Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Game Recap: Skins @ Vikings - Too Many Mistakes

(Favre's last game at FedEx)

I almost called this game perfectly. Except that I had the teams in the wrong places. Skins fall 17-13 (I had them winning 17-14) in a game that was pretty much filled with mistakes on the Skins part while the Vikings were practically mistake free.

The game started off well as the Skins took the ball down on the opening drive and scored on a 10 yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Fred Davis. On that drive, McNabb was 8/8 with a TD. The lone sack on the drive was McNabb's fault as he fumbled the snap and fell on the ball. Outside of that the pass blocking was good. Also worth noting was that the Skins were 4/4 on 3rd down conversions. This is notable based on their struggles this season on 3rd downs and the fact that the Skins finished the game converting only three more 3rd downs for the rest of the game (7/15 total).

If you had turned off your TV then, you probably would have thought the Skins were in for a route of the Vikings. You would have thought wrong. The Vikings on the next drive took the ball right down the field and scored an easy touchdown tying the Skins. Adrian Peterson (6 carries, 36 yds; 1 TD 1 catch, 34 yards) looked unstoppable as the defense seemed unable to stop the run throughout the game.

It was a good game plan by the Vikings. The Redskins struggle against power runners and have difficulty scoring 20 or more points per game (this is the 7th game this season the Skins have scored less than 20). So, you run all game long. Eat up clock and have interception machine Brett Favre throw on occasion so the Redskins can't stack the box with eight men. The game plan was perfect and the D was kept off balance the entire game. When they expected run, Favre would bootleg be untouched and hit his WR/TE/RB in stride. When the Skins expected pass, he would run a draw to the RB. Even when Peterson was knocked out of the game, the Vikings continued to run the ball with Toby Gerhart and it worked well enough for the Vikings to move the ball, score a 2nd TD and eat enough clock to get out of DC with a win. Favre never came close to throwing an INT in this game.

That's not saying that the defense didn't have their moments. They did make a few key stops in the game. The most important being the drive that led to 3 points after a McNabb interecption on the Redskins 9 yard line. A sack by Haynesworth and Carter forced the Vikings to take the three and this kept the Skins in the ballgame until the end.

The offense and special teams had their opportunities but failed on every occasion to seal the deal and turn big plays into TD drives. The first of these opportunities came late in the 3rd quarter when Brandon Banks takes a kick off  65 yards to the Minnesota 28 yard line. The next play, Donovan McNabb is sacked for an 8 yard loss. This drive ended in a FG.

The next drive, McNabb (being pressured mind you) under throws a wide open Anthony Armstrong, who comes back for the ball and makes a beautiful 45 yard catch, putting the Skins again in Vikings territory (24 yard line). Next play,  Armstrong is wide open again but this time McNabb throws the ball right to him and he drops the easy pass. It wouldn't have been a TD by any stretch but it would have been 2nd and short if he had caught it. Many drives in this game was killed by dropped passes. This led to another Gano FG.

The final opportunity came still rather early in the 4th. Brandon Banks returns a punt 77 yards for a TD. While the crowd is cheering and Banks is doing the John Wall, I see the yellow flag and knew it was coming back. Perry Riley was called for his 2nd block in the back penalty and this pretty much deflated the remainder of the game. Skins get the ball back deep in their territory, go three and out and punt it away. The Vikings never give the Skins another chance as they run out the clock to end the game.

More or less this is the Redskins folks. They have talent issues and mistake issues. If the other team makes mistakes and the Skins execute and play with less mistakes, they have a chance to win close games. If the opposing team plays like the Vikings did and the Skins make a few mistakes, the Skins will lose the close one. Expect to see this for most of the remaining games this year. The Skins are an average- to above average- to below average team right now. They have some serious injury issues and can't run the ball. They have holes in their defense and you didn't think the Skins would just keep generating multiple turnovers every game did you? Remember, this is Mike Shanahan's 1st year here. Despite the "win now" mentality the Skins are trying to portray, they are a team in a serious rebuilding mode. From the scheme to the roster. 2010 didn't give the Skins much to work with via Free Agency and the Skins only have so many draft picks. 2011 offers more in FA and hopefully the Skins will be  able to acquire more picks via trade and compensatory picks. So don't be upset if this team finishes 7-9 or possibly worse (or possibly better, I still think 8-8 or 9-7 is possible).

Good, Bad, Ugly time:

The Good
- Brandon Banks (KR: 4 returns, AVG 30 yards/return, Long 55; PR 5 returns, AVG 4 yards/rt). He had a TD on a punt return that was called back by penalty but kept the Skins alive and gave them multiple opportunities to be in position for a short field score.

- Donovan McNabb (21/35 211 yards; 1 TD, 1 INT). His numbers would have been better if not for so many dropped passes. The INT was from a deflected pass and I'm still not sure if it was his fault (threw the ball too high and hard on the slant) or Moss's (should have held onto the pass).

* There were a few individual plays made by guys like Anthony Armstrong, Chris Cooley, Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander that were good as well.

The Bad

- Dropped passes. I can think of at least 4 dropped passes that helped kill at least 3 drives yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised if there was more that I'm not remembering. The problem is that is keeps happening in each and every game. Chris Cooley, Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong are having good to great years and I think it's totally unfair to be critical that they don't catch everything. Problem is that I'm pretty sure we get at least one drop a game from each of them. That's a problem. I'm not bashing these guys, they're making plays but it's still noticeable.

- O-line. No run game at all. 13 carries for 29 yards isn't going to work for a team that relies on play action to have a successful pass game. When the Skins gave up on the run the Vikings D-line could then play every down as a pass rush. That also gives the back 7 the opportunity to be in position to play the pass and take away some of the underneath routes and force McNabb to go deep. Only problem then is that McNabb doesn't have the time to throw the deep ball (example with the Armstrong pass, McNabb couldn't step up and was pressured, thus the ball was under thrown).

-Perry Riley. 2 bad penalties. One cost a big TD. Need to improve upon that. Welcome to the cruel world of the NFL rookie.

The Ugly

- This is the 2nd punt return for a TD that has been called back against Brandon Banks. The 1st was in the Detroit game on a block in the back penalty by Reed Doughty.

- Skins had a low of 9 carries. Last time they did this was in the 36-0 loss to the Giants a few years ago.

- Why wasn't Keiland Williams touching the ball more? He had 3 carries. If anything it looked like a more power game might have been more effective. The Skins used James Davis for 6 carries who is a more speedy back. Davis struggled to break arm tackles has he gets used to a real game after being on the practice squad.

- Skins finish 2010 with a 2-2 record against the NFCN. It's a bit ironic that they beat the two best record teams in the division (Chicago, Green Bay) and yet lose to the two worst record teams (Detroit, Minnesota).

- Skins are terrible at home. 2-4 this season. I'm thinking at this point at best they'll be 3-5 at home this year with the Bucs and the Giants still on the home schedule to face. Last winning season at home: 2007.

- Carlos Rogers takes issue with some fans (is this why we're losing at home?) From The Post:
"Me and some of the guys were talking about that earlier," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Sometimes, I think you feel, when you're at home, you feel like you're away. You know? Because you get so bashed at home [by fans] for any little mistake you get. I mean, we come to the sideline, the bench, you know, it's cussing, it's this it's that, you know, and we're just in the first quarter. It's like, 'Are we at home or we away?' If we away, sometimes, we don't even hardly hear that.
"I think we play better away so the fans are quieter. When we home ... I don't know the problem. But we still want that support from fans. Me and some guys [have been] talking about it. If you don't like the team, or you don't want to support us, through the good or the bad, why come out to the games? We still need your support. We're already down or we're already losing. But then to hear it from our fans ... it's not helpful. I mean, we try to block it out. But, still, it's not helpful from our fans."

"I love these fans. We've got good fans. Good, supportive fans," Rogers said. "Yes, they hard on us. And we do give 'em a reason to be hard on us, because we're not winning. But at the same time, you do want that support and encouragement that, 'Y'all can pull this out.' Or, 'Y'all can turn around.'
"Instead of, if another team beating us, they're still beating us, too. We're hard on ourselves. The coaches hard on us, they're hard on themselves, but it's a collective group of people. It's all of us together, including the fans. We'd like their support, too."
In a way he has a point. There are games where the crowd just isn't in it and times when the crowd boos (I am not one of them, but that's me). But it's hard to give support when the team plays so poorly. And this has been going on for YEARS now. The players get deflated? Well, so does the fans. After giving up that TD in the 1st quarter and then the TD in the 3rd, I think it killed the crowd yesterday. Trust me, after screaming my head off on a 3rd and long and then see the Skins give up the 1st down it's hard to get up for the next set of downs.

- I think also, the fans were too busy being drunk and fighting to watch the game anyway. Not only did we have two incidents that led to removal in my section, but I'm reading that there were similar issues in sections 137 and 114. I guess people have come to party and not watch some disappointing football.

- I'm at the point this season where I'm rather melancholy about the remainder of the season. It started with Detroit and has progressed. But I'm getting excited for the draft.......already starting to do my research for that.

More game pics. Below:

Next the Skins head to NY to face the G-Men........

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