Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Game Recap: Skins @ Cowboys. So Close and Yet So Far......

(Even back in training camp Grossman was getting ready to start.)

The game didn't start well. The Redskins kicked off and what looked like a decent Graham Gano kick with some good down field coverage, led to a 38 yard return by Bryan McCann. The Redskins D played bend, don't break defense and finally held the Cowboys around their 24. 3-0 Dallas. The Skins go a quick 3 and out and then we get to see a repeat of the first Dallas series. A Sal Paulescu punt is returned 31 yards and again, the Cowboys move the ball deep into Redskins territory. Instead of going for three this time, Dallas tries to end the Skins early by going for it on 4th and 1 from the 1 yard line. Not so fast as the drive is stopped by a diving London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh keeping Tashard Choice out of the end zone.

All is starting to look good as the Skins start to move the ball. But not much longer after the drive starts Rex Grossman floats a ball that looks like it was intended either for Mike Sellers or out of bounds and instead is picked off by Gerald Sensabaugh. The levy finally breaks as the Cowboys score their first TD of the game on the ensuing drive. The first half doesn't get much better as the Cowboys accumulate 20 points (should have been 23 but their kicker David Buehler has been as consistent on chip shots as Graham Gano has been lately). The lone glimmer of hope for the Skins was an early drive in the 2nd quarter that led to a TD when Rex Grossman hit Ryan Torain for a 19 yard screen and run.

It's only halftime, but the score is 20-7 and it seemed like many Skins fans were ready to turn off the channel. It doesn't get better in the beginning of the 2nd half. Rex Grossman while scrambling runs into his Guard (Kory Lichtensteiger) and then is stripped by DeMarcus Ware. That leads to another Dallas TD and now it's 27-7 Cowboys. Just when you're starting to think that this will be the third NFCE blowout in a row for the Skins, something changed. The offense began to click. We may have just begun to see what the Mike/Kyle Shanahan offense is how it's supposed to look.

The Skins score their second TD on a quick slant to Santana Moss in a four play drive that was primarily fueled by a deep pass from Grossman to Anthony Armstrong. The third TD was on a 14 play drive that was capped by a great catch by Santana Moss. Then, Grossman hits Chris Cooley for a two point conversion getting the Redskins closer as the Skins now trail by eight (30-22 Dallas). The next Redskins drive led to another Grossman TD; this time to Chris Cooley. The Skins again tried a two point conversion and succeeded as Grossman hit a wide open Mike Sellers. Game now tied at 30.

The defense did a good job of finally holding Dallas and it looked like the Skins had the momentum to take the game. It started off well, but the momentum died on three ensuing plays. The first was when Grossman threw an intermediate pass to Santana Moss while he was in stride. If the ball is caught, there would have been a good chance that Moss would have gotten a great deal of yardage on the play and possibly a TD. Instead, he couldn't hold onto the ball. The next two plays resulted in sacks and the momentum was killed. The Cowboys took the ball on their next series and scored the game winning FG. The Redskins had one final drive with less than a minute and no time outs to get into field goal range. The game ended on a Grossman interception as he was trying to force a ball to Chris Cooley.

This game was really a game of two halves. In the first (and early 2nd) half, the Redskins looked confused. Rex Grossman had to shake off some rust, but once he did the Skins began to look scary. The offense was 4/4 once they were in the Red Zone.....all TDs mind you. They also were able to go 2/2 on 2- point conversions, something that is rather rare. Unfortunately, neither the defense or the special teams played that well in either half. The defense looked good early on holding Dallas to only 1 TD and 2 FGs in four drives that started inside the Redskins 40 yard line. But throughout the game the defense could stop the Dallas offense. There was little to no pressure on the QB and there was little pressure or disruption that would hinder the run plays. If anything the D-line held position at the LOS and everybody just stood around figuring out who was going to make the tackle with someone finally making the tackle 5-6 yards down field. Special Teams did little to help either. Brandon Banks was made a non-factor in this game in both kick off and punt returns. The coverage was lousy and containment was frequently lost leading to a opening for McCann to break free.

Most people will talk about Rex Grossman's performance in this game as either a positive or a negative depending on where they stand on the Donovan McNabb situation. For the most part he was an overall push. While he led the Skins to 30 points on 4 drives, he was also responsible for two Dallas scores thanks to a fumble and a poorly thrown interception. In the end 2/3rds of the team were beaten badly by Dallas and to me, that's what led to Washington's downfall.

Let's do some The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good
- Rex Grossman (25/43, 322 yards; 4 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble). Had you told me that we would have seen 2 INTs and 1 fumble from Rex Grossman, I would have told you that wouldn't have surprised me that much. However, I seriously doubt that anyone expected a 4 TD performance. I can live with 4TDs and 2 INTs every week if necessary . This was only one game and I still have concern about Grossman floating passes and not having enough arm strength to make all the NFL throws, but this is a good start. He has two more weeks to show if he can be a valuable member of the team in 2011.

- Ryan Torain (11 carries, 53 yards; 5 catches, 48 yards; 1 TD). Many will teall you that the Skins didn't run the ball enough this week and I can agree with that. However, the Skins found ways to get Ryan Torain the ball with some nice passes in the flat and some screens. One screen in particular led to a 19 yard TD. 101 all purpose yards from scrimmage and a TD is nice. No doubt that Torain will be the #1 RB on the Skins next year. Now if only we can find out if James Davis or Andre Brown can be the primary backup (we know Keiland Williams is the Skins main 3rd down back)......

- Anthony Armstrong ( 5 catches, 100 yards). Another game, another deep 20+ yard catch for Armstrong. He has become the Skins legitimate deep threat and game changer for the offense.

- Santana Moss ( 8 catches, 72 yards; 2 TDs). It took some time but again Moss lived up to his reputation of being a Cowboy killer with some amazing catches and some nice runs. I only wish he had held onto that one pass late in the 4th or we may be talking about a Redskins win.

- Chris Cooley ( 5 catches, 62 yards; 1 TD, 1 2pt. conversion). Silent in the 1st half (again), Chris Cooley made a major impact in the second half. Much like Moss, Cooley is notorious for having big games against the Cowboys and did so again last week.

- Perry Riley (1 tackle). I thought I saw more tackles than that. Oh well, what I saw of Riley when he was playing LB I liked. I think he has the skill set that is needed for a 3-4 ILB.

- London Fletcher (11 tackles, 7 solo). Made a great dive with Rocky McIntosh on 4th and 1 to stop Dallas from scoring from the 1 yard line.

- Red Zone scoring. 4/4 in TDs when in the Red Zone and 2/2 in 2 point conversions. Not bad, especially for a team that usually has their drives sputter out as soon as they get close to the opposing team's 20 yard line.

The Bad
- Special Teams. Kick off and punt coverage was horrible especially in the 1st quarter. This gave Dallas great filed position and multiple opportunities to score on the short field. Return teams weren't much better as Brandon Banks was made ineffective due towards some good kicks/punts on Dallas and poor blocking by the Redskins. This is the second week in a row that special teams were at least a contributing factor in the loss.

- Sal Paulescu (4 punts, average of 26 yards; Long 45). Not a great performance after replacing Hunter Smith. There seemed to be little hangtime on a few of the punts.

- The Defense (overall). Not much penetration, not much pressure on the QB. Gave up 434 net yards to Dallas and generated no turnovers. The only silver lining is that the D held Dallas a few times in classic Skins "bend, don't break" fashion which kept the Dallas score under 35 points.

- DeAngelo Hall. Got burnt for TDs by Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Struggled at making tackles. This is what you get from D. Hall though. When he has a great game, he has a really great game and when he has a bad game, he really has a bad game.

- O-line. 5 sacks isn't good. Especially when two of the 5 come at the end of the game during a drive that could have given the Redskins the lead.

The Ugly
- Rex Grossman has a trend where he follows a good game by a really bad game. It will be worth watching to see if that happens this week.

- Anthony Bryant did a decent job taking most of the snaps at NT. But he's not a starter. He doesn't demand double teams, doesn't make a great deal of penetration on run plays (yes, I understand gap control but you would expect at least a little push backwards) nor does he collapse the pocket on pass plays. He does do a good job at gap control and not getting pushed off the LOS. The point is that the Skins will need a starting caliber NT if they plan on running the 3-4 with any success. They currently don't have that player on the roster.

- Dallas is now 2-6 at Dallas Cowboys stadium. Pretty sad but the Skins are also heading towards a 2-6 home record if they lose to the Giants in two weeks.

-3rd down conversions 36% (4/11). Still a significant problem for the Skins.

- This team can't stay healthy. Brian Orakpo and Reed Doughty are injured and may miss the Jaguars game. Kareem Moore also is ailing with a bad knee. Phillip Daniels and Ma'ake Kemoeatu were lost for the season with injuries and have been placed on IR.

- Kevin Barnes moved to safety ti fill in for the injured Reed Doughty. He looked good. I would like to see how effective he'll be at corner, but the good news is that he can play multiple positions and be useful to the Skins in many ways.

- With all of the injures and IRing, I have to hope we'll get to see more from players that need to be evaluated like Erik Cook, Macho Harris, James Davis, Rob Jackson, Jeremy Jarmon, Logan Paulsen, Perry Riley, Chris Wilson etc. You have two games, lets see what they can do.

Next week: Road trip to Jacksonville to play a playoff desperate Jaguar team.

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