Here are my observations after taking a second look at the game. Here is the second half,the first half review is here.Third quarter--Brandon Banks was on the field for two defensive snaps. Early in the third quarter he motioned into position behind Griffin and the quarterback faked a handoff to him. The fake drew even the offside defenders to the right, allowing Davis to get a little running room after Griffin threw him a pass on the left side. Davis ran right between blocks by Josh Morgan and Trent Williams and got 12 yards and a fist down. The fear of Banks speed set it up.--The Redskins were on the move to put the game away until a first-down clipping call on Will Montgomery spiked the drive. It clearly was a clip and looks like Morris may have been trapped for a loss of seven yards or so had he not done it. After that, a pass intended for Hankerson was tipped away, an underneath pass to Hankerson picked up 10, and the Griffin ran well short of the first down.--Richard Crawford made a nice, open-field tackle on Benn to prevent the Bucs from converting a third down. He got into the bigger receiver with this shoulder and stopped him a yard short of the sticks.--Again, bad optics as Griffin yells at the defender who hit him late to draw a flag but the offensive line does nothing.--Shanahan said that Garons personal foul on Aquib Talib came prior to the whistle. That turned a third and four into a third and 19. On the original camera shot you can see it happen while Royster, who caught a short pass form Griffin, was fighting for an extra yard or two. Its hard to tell if the whistle had blown. It was a good 8 or 10 yards away from the action, though, and Talib clearly wasnt going to be involved in making the stop. That is going to get flagged most of the time.--The play that got Freeman and the Bucs going, a 65-yard pass and run to Mike Williams, happened both because Wilson hesitated when Williams broke down the sideline and because Madieu Williams missed a tackle near midfield. There is no reason for Wilson to let Williams get past him there. A big play was the only thing that would get the Bucs back into the game and he got it.--Ill chalk up the seven-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson up to great athletic ability. Jackson gets paid a lot of money to make plays like that and, in this case, he did. Hall could have been a little closer to him and Williams could have anticipated that Jackson was going to get the ball and moved over there sooner but Im not sure it would have done any good.--The second time they use the quick pitch to Morris it picks up seven and a first down.--One of Griffins few off-target passes of the season was a little behind Morgan and it almost got picked off. It was tipped in the air and linebacker Mason Foster was close to a diving interception.--Banks speed set up the razzle dazzle as the Bucs defense was pulled over to the left with Griffins first lateral and Niles Paul had all kinds of room to run after he caught Griffins forward pass. Had Banks not actually run the ball a few times last week against the Bengals this and the previous play with him in on offense would not have been nearly as effective.Fourth quarter--Again, just a great athletic play by Jackson on Freemans deep pass to Jackson right after Cundiffs 31-yard miss. And anything but a perfect pass is incomplete.--We thought that the field would be an issue after a college game was played there Saturday night. It turned out not to be but Hankerson did slip on a cut during a route. If he keeps his feet, its likely a reception and a first down. Because he slipped, the pass was nearly intercepted. As it was, it became second and 10. A sack and an incompletion followed and the Redskins chance to respond to the Bucs second TD was gone.--Maybe some day offenses wont expect Ryan Kerrigan to get fooled on screen passes. But Sunday was not that day as he took away a scoring opportunity for the Bucs by sniffing out a screen and tackling D. J. Ware for a seven-yard loss on third and three at the Redskins 31. They were in Connor Barths field goal range before the play but they had to punt due to the loss.--Not much to say about RG3s scramble on third and 10 that came up short of the first down. He had no chance to extend the ball out to get it over the line to make as he was getting tackled. It was very clearly short and I have no idea why Shanahan decided to challenge.--Theres not much more that can be said about the final drive except that there were two terrifying moments. The second was 0-3 Cundiff lining up for the game-winning field goal. The first came right before that after Griffin threw to Moss for seven yards. They rushed to line up as the clock ticked below 10 seconds. If anyone had committed a false start, the game is over after a 10-second runoff. Shanahan got the timeout before they got set, however, and Cundiff slipped the kick past the good side of the left upright.
When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.
In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.
Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.
What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games.
The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.
The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.
—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105
Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.
Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016
(originally posted January 28)
As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.
The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.
The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.
The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.
While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.
Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.
The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.