Archives for posts with tag: Washington Redskins

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.

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.

Just when you thought the Skinsanity of Seasons Past was strictly a thing of the past, the Burgundy and Gold go ahead and put their fan base on panic and anxiety mode.  The team’s come-from-ahead 32-27 loss (but they covered the 10.5 point-spread) saw plenty of possibilities before getting smacked in the face with the realities of this team and franchise in 2019.  They went toe to toe with the division’s most recent Super Bowl champ, but find themselves lacking in the end.  All while stirring up a hornet’s nest of locker room ire.  Welcome back…

Running Back Roulette- after years of quarterback controversies, it’s nice to see the team diversify this fall.  Adrian Peterson (1,000+ yards last year) was inactive for a game where Derrius Guice made his regular season debut.  Even Rex Grossman was active when Robert Griffin III made his debut in 2012.  While Peterson sat quietly in sweats, the Skins ran for 28 yards on 13 carries with Guice gaining 18 on 10 tries.  In addition, Guice went to the medical tent during the game-saying that “nature was calling”. Evidently “nature calling” meant “the knee that didn’t suffer a torn ACL last year was bothering him”.  An MRI later puts a dark cloud over the position.   And we’ve only just begun…

The Case for Keenum- this year’s quarterback threw for 380 yards, the most for a Redskin in a season opener since Brad Johnson in 1999.  His ceiling appears to be higher than anything that existed for Alex Smith, and even though many feel the 31-year old is a stop gap until Dwayne Haskins gets up to speed it’s nice to see the passing game in good hands. 

Catching Fire- a lot has been made of Josh Doctson’s inability to stay healthy as a rookie while producing in the years since.  Sunday rookie Terry McLauirin grabbed 5 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, giving him in one game more 100-yard receiving efforts than Doctson did in his entire time here.  Last year’s rookie flash Trey Quinn added 4 catches for 33 yards and a TD, and ageless veteran Vernon Davis notched 4 receptions for 59 yards and the game’s first score.  A big catch for Davis, who recently lost his grandfather.

Hold the Line!- while Trent Williams’ holdout continues, the offensive line allowed one sack while generating a little over two yards per carry.  The combination of Erick Flowers and Donald Penn were also whistled for a combined four penalties in the fourth quarter.  Move along, nothing to see here.

Third and a tale of two halves- the team converted 5 of 9 before intermission, and went 0 for 4 during the Eagles’ comeback.  The team ran on 12 of 13 plays, the other being a direct snap to Chris Thompson that was snuffed out.  Keenum completed 8 of 12 passes with 5 conversions, with the top targets being Vernon Davis (one conversion on three catches on five attempts) and Paul Richardson (two conversions on two attempts).  Yardage breakdown:  2 for 3 on short (1-3 needed) yardage, 1 for 3 on medium, and 2 for 7 on long yardage (7+ yards needed).

Defensive Deficiencies- things began well enough, before the second half saw the Eagles score the first four times they had the football.  The D generated just one sack, while Philly held the ball for over 21 minutes after intermission.  Quinton Dunbar led the team with nine tackles; and I maintain that it’s never good for a cornerback to pace the team in stops.

Special Teams Glass Mostly Full- Dustin Hopkins converted both field goal attempts and went 2-2 in extra points while Tress Way averaged 54 yards per punt.  Trey Quinn returned a punt for 11 yards while Steven Sims averaged 15 yards per kickoff return.  Punt coverage did allow 11.5 yards per return and the Eagles didn’t have a kickoff return.

Flying Flags- the Redskins were whistled 12 times for 96 yards.  Eight on offense, one on defense and three on special teams.  A league-high four holds (plus one more on special teams) and two false starts were the repeat offenses.  Erick Flowers (two holds) and Donald Penn (a chop block and a false start) are the early leaders in the race nobody wants to win.  The worst penalty?

Dissecting the Division-  Dallas’ 35-17 win gives the Cowboys first place after one week, while the Eagles are in second for the moment.  The Skins’ minus-five point differential means they’re in third and avoid the cellar for the moment.

West is Best- I know it’s early, but the NFC West went 3-0-1 while the AFC West is 3-1 after one week.

 

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.

 

Well how about that?  Sunday they turned back the clock and put the Redskins-Cowboys game on CBS…kicked it off in the late-afternoon window and the two teams played in a 20-17 nailbiter decided on the final play.  The only thing missing was promos for “Murder………………She Wrote” coming up after “Sixty Minutes”.  Instead of being in a rugby scrum for the NFC East lead, the Skins find themselves with a rare early season cushion–yes, it’s only one and a half games but it’s their biggest advantage since the end of the 2015 campaign.  And if one looks a the upcoming schedule, the Burgundy and Gold face ONE team currently with a winning record the rest of the year.  That “winning” team is 4-3 Houston.

Mr. Smith Goes Underneath- Alex completed 14 of 25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.  The 23-yard pass to Kapri Bibbs for the game’s first touchdown was his second-longest completion of the afternoon.  Now his average yards per completion for the season may rank 19th in the league at 11.2, but he’s almost one yard better than Captain Checkdown himself-Kirk Cousins (10.3).

Captain Kirk in Exile- the former franchise tagged threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns against the very team that outbid Minnesota for his services last winter in a 37-17 rout of the New York Jets.  For the season, Cousins has a passer rating of 101.8 to Smith’s 91.9.  But Smith has fewer turnovers (two to Kirk’s four).

Peterson’s Presence- Adrian rushed for 99 yards on 24 carries without a touchdown so the Fantasy Football players will be bummed, but once again the Redskins runningback gave the team exactly what they needed and wanted on the ground.  Can you imagine the offense without the offseason pickup?

Third and Troubling- the Skins went 3-for-12 at moving the chains with 10 of their 12 third downs needing at least seven yards.  Not ideal.  Smith went 5-for-7 with three conversions.  Kapri Bibbs led the team with two catches on two targets (and one conversion).  Smith scrambled twice and fumbled once.  His second scramble was the one he’d like back as Alex failed to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving late in the fourth quarter.   For the season the team ranks 23rd in the NFL at 37.5%, better than last year’s 32.1% that ranked 31st in the league.  Yardage breakdown:  0-for-2 on a pair of third and short (under 4 yards needed) runs and 3-for-10 on third and long (7+).

D earns an A- the Redskins handcuffed the Cowboys’ ground game, allowing 73 yards on 22 carries.  They also held Dallas to 5-of-14 on third down and Ryan Kerrigan’s strip-sack led to Preston Smith’s touchdown that proved to be the difference in the end.  It’s less than two weeks from the debacle at New Orleans, but one has to feel good about this unit-especially up front with Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.  Kerrigan also notched his first two sacks of the season after being held in check.  Watch out for #91 as he gets untracked.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins drilled both of his field goals and extra points while Tress Way averaged 37.8 yards per punt–landing five of his six kicks inside the Dallas 20.  Nice to know that part of the game is not beating the Skins in a razor-thin margin league at this time.

Flying Flags- “Don’t Beat Yourself”.  It’s an easy mantra to have, but a tougher one to follow.  The Skins had five penalties (plus one that was declined) for 35 yards, keeping the team in the pack of least-penalized clubs (7th fewest infractions, 8th fewest yards).  Three of the five were on the offense (hold, false start and pass interference) while the other two were on the defense (encroachment and holding).  The early leaders in the clubhouse are holds (12) and false starts (9), with Trent Williams team-high five flags (3 holds and 2 false starts) making the tackle the most-whistled Redskin after six games.  Sunday’s most costly penalty?  Josh Harvey-Clemons’ defensive hold in the fourth quarter that turned what would have been a 3rd & 10 from the Skins’ 11 into a 1st & goal from the 6.  Dallas would reach the endzone three plays later.

Dissecting the Division- the win prevented the Redskins from falling out of first place in the NFC East…and they received an additional gift when Philadelphia blew a 17-0 lead to Carolina at home.  The Skins (4-2) are now a game and a half ahead of the Eagles and Dallas (Philly owns the division record tiebreaker) and are three and a half games up on the last-place New York Giants, who have dropped 19 of their last 23 games.  Conference Playoff Rankings:  the Redskins get the #3 seed while Philadelphia is in 11th place and Dallas holds down 13th (both are within two games of the second wildcard at this time).  The Giants are dead last in the NFC because San Francisco has a better conference record.

NFC Least- the 1-3 week meant that the Skins’ division dropped to 11-16…the worst record of the eight divisions.  The NFC South is #1 (Redskins still face Atlanta and Tampa Bay) with a 15-10 mark…while the AFC West and both Norths are above .500 at this time.  After a hot start the AFC East has returned to the “Patriots with three hot messes” and the NFC West has a pair of six-loss clubs in Arizona and San Francisco that look lost in the desert and by the bay.  Will the Eagles wake up from their early-season slumber?  And will the Cowboys’ trade for Amari Cooper be the jolt their sagging offense needs?  The Redskins are the hunted…for now.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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