are you ready?  Fifteen penalties for 135 yards.  Ten on offense, two on defense and three on special teams.  Two false starts on Morgan Moses give the tackle the team lead with 12 penalties on the year.  Most costly penalty?  A hold on tackle Austin Howard-turning a 3rd and 4 into a 2nd and 12. A Mark Sanchez interception would follow shortly.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas’ overtime win over Philadelphia gives the Cowboys a two-game lead in the NFC East and the tiebreaker over the Eagles.  Dallas owns the #4 seed in the conference while Philly is #8 and the Skins are 9th (head to head tiebreaker).  The Giants are in last (and at 5-8 they’re in 12th place of the division) but with four wins in five games are a serious threat to shove the Redskins back down the basement steps.

Playoff Picture- with three weeks to play, your wildcard matchups have Dallas hosting Seattle while Chicago entertains Minnesota.  New Orleans plays the Cowboys/Seahawks/Vikings while the Los Angeles Rams face the Bears/Dallas/Seahawks.  The AFC has a wildcard weekend of Baltimore at Houston and the Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh.  Kansas City faces the Steelers/Chargers/Ravens while New England gets the Texans/Steelers/Chargers.

Comparing Quartets- the AFC West are a league-best 30-22.  The AFC East brings up the rear at 24-28.  The NFC East?  A subpar but not awful 25-27.  The Interconference contest has the AFC leading 28-24 with eight games remaining.

It’s Not Over Yet- losses by Minnesota, Philadelphia and Carolina keep the Skins on the precipice of contention.  There are scenarios for the Redskins making the playoffs if they take two of their last three–there’s even a chance if they go 1-1-1. And you thought I was foolish for picking a 6-7-3 finish.  Heading into the game with Jacksonville, the Skins need a victory plus losses by the Vikings, Eagles, Panthers and Packers to improve their limited chances.

Elimination Island- four teams join San Francisco and Oakland in looking ahead to 2019.  Jacksonville, Buffalo and Arizona are on the outside thanks to week 14 defeats while the New York Jets even with their win over the Bills are officially out of contention.  That means 26 teams have hope entering the third to last week of the season. Pete Rozelle would be smiling.

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.

 

 

 

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.