Archives for posts with tag: Pierre Garcon

There was a window that slammed shut Monday night.  It may be for the NFC East, although Philadelphia lost their best offensive lineman as well as a starting middle linebacker.  But up 10-3 in the second quarter the Burgundy and Gold had an opportunity to build off a dominant first quarter.  Instead, the offense sputtered and the defense coughed up touchdowns on three consecutive possessions that spanned intermission.  Instead of coming home one half game behind the Eagles, the Redskins are 3-3 after losing 34-24 to the division leaders.  And Philly owns the head to head tiebreaker, meaning if the Skins want to win the division they have to be three and a half games better than the Eagles the rest of the way.  The Skins’ next four foes are a combined 16-9.  Buckle up…

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One posted another 300-yard passing effort…his third in four games.  He also ran for 18 yards (although he didn’t lead the team on the ground this time).  But when they needed Star Trek Equivalent- “Spectre of the Gun”.  This final-season episode saw Kirk & company face foes from the old west…and amidst production cost issues they had to scrimp on the sets.

Running Aground- the Skins were held to 75 yards rushing…and multiple times turned away from pounding the ball on third and short.  Chris Thompson tallying 38 yards on the ground is one thing…but the runningback leading the Skins with 38 yards rushing is another.

And the Skins’ best wideout is???- I’m voting for Vernon Davis.  The veteran tight end paced the team with 67 yards receiving on 4 catches.  Jordan Reed had his best game of the year (8 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns) although he’s still slowed down by injury.  Last year’s first round pick continues to underwhelm, although Josh Doctson’s 3 grabs almost doubled his total for 2017.  Terrelle Pryor?  Officially entering free agent bust territory as the offseason acquisition caught a pair of passes for 14 yards.  Jamison Crowder (1 catch for 3 yards) remains an afterthought…and now fumbles with alarming regularity.  DeSean & Garcon never looked so good…after combining for 10 catches Sunday for 122 yards with their respective teams.

Hold the Line- they need all the comfort they can get.  Four of the five starers on the Skins’ offensive line are banged up in some way after Monday night’s loss.  Not great as they prepare for Dallas–if they can prepare.  Limited numbers meant a walk-through Wednesday.  The Cowboys’ D is second in the league in sacks-per-game.  Not ideal.

Third and Frustrating-  converting 4 of 12 attempts is never good, especially when one is 0-for-5 in the first half and fails three times to move the chains on 3rd & 1.  They ran the ball once–on a 3rd & 25 in the fourth quarter.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 passes for 2 conversions…while scrambling for a first down and getting sacked once.  The top target?  Jordan Reed caught 2 of 4 passes for a pair of conversions.  Distance breakdown:  0-for-3 on 3rd & short, 2-for-4 on 3rd & manageable (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-for-5 on 3rd & long.

Zach Brown Band- the linebacker leads the way with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.  He’s not the best in pass coverage, but on a defense with injuries up front (no Jonathan Allen) and on the back end (at least until Josh Norman returns).

Getting off the Field- the Eagles were 6 for 12 on third down…actually running the ball four of the five times they faced 3rd & short.  While the Skins’ D denied Philly on 4-of-5 long yardage situations, Carson Wentz turned a near-sack on 3rd & 8 into a 17 yard scamper.  That one still stings.

A Rose is a Kicker by any other name- Nick Rose converted all three extra points and made a 27-yard field goal in his NFL debut.  Welcome to the league, Nick–if you stick with the team through December you’ll give me a great “It’s a Wonderful Life” crutch.  Tress Way averaged over 47 yards per punt.  Jamison Crowder averaged eight yards per punt return but had his customary fumble.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 55 yards.  One came on a punt (Nick Sundberg’s hold) and resulted in the Eagles beginning a possession at their 35-yard line instead of their 13.  The four defensive flags involved a pair of facemasks, a hold and a pass interference.  Quinton Dunbar was whistled twice–for a PI and a facemask while Breeland had one of his two defensive holds declined (because of Dunbar’s facemask on the same play).  Breeland has a team-high 8 penalties this year (although three have been declined).  The most popular penalty remains an offensive hold with nine–although technically this week’s offensive hold came on special teams.  The most costly flag?  Dunbar’s PI that turned what would have been a 4th & 3 into a first and goal at the 1.  The Eagles would take the lead for good shortly thereafter.

Dissecting the Division- Philly’s win not only gives the Eagles a two and a half game lead at 6-1, but they also own the best record in the NFC.  Dallas at 3-3 owns the divisional tiebreaker with the Redskins…so the Cowboys are in 2nd place of the NFC East while holding down the 9th spot in the conference (Atlanta has a better NFC record while Detroit does not).  The Cowboys come to Fed Ex Field Sunday…by the way.  The Skins reside in 3rd place of the NFC East are 11th in the conference standings (strength of victory keeps them behind the Lions).  The New York Giants at 1-6 remain in last place and are in 15th thanks to San Francisco’s rebuild.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 14-13 edge after seven weeks of interconference competition.  The best quartet?  How about the AFC East at 16-10–I guess they’re more than just the Patriots (for the moment).  The AFC North is a league-worst 10-17…but that’s with the 0-7 Browns in the mix.  The NFC East ranks 5th at 13-13…one half game out of 3rd but one half game better than 6th.

 

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???

 

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.

 

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.

It was going to happen eventually.  We heard echoes of an attempt after the win over Minnesota…and I’m sure the heirs of Frankie Ford would have had issue with Kirk Cousins’ “ooheee!” and its similarity to “Sea Cruise”.  Look it up on Youtube, kids. Instead Cousins throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Green bay…and goes all Toby Keith on GM Scott McCloughan.  “How do you like me now?”–I’m sure he wasn’t referring to concert the two of them attended; instead it’s an opening shot for the upcoming contract negotiations.  Regardless…we have our new catch-phrase.  Just like “AAAyy” gave way to “Sit on It”.  Hopefully there won’t be a “Wah Wah Wah” next year…

 

Captain Kirk- this is the episode many doubted could happen and others hoped would be possible.  A prime-time, national TV performance against a playoff team (despite the Packers 4-6 start, they were a postseason player last January).  Outgunning Aaron Rodgers.  A victory for the Burgundy and Gold at Fed Ex Field.  This is Exhibit A when Kirk goes into Starfleet for offseason negotiations.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “Amok Time”- Kirk has to divert the Enterprise to the planet Vulcan because Spock is experiencing a deadly 7-year cycle.  Once there, a native ritual turns into a fight to the death.  Great episode…watchable anytime.

Robert-not Gene-Kelley- one reason why a Spock-centric episode was picked for Kirk’s evaluation this week was the emergence of Cousins’ supporting player.  The rookie from Tulane rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns…as his breakaway run in the fourth quarter all but sealed the victory.  Unlike his non-relative Gene, this Kelley does not dance.  He plods and fights and searches for that extra yard.  More importantly, he doesn’t fumble (fingers crossed).  The Skins have found their necessary compliment to an air attack that only appears to be scratching the surface.

Better to Receive- and what a crew of pass-catchers.  Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder each took turns burning the Packer secondary Sunday night…Garcon finishing with 6 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown while Crowder notched 102 yards on 3 receptions.  Meanwhile, Jordan Reed provided the matchup nightmare he always does and DeSean Jackson was the team’s top target on third down.

Third and Awesome- tough to think otherwise after the team converts 9 of 14 on the money down…8-12 through the air and 1-2 on the ground.  Cousins completed 8 of 10 passes while getting sacked twice…and all 8 of his completions moved the chains.  Jackson had two catches in his three targets, while Reed and Crowder also had two receptions/conversions.  Yardage breakdown:  3 for 4 on third and short (less than 4 yards needed), 4 for 6 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 2 for 4 on third and long (7+).  And 71% of third downs needed 6 yards or fewer…that is awesome.

Case for the Defense- so they didn’t shut out the Packers.  And defensive back Donte Whitner led the team in tackles (a pet peeve of mine) with 10 stops.  But they forced three 3-and-outs to start the game and finished it with takeaways on the final two Green Bay possessions of the night. In a league where nobody stops anybody for sixty minutes, sometimes just enough is just enough.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 40 yards…a far cry from the first month of the season when it fans were seeing yellow.  Two on offense (delay of game and a false start) and four on defense (two delays of game, a roughing the passer and an illegal use of the hands).  The top culprit?  Breeland’s illegal use of the hands and delay of game give the cornerback seven on the season…still four shy of Josh Norman’s team lead (he padded his total with a delay of game).  Where would we be without another false start?  The total of 18 on the season is the fourth-most in the NFL.  After eleven weeks the Redskins do lead the league with seven illegal use of the hands.  Most costly penalty?  Breeland’s illegal use of the hands turned a Redskins ball at their own 38 into a 1st and 10 for the Packers at the Washington 33.  Green Bay would score a TD on that drive.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas continues to win-this time 27-17 over the Ravens, and at 9-1 the Cowboys continue to lead the NFC East as well as hold down the conference’s #1 seed. The New York Giants’ 22-16 win over Chicago proves that Eli Manning and company are the least-enjoyable 7-3 team in league history…still in second place of the division and the #1 Wildcard in the NFC.  The Redskins remain in third place at 6-3-1 and occupy the final playoff spot in the conference…while Philadelphia’s 26-15 loss at Seattle drops the Eagles to .500, fourth place, and ninth in the NFC.

The NFC East Beast- a 3-1 week means the division is now 27-12-1… a far cry from last year’s monstrosity.  The only other quartet that’s close is the AFC West that’s 26-14.  Worst division?  The AFC North is dragged down by Cleveland’s 0-11, but even without the Browns they’d be sub-.500 at 13-16-1.

 

 

Sixty-five seconds in pro football can sometimes last an eternity…especially when you’re clinging to a four point lead and Matthew Stafford (69% completion rate entering the game) is on the other team.  The Redskins were one turnover or fourth down stop away from heading to London 5-2 (with a 4-1 NFC record and in possession of the head to head tiebreaker against a Wild Card contender)…instead they say goodbye to their four game winning streak and face the possibility of coming back from England a .500 team.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 301 yards and a touchdown while running for another score.  Both TD’s came in the fourth quarter.  That is what you want from your quarterback.  The ill-advised handoff when he stumbled?  Not what you want to see.  After seven games, Cousins ranks 7th in the NFL in passing yards per game, 11th in touchdown passes and 17th in passer rating.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “The Cloud Minders”- somehow Kirk does what he can for labor relations in a mining colony.  There’s even a city in the clouds (albeit not as cool as Bespin).

Run and Fumble- one week after pounding out 230 yards against Philadelphia…the aptly titled Triple Back Attack (copyright pending) gained 115 yards on 26 carries.  Chris Thompson was the top threat (73 yards rushing but also with 7 catches) while Matt Jones gained 2.7 yards per play and fumbled inside the red zone.  Robert Kelley is known as “Fat Rob” by his teammates and coaches–his opportunities and production Sunday were a slim 4 carries for 15 yards.  Coach Jay Gruden says he spoke with Jones about the fumbling issues (3 with 2 lost this season after losing all 4 of his drops last year)…and in theory things will change.  If not, the ball-carrier will.

Crowded House…in a Tight Spot- Jermaine Crowder led the team with 7 catches for 108 yards and was the top target on third down.  With no Jordan Reed (concussion), veteran Vernon Davis stepped up with 6 grabs for 79 yards.  One almost forgot about the DeSean-Garcon duo (7 combined receptions for 57 combined yards).

Third and Awesome- you convert 60% of your third downs, you officially win the Awesome Belt.  Cousins completed 8 of 9 passes on the money down with four conversions…and Jones (3-3), Kelley (1-1) and Thompson (1-1) each moved the chains with their feet (Cousins lost a fumble on the other “running” play).  Jermaine Crowder was the top target (5 catches with 3 conversions) with Chris Thompson also getting a couple of looks (2 receptions).  Yardage breakdown:  6 of 8 on 3rd and short…2 for 2 on 3rd and medium (in between four and six yards needed)…and 1-5 on third and long.  What’s refreshing is that over 50% of the 3rd downs faced were by less than four yards.  That’s getting the job done on 1st and 2nd down.  Well executed…

So Much for Second Half Shutouts- that was a great thing the Skins had during the four game winning streak:  15 points allowed and all on field goals.  Sunday they allowed 17 after intermission and a TD drive over 49 seconds in the final minutes of the game.  Recent pickup Donte Whitner led the team with 8 total tackles while Will Compton made his usual 7 stops.  Despite being shorthanded (Josh Norman left with a concussion) the D held the Lions to 3-9 on third down…and under 400 yards for the game.  Sadly 75 of the 250 yards passing came on the final drive as the Skins just couldn’t get a stop.  On to London…

Special Teams- Tress Way averaged 43 yards per punt while Dustin Hopkins made 1-2 field goals…his 45-yard attempt hitting the left upright.  Will Blackmon returned one punt for 16 yards.  No major disasters…which is always a good thing.

Flying Flags- only FOUR penalties!  For a measly 20 yards!  That brings the team total to 51 (tied for 12th most in the league) for 392 yards (20th most in the NFL).  Sunday’s violations?  Two more false starts (Davis, Scherff) to give the Skins 14 (second most in the league), an illegal formation call (Grant) and illegal hands to the face (Hood).  The costliest penalties were the false starts that blew up their first drive of the second half:  instead of 1st and 10 at the Lions 46 the Skins were dealing with a 2nd and 13 at the 49…and eventually had to punt.

Dissecting the Division- idle Dallas (5-1) stays atop the NFC East and owns the overall #1 seed thanks to a better conference record than Minnesota.  Philadelphia (4-2) after shutting down the Vikings moves into second place in the division and 6th in the conference (losing the conference record tie-breaker with Green Bay).  The 4-3 Redskins slip to third place in the NFC East and 8th in the NFC (losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Detroit).  Those plucky New York Giants (4-3) after two straight victories find themselves still in last place thanks to their loss to the Skins in week three…and 9th in the conference.

East is the Beast- despite the Redskins loss the NFC East remains the top quartet in the league with a composite 17-9 record.  Although watch out– the AFC West went 4-0 this weekend to improve to 17-10.  The worst four-pack?  The slumping AFC North is 10-18 and includes one team with a banged up QB (Pittsburgh), another with a fired Offensive Coordinator (Baltimore), and two more teams that can’t ride the Cavaliers-Indians coattails (Bengals and Browns).