October 29, 2010

Skeletons In The Closet: The Redskins Must Beat Detroit To End The Nightmare

One of my weekly contributions to SB Nation DC.
Oct 29, 2010 - Standing at 4-3, with just a game separating them from a much-needed bye week, the Washington Redskins are at a critical juncture in the 2010 season. This week's contest against the lowly Lions wouldn't figure to be must-see TV, but for anyone who watched this team last season, Sunday's game means a heck of a lot.
The Redskins head into Ford Field with sour memories from their last visit to Detroit. When the Redskins left Michigan last year, they had just suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Lions team who had gone winless in their previous 19 games. The Redskins had already shown themselves to be a mediocre team before losing to Detroit, but falling to the NFL's saddest of sad sacks confirmed that Washington wouldn't be scaring anybody in 2009.
That excruciatingly painful three-hour event essentially spelled the end of the Jim Zorn era. AsChris Horton was whistled for a pass interference call to set up a key Lions' touchdown, all Zorn could do was raise his hands in disbelief as he watched his team do the unthinkable and walk off the field losers to the Detroit Lions.
Zorn lost more than a game that day; he lost his locker room. The players quit on him just three weeks into the season and went on to finish 4-12. 2009 featured medicine balls, slip-n-slides, and a bingo caller turned offensive coordinator as the Redskins further embarrassed themselves with several catastrophic performances on national television.
One could argue the swinging gate snafu against the Giants and a pair of humiliating losses to theEagles and Cowboys were sparked by that fateful day in Detroit. The Redskins were the laughingstock of the league week in and week out and all Zorn could do was hold on for dear life. The press conferences were full of optimism, but it was the kind with a false ring to it. Zorn grimly attempted to convey his hopes for 2010, yet everyone knew he was a dead man walking.
With Zorn in over his head, the team eventually collapsed completely under the scrutiny, injuries and mounting defeats. For the last three weeks of the 2009 campaign, Washington played perhaps its worst stretch of football in 20 years, and Zorn was out the door after a loss to the Chargers' scrubs.
Now, a year removed from the Detroit game, the Redskins return with a different attitude. They may not be among the NFL's most skilled squads, but they are tougher mentally and eons more confident under the new regime.
You tell me with a straight face last year's edition of the Burgundy and Gold would stand toe-to-toe with Colts or beat the Packers in overtime and I'll give you one of those fun-size Snickers for your Halloween stash. They would have been run off the field. This year; different story. The 2009 Redskins went winless in the division. This year they are already 2-0 and also boast a 4-1 conference record to boot.

October 26, 2010

Crunching Numbers: Standout Stats

So many numbers to digest after seven weeks of Redskins football and here's some key stats that stood out to yours truly.

136-Total number of tackles between LaRon Landry and London Fletcher thus far in 2010. Each has 68 individually and they are tied for the third most tackles in the NFL. That isn't necessarily a great thing considering the defensive line has let too much get by them and the secondary is giving up a ton of receptions, but Landry and Fletcher are doing their jobs.

76.0-Donovan McNabb's passer rating. He's ranked number seven in passing yards, but he's 24th in passer rating. Six touchdown to seven interceptions as well. He needs to lead more scoring drives.

2.6-Trips to the red zone per game. Washington is rarely sustaining drives into the red zone and you can tell by looking at their 29:25 average time of possession per game. They aren't controlling the ball and they aren't putting themselves into scoring position. 

33.3%-When the Redskins do enter the red zone they score only a third of the time. That makes them the 30th ranked team when it comes to red zone scoring percentage. Finishing drives is essential to winning, but somehow the Redskins have gotten away without converting their red zone opportunities.

25-I already mentioned sustaining drives. The Redskins are second from the bottom when it comes to converting third down opportunities. They are moving the sticks on the "money down" just 25 percent of the time.

165-Number of rushing attempts by the team.

247-Number of passing attempts.

40/60-The offense's run-pass ratio. Ryan Torain's recent success might convince the coaches to start making the playcalling multi-dimensional. A solid run game would ease the pressure on McNabb.

548-Santana Moss' receiving yards on the year. He's on pace for over 1,200 yards. Told you guys this would be a big year for him.

276-Anthony Armstrong's receiving yards on the year. He's the second-leading wide receiver on the squad, and the drop-off is apparent on paper and on the field. Armstrong is fast and makes tough catches, but he has yet to be a consistent starter on the outside.

3-Number of punters the Redskins have used this year. Josh Bidwell was a huge letdown and Graham Gano kicked a game when Bidwell injured himself in pregame warmups against St. Louis. The Redskins finally got wise and brought back Hunter Smith. All Smith has done is nail nine of his 21 punts inside the 20. Plus, he limited Devin Hester to one return last week.

40-Number of punts. Only one team has more (Chicago).

+8-The Redskins are dominating in terms of turnover differential and last week they have six takeaways to three turnovers. It made a huge difference just as it usually does. Now if the offense could capitalize off the turnovers...

17-The total number of takeaways the Redskins had last season. It's also the amount they have after seven games this season. Jim Haslett is making his mark.

8-Fred Davis probably figured to have more than eight catches this season. Too bad Chris Cooley has been the featured tight end and Mike Shanahan hasn't used two tight end sets to the extent we thought he would. Eight is also the number of receptions Antwaan Randle El has with Pittsburgh this year. Speaking of punt returning (or lack thereof)...

14.7-Brandon Banks' average on punt returns. Never expected to see a double digit average on punt returns again. Of course Banks brings talent to the equation at punt returner. Randle El lacked that aspect in his game.

October 25, 2010

DeAngelo Hall Fuels A Redskins Win Over The Chicago Bears

Amidst the chaos of the second half at Soldier Field between the Redskins and Bears, one player managed to overcome the confines of mediocrity and shine in the Windy City. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall intercepted four Jay Cutler passes, returning one 92 yards for a touchdown, propelling Washington to an important 17-14 win over Chicago.
Hall's huge day tied an NFL record for the most interceptions in a single game and even more remarkable was that all four picks were in the second half. Washington's defense also recovered a pair of fumbles, giving them six takeaways for the game and saving an offense struggling to produce points under Donovan McNabb.
With the Bears in the red zone and Cutler looking to build on a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter, Hall made spectacular one-handed interception and took off down the sideline. He found a convoy of blockers in front who escorted him into the end zone to put the Redskins on top for good. Later with minutes remaining, he made another interception on a Cutler bomb to allow McNabb and a beleaguered Redskins offense to run out the clock and enjoy a victory.
McNabb and the offense failed to score in the second half despite a strong day on the ground from new starting running back Ryan Torain. Making just his third start as a member of the Redskins, Torain rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries against the third best run defense in the NFL as Washington adopted a more conservative gameplan late to take the pressure off of a struggling McNabb.
McNabb went 17-32 for 200 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions; his worst game with Washington. The Redskins offensive line held Julius Peppers sackless, but McNabb was clearly flustered in the pocket for much of the day and as a result the offense failed to consistently move the football.
The Bears faced the same issue for much of  the day, and whenever it appeared as if one of the offenses was beginning to get untracked, turnovers ensued. There were eight fumbles and six interceptions between the two teams as eight of the 13 possessions in the second half ended with a turnover.
The Redskins had every opportunity to establish a commanding lead early as they started beyond their own 40-yard line four times in the first half. However, McNabb ruined a promising drive in the first quarter by throwing an errant pass, which was deflected in the air and returned 54 for a touchdown by D.J. Moore to put Chicago up 7-0.
There were other blown chances as well. Anthony Armstrong and Chris Cooley dropped passes that would have extended a possession and McNabb misfired on several attempts.
After the mistake, Washington settled down as McNabb led a pair of scoring drives to put Washington ahead 10-7 in the second quarter. Santana Moss hauled in a 24-yard touchdown reception, highlighting a five catch, 63 yard effort. Then Graham Gano hit a 46-yard field goal on the following Redskins drive as Chicago's offense sputtered.
Cutler was sacked three times in the first half, and the Bears had minus-5 yards of offense after a quarter of play. Cutler finished at 26-40, 281 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions, continuing a string of forgettable games for head coach Lovie Smith's prize quarterback. Moore's touchdown was the only thing keeping Chicago in the game until Cutler put together a late drive to give them the lead at halftime 14-10.
With 4:13 remaining in the half, the Bears had just one first down, but they added five on a seven-play drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown toss from Cutler to receiver Johnny Knox. The Redskins had dominated the entire half in terms of yards, time of possession, and field position, but McNabb's interception and inability to maximize great field position left them in a hole heading into the locker room.
Chicago continued to move the ball on their opening drive of the second half. They brought it down to the Redskins' one where it appeared Cutler had reached out to break the plane of the end zone on a sneak to score. However, officials ruled that he was short and London Fletcher had stripped him of the ball. Smith didn't challenge and the Redskins escaped a 21-10 deficit.
With his back right at the end zone, McNabb made an ill-advised throw to his left, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown again by Moore only to be called back after Washington was whistled for a delay of game penalty. Fans at Soldier Field voiced their displeasure, but little did they realize the comedy of errors was just starting.
The following six possessions ended with a turnover. The Bears drove inside the Redskins' 30 twice, but Cutler threw a pick to Hall and Matt Forte coughed up the ball to stifle Chicago's chances. McNabb returned the favor with a terrible pass intended for Joey Galloway that was intercepted and Torain fumbled inside the Bears' 20-yard line. Gano also missed a 37-yard field goal attempt with Washington in the red zone.
However, Hall's final interception allowed Mike Shanahan's team to close out the game by taking a knee; something the Redskins were unable to do in their previous three victories. Washington improves to 4-3 after beating Chicago, and the team has already equaled their win total from last season's 4-12 debacle. Next week they head to Detroit to take on the 1-5 Lions.
Defensive Player of the Game: This one's a no-brainer. Four interceptions in one half is other-worldly even for a guy who has given up nearly 40 reception this season. Hall has a pair of touchdowns this year and both are responsible for Redskins wins. He's the difference between 2-5 and 4-3, but I still get angry when he gives up a third down conversion due to soft coverage. Thus, my love-hate relatiionship with the $56 million man continues. He's fine by me...for now.
Offensive Player of the Game: Torain tried hard to lose this award with a bad fumble deep in Bears' territory, but he kept running hard and saved the Redskins from an evil Donovan McNabb twin (memo: McNabb must improve if the 'Skins want to make a play-off run, but we'll get to that later in the week). Back-to-back 100 yard rushing games is unheard of in these parts and Torain may have locked down the running back job for the rest of the year with Sunday's effort.
Game Notes: The last Redskins to have three or more interceptions in a game was Champ Bailey in 1999 against the Arizona Cardinals. Bailey notched the trifecta against Jake Plummer, a former Shanahan quarterback.
Another memorable moment occurred late in the game when Redskins' safety LaRon Landry lowered his head to make a tackle, but failed to realize a Cutler pass was heading right towards him. The ball ricocheted off his helmet and flew back 15 yards into the hands of left guard Chris Williams for a four yard reception.
Out of the eight fumbles in the game, Washington recovered seven.

October 24, 2010

Redskins Vs. Bears: Fourth Quarter Analysis

3:36-I dare not praise another Redskin. Ryan Torain had 58 yards on the latest Redskins drive and Donovan McNabb did not attempt a pass. Yet he fumbles inside the Bear 30 and the Redskins come up with nothing.

3:44-Graham Gano's missed field goal could very well spell a rash of kicker tryouts this week. It was makeable 37-yarder in a close game in the fourth quarter. Not a good time to miss one. McNabb continues his brutal second half performance as he comes nowhere close to completing a key pass to Moss in the end zone. I'm not for putting in Rex Grossman, but McNabb isn't meriting an extension with games like this.

3:56-Time for one final drive by the Redskins defense. They make this and their great effort will be remembered fondly. The offense certainly isn't doing them any favors late in fourth.

3:59-DeAngelo Hall has four picks in one half. I rip on the guy a lot, but there are games such as this one where he shows why the 'Skins paid him $56 million. I mean what a catch and subsequent 92-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Also as a little postscript, the Redskins managed 121 yards on the ground. The Bears were ranked third in the NFL in rushing defense and were giving up just 84 yards a game. If Ryan Torain didn't fumble twice to cloud matters, I'd say the Redskins might have found a back for the rest of the year.

Redskins Vs. Bears: Third Quarter Analysis

3:14-Just a putrid quarter for Washington. The defense continues to be it's resilient self as they stop Jay Cutler on the goal line and force a fumble. He might have been in, but no challenge and The Redskins hold on.

Donovan McNabb is having an awful day after throwing his second pick. He's 14-28, 174 yards, a TD pass, and two interceptions. He is out of synce and unable to move the chains consistently. The offensive line hasn't been flawless, but they aren't getting completely worked over either. This one is on him.

3:30-DeAngelo Hall has two picks in this quarter. For as much as I detest his soft coverage, he does have great ball skills and his touchdown is the second one of the year. Another well-timed touchdown with the Redskins struggling to generate points.

Still the defense is starting to bend quite a bit. the Bears have made a pair of trips deep into Redskins territory this half. Cutler has managed to ruin both, making this a battle between two teams with self-destructive signalcallers.

Redskins Vs. Bears: Halftime Analysis

Oh my, where to start. Washington should be winning this game by multiple scores yet they trail Chicago 14-10 at the half. Washington has 176 yards to the Bears' 84. Until the Bears final drive of the half they had one first down.

The Redskins have controlled field position, starting around midfield on the bulk of their possessions. However, they weren't able to finish two drives. One ended with McNabb's INT and the other stalled and led to a field goal.

With the way the defense handled Cutler (with the exception of the final drive), this one is on the offense for not taking advantage of their opportunities. Ryan Torain has had mixed success running the ball, and several receivers have dropped key passes.

The offense hasn't been in sync all year, and McNabb has been erratic again today. He has missed receivers and the drops have provided a bad combination of offensive inefficiency.

Defensively, LaRon Landry and Albert Haynesworth are having strong games and the Redskins have sacked Jay Cutler three times. Haynesworth has a sack and several solid penetrations. He's been good today.

The Bears seem to be shortening Cutler's dropbacks to alleviate the defensive pressure and it worked on the final drive. Washington needs to tighten up defensively after giving up a touchdown to give the Bears the lead.

Redskins Vs. Bears: First Quarter Analysis

1:27-Sorry I'm late today. Just got back from New York.

The Redskins third drive is a promising one until Donovan McNabb refused to take a sack off a blitz. That was an uncharacteristic, but it happened and now the Redskins are in a 7-0 off of a careless mistake. With the lack of points, Washington can't afford to give up easy touchdowns.

This game is vital to the Redskins and I would say it's the most important game of the year to date. The game is very winnable after a brutal three game stretch where the Redskins took two. The 'Skins are down a game to Philly and the Giants and they can't lose ground especially in a week where they should win.

1:39-McNabb shakes off the interception and gets the Redskins down the field to tie it up with a Moss TD. Gotta say the more I see of Ryan Torain the more I think he could be a workhorse back for this team. He breaks tackles like it's his job (well it is) and when he gets going downfield, he's one tough runner.

Chicago has negative yards of offense. This shouldn't be that close.

October 22, 2010

Brian Orakpo Is Breaking Out This Week

My bi-weekly column for SB Nation DC. Stay tuned this weekend for my coverage, analysis, and a prediction for Sunday's game against the Bears.
Oct 22, 2010 - The dreaded sophomore slump can destroy any promising, young NFL career, but if a second-year veteran can build upon a successful rookie campaign, the sky is the limit. For Brian Orakpo, it's clear he can be a presence on defense for the Redskins. The question, however, is just how much of a presence he will be.
Orakpo is a fine pass-rusher. He has five sacks, 19 tackles, and a forced fumble in six games, making him one of the more valuable pieces in this Redskins defense. Let's also not forget the holding penalty he drew against Alex Barron to beat the Dallas Cowboys in week one. In fact, Orakpo has been blatantly held at least once in every game this season, preventing him from adding to his sack totals.
But as solid as he has been, Orakpo has yet to set himself apart as an elite sackmaster this season. He is undoubtedly the best rusher on the team, but I am waiting to see him take over a game Clay Matthews style. Last year, Orakpo got some face time after a dominant four sack performance against the Oakland Raiders, and a similar outing this week against the Bears will raise his profile once again.
Orakpo's potent combination of size, speed, and strength makes him the perfect fit as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Last season, he split time between OLB and defensive end in a 4-3 and it was clear he looked his best going after the quarterback. The rookie from Texas notched 11 sacks and emerged as bright star on a defense desperate for playmakers.
Heading into 2010, expectations were high for Orakpo to become a top-flight pass rusher, especially after Jim Haslett entered as the new defensive coordinator. Haslett has placed an emphasis on pressure and turnovers, meaning Orakpo is in on more opportunities to hit the quarterback. The Redskins have begun to employ him predominantly as a pass rusher at OLB in a 3-4 scheme where he can wreak havoc in opponents' backfields. 
The transition has been a rocky one for every player on the defense, but Orakpo has been one of the few to really stand out thus far. He needs a standout performance to take the next step as a playmaking force and this week he has a prime opportunity to take over on the field.

For the full story click here.

October 19, 2010

Attention To Detail The Name Of The Game For The Redskins

My bi-weekly column for SB Nation DC.

Oct 19, 2010 - The 2010 Redskins have certainly come a long ways since the Jim Zorn era. During the team's toughest three-game stretch of the season, they took two, and now have a pair of winnable games before a bye week. A 3-3 record is nothing to write home about, but in the wacky, wild NFC, Washington is right in the thick of things.
Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts was certainly disappointing, but it was an out-of-conference matchup against a team who has far more experience and talent than the Redskins. Though a victory would have sent expectations through the roof, it wasn't a must-win game, and they know that.
For the life of me I can't put my finger on what makes this Redskins team tick. One moment I think they have the talent to be a true contender, and the next they prove to me they still have a long ways to go before we can all start planning to purchase tickets for the Super Bowl. Inconsistent play has always been the norm in Washington, but despite the inadequacies of this team, they have managed to compete against far superior opponents.
Maybe Donovan McNabb and the new coaching staff adds an edge to the team. But when you look at a defense ranked dead last and a quarterback struggling to find his way in a new offense, that doesn't make sense. The defense has created turnovers and is certainly better than the stats indicate, but they could have easily given up 40 points on Sunday night. The Colts missed two field goals and Joseph Addai fumbled the ball deep in Redskins territory. There's 13 points. 
(On the flip side, the Colts did dodge a bullet on a first half drive when Kareem Moore dropped an easy interception. Indianapolis would go on to score on the drive).
Football goes both ways, and so far this season it's been a 50-50 split between the Redskins and whoever they are playing in a given week. The defense has it's moments, but in all honesty, the Redskins need better personnel to run the exotic formations they want to use. The offense is crippled by inconsistent play along the entire offensive line plus McNabb's erratic play.
Yet somehow the Redskins are in every game.

October 18, 2010

Postgame Reactions From The Redskins Locker Room After Loss To Colts

Landover, MD-After another poor first half of football, the Washington Redskins did what they have been doing all season long. They made the necessary halftime adjustments and dug deep.

This time however, the Redskins bid at a comeback fell short as they lost a tough one to the Indianapolis Colts 27-24.

As in previous games this season, the Redskins were outplayed by a team for nearly the entire contest, but somehow still found themselves with the ball and three time-outs late in the fourth quarter, needing only a field goal to head to overtime for the third time in six games.

The defense, rising to the occasion in the second half, forced the Colts to punt after three plays, leaving Donovan McNabb and the Redskins offense with more than two minutes to drive 62 yards to take the lead. Yet McNabb overthrew Anthony Armstrong downfield on fourth and ten as the Colts escaped Fedex Field with a win on prime time television.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was unhappy with his team's inability to pull out what could have a been a key statement victory against one the best regular season teams in NFL history. "Anytime you get an opportunity to put the game away and you get the ball on the last drive of the game you want to be able to capitalize on that and we just couldn't get it done," Shanahan said after the game.

The Redskins had countless opportunities to make the Colts pay for several uncharacteristic mistakes by Peyton Manning. They dropped four potential interceptions and Manning made sure to make up for the errors with a solid performance. He was 25-38 for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

The Redskins recovered three fumbles in the second half against the Colts, but dropped interceptions by Carlos Rogers and Kareem Moore were costly.

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was disappointed the defense wasn't able to take full advantage of Manning's ill-advised throws. "We had several opportunities in that football game," he said in the locker room following the loss. "I think we dropped about four interceptions. Those are game-changing type plays and you steal possessions. I think they ended up with about 10 or 13 points out of those opportunities [where] we dropped interceptions. You can't keep giving a good offense like the Colts that many possessions."

Indy made the most of their second chances. Colts wideout Pierre Garcon had a tremendous performance, catching a 57-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring in the first quarter. For the game, he pulled in four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Garcon and Manning were supplemented by a 128 yard rushing effort by Joseph Addai who scored a key touchdown in the third quarter after the Redskins had cut the Colts' lead to 17-14 on Ryan Torain's second rushing touchdown.

After Torain's touchdown, Addai gashed the defense for a 46-yard dash, and then a 13-yard TD to make it 24-14 in the third quarter. The Colts ran the ball for 170 yards against a defense set on stopping Manning.

"They were essentially in a dime defense the entire game," said Manning. "It looked like they were playing a lot of pass coverage; and they are great pass rushers. You have to be able to be balanced; you can't just throw it every single time. We did a good job in the running game and we made some huge runs when we had to have them."

Torain, making just his third career NFL start, was the lone bright spot of the first half with 68 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, but the Redskins trailed 17-7 at the break. McNabb threw an interception on the Redskins first offensive possession, and had a QB rating of 45.9 going into the locker room. He failed to find a wide open Armstrong breaking away from defenders in the second quarter and missed several routine throws.

When he did manage to lead Washington down the field late in the half, Graham Gano pushed a 48-yard field goal wide right.

The Redskins defense surrendered nearly 300 yards of offense in the first half, but held the Colts 175 in the second half, making the necessary changes to contain Manning and the Colts. We made a lot of adjustments that allowed us to get the offense more playing time on the field, but you know at the same time we did give up some touchdown drives, some field goals to them that we could have prevented with an interception or something like that," said CB Byron Westbrook.

In the second half the Redskins offense was given a short field several times and scored ten points off turnovers. However, they were unable to put together any long drives until late in the game when McNabb capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive with an eight-yard TD pass to RB Keiland Williams to make it 27-24. That was as close as Washington would get.

"We left a bunch of plays out there, but it's a long football game," said Brian Orakpo. "We are going to look at this film, see what we did wrong and go from there."

Notes: McNabb passed Troy Aikman for sole possession of 14th place on the NFL's all-time completions list with 2,926. He also moved past Steve DeBerg to claim 18th place on the NFL's all-time passing list with 34,434 yards.

Tight end Chris Cooley left the game in the second half with a concussion. His status will likely be updated tomorrow.

October 17, 2010

Redskins Vs. Colts: Fourth Quarter Analysis

11:11-Terrible series after forcing the Addai fumble. The offense is not doing it's part tonight in a game where they had to come up big. Three second half turnovers and ten points are nice, but the offense needed at least a long drive after the last fumble.

Now Indy is taking over the clock and wearing down the Redskins defense. The running game isn't much of an option down two scores.

11:18-Trent Williams' holding penalty was almost costly, but the Redskins score to make it 27-24. The offense might have gotten untracked a little to late, but we do have a game on our hands. It's been an absolute war tonight and hats off to the Redskins for hanging with a superior team. But if they can't get the ball back, the effort will be for naught.

11:25-Here we go. I'll be back later with the wrap.

Redskins Vs. Colts: Third Quarter Analysis

10:50-Washington has made sure to make the most of turnover opportunities with 10 points of a pair of Indy fumbles. However, they can't mount anything on their own, and as such the Colts are wearing down an already shredded Redskins defense.

Poor tackling led to some big runs for Joseph Addai and a Colts TD right after Washington made it 17-14. Ryan Torain is having a great game, but needs to learn when to eat the ball for a loss because he lacks the speed to bounce it outside.

Another resilient effort, but you can't help but hope the offense begins to sustain some long drives in the fourth quarter.

Redskins Vs. Colts: Second Quarter Analysis

9:20-The Colts answer right back with some precision passing by Manning. I expected he would have a few drives like this one where he carved up the secondary along the sidelines. It's better than the quick strike. Now Washington has to hold serve and they will be fine.

Brandon Banks' 56-yard return sets things up nicely. The Redskins now must control the clock.

9:22-Redskins controlling the clock so far (12:12 to 6:50), but are down. That big play to Garcon really hurts.

9:31-I don't know if you call that a defensive stand, but the Redskins managed to hold off the Colts, and then caught a break in the form of an Adam Vinatieri missed 38-yard FG. That's why the Redskins need to make the Colts work for every score. It might not look good yardage wise, but points are all that matter.

9:38-The Redskins have had three opportunities at creating a takeaway and have two dropped interceptions and a forced fumble they failed to recover. That hurts. So does the run-pass ratio (14-13). Washington needs to continue pounding the rock to keep Manning off the field.

9:58-The Colts tack on a field goal. The defense isn't playing great football, but the offense isn't helping matters. Graham Gano's miss on the ensuing drive leaves points on the field. The Redskins have missed too many opportunities (i.e. takeaways) and the Colts are making them pay.

The Redskins have seven points. I don't think anyone would say that's enough to beat Indy. The defense has buckled down with some bend-but-don't break after the second Colts TD, including blocking the Vinatieri's last second FG at the end of the half.

It's on the offense to get back to the running game and keep Manning off the field in round two (or the second act as they call it on NBC).

Redskins Vs. Colts: First Quarter Analysis

8:45-The Redskins first drive is a nice one until Donovan McNabb forces a throw over the middle. Jerraud Powers intercepts it, and one play later Peyton hits Pierre Garcon downfield for a 57-yard TD strike. Powers actually caught the ball unlike Carlos Rogers who dropped a pick on the Colts first drive.

Manning froze the defense with a pump fake, and Garcon motored his way past DeAngelo Hall for six. The Redskins can't make it that easy again because their offense isn't equipped to keep up with an explosive Indy team.

8:53-The life has been sucked out this stadium after Manning's TD pass. Washington loses 9 yards on their next drive and the Colts have great field position at the Redskins' 48. Not much has gone right yet and the Redskins can't fall too far behind early.

8:56-We might bust on Carlos Rogers' hands a lot, but the guy has made two great plays in coverage tonight while DeAngelo Hall was left flat-footed on the Garcon TD reception. Hall might be the playmaker, but when the coaching staff lets Rogers play tight coverage he plays quite well. He is the best DB on the team when it comes to jumping routes.

9:09-The Redskins score a touchdown in the red zone with an efficient 10-play, 89-yard drive that took 5:22 off the clock. That's the type of control they will need all game to take down Indy. Ryan Torain isn't the most athletic guy on the field, but his refusal to give up when the blocking collapses has led to several important plays.

The blocking has been shaky thus far. McNabb has been sacked once and there haven't been many holes. It's a testament to Torain's determination that he has 42 yards on eight carries.

Plus, the secondary has been bracketing receivers well with the exception of the TD pass. They are reading Manning, but failing to come away with turnovers. Kareem Moore and Rogers both have dropped surefire interceptions. Still TD aside, the Redskins defense seems to have a good feel for what Manning is trying to do.

Redskins Vs. Colts: Pregame Notes And A Prediction

About an hour before kick-off for the Redskins first ever homecoming game. GM Bruce Allen devised the homecoming game as a means to bring back Redskins alumni into the fold. Tonight, the Redskins have over 60 former players and coaches in the building to watch the Burgundy and Gold take on the Colts in under an hour.

Russ Grimm will receive his hall of fame ring in a halftime ceremony featuring legends like Joe Bugel, Larry Brown, Charley Taylor, Deacon Jones, Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby and others (including Darnerian McCants...remember him?).

Pregame Notes

Anthony Armstrong will start at WR for Joey Galloway (coach's decision). HB Blades will start for Rocky McIntosh at MLB (concussion).

Both teams are on the field warming up. The stadium is starting to fill up for a prime time game under the lights. The Redskins are in their burgundy jerseys and gold pants. The Colts are all white with blue trim.


Time of possession is the key to this matchup. Washington has been out-possessed in every game except for last week against the Packers. Donovan McNabb has to find ways to extend drives be it by establishing the run early with Ryan Torain or getting multiple receivers involved.

The Colts have a dreadful run defense and look for Torain to receive plenty of carries in an effort to keep the ball away from Peyton Manning.

Defensively, the Redskins will have to limit big plays and make Manning work to move the chains. With Albert Haynesworth inactive, the Redskins don't have a strong presence in the middle for tonight. I don't understand the logic of keeping Haynesworth out. He's the best option at nose tackle.

Pressure is another key. If Peyton is given time and a pocket to throw from, he will make any defense pay. The Redskins are no exception. The unfortunate thing is that, Manning avoids pressure with his quick release and spot-on decision-making. The Redskins will have to time their pressure well for it to have an effect; they can't simply blitz for the sake of blitzing.

Unlike the Houston game, this showdown with an AFC South opponent will be a bit closer to the vest. The 'Skins know they can compete with the Colts and Indy hasn't be able to blow anyone out as of yet. Despite the promising omens, I don't like the secondary against Manning. He will pick them apart over the middle while Torain anchors the Redskins offense. The Colts drive down the field late to win 23-20.

Live Coverage Of Redskins Vs. Colts

I'll be making the trip up to Maryland in a matter of hours to bring you coverage from the press level of Fedex Field for the Redskins SNF showdown against Peyton Manning and the Colts. Of course that means pregame notes, updated quarterly analysis, postgame reactions, and more.

Plus, I'll be previewing the game on the Colts flagship station, ESPN 1070 the Fan at 12:30pm today. I'll post the spot as soon as it becomes available or listen live right here.

Also, take a look at the injury report for tonight and keep in mind Albert Haynesworth is expected to be deactivated for the second week in a row after his brother was killed in a motorcycle accident last week. Colts RB Donald Brown and WR Anthony Gonzalez did not fly with the team to Washington on Saturday and will miss the game.

Keep it locked to Skins Talk and SB Nation DC and follow me on Twitter at @jackandersoniii for updates throughout the game.

October 15, 2010

Five Keys To A Redskins Victory: Control The Clock To Beat The Colts

My weekly Redskins for SB Nation DC. I'm back after a week off. I apologize for depriving you of my insightful commentary this week, but stay tuned all weekend for my live coverage of Sunday night's game vs. the Colts. I'll be in the press box, making sure you all receive the inside scoop. So follow me on Twitter @jackandersoniii and stay locked to 'Skins Talk.
After five weeks of football, the Washington Redskins sit atop the NFC East as they head into this Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. The matchup is one between a pair of 3-2 teams, but let's face it; the Redskins are huge underdogs in this game.
Indianapolis is the model of consistent success in the regular season while Washington is still finding its feet when it comes to winning games week in and week out. They have proven they are a much tougher bunch under Mike Shanahan, but Indianapolis is a different monster from that of Green Bay, Dallas or Philadelphia. Peyton Manning doesn't drop prime time games very often, and the Colts can only lose two more games on the year if they want to win 12 games for the eighth straight season.

The Colts are that game on every opponent's schedule where fans point to it and chalk it up as a loss before the season even starts. Needless to say, I pity the AFC South's unfortunate circumstances.
As big a showdown as this is, I don't believe the game is a must-win for Washington. I hate to downplay one-sixteenth of the season, but the Redskins don't have to win on Sunday to save their year. Naturally, a win would send a clear message that they are legitimate contenders in the NFC, but it's an out-of-conference matchup and the Redskins have shown themselves to be a resilient football team who will compete in every game. A loss to Indianapolis would not send the season into a tailspin.
However, there's no question Washington would love to defend their home field against a vaunted team such as the Colts. Here's how they can.
Protect The Ball
Only five teams have a higher turnover differential than the Redskins +4 margin this season. It's especially key in this game to limit turnovers because the Colts have only turned the ball over five times on offense. Manning has thrown just two interceptions while attempting a league high 216 passes. Indianapolis won't give the ball away, which means Washington can't either. Extra possessions for Manning translate to Indianapolis winning the time of possession battle and receiving more scoring opportunities.
With an offense as high-powered as Indy's, the Redskins have to continue to protect the football and ensure their defense isn't put in a tough spot because of turnovers. So far this year, Donovan McNabb has three interceptions and the offense has lost one fumble, giving the team an average of less than one turnover per game. They will need more of the same on Sunday.