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Did the no-huddle save the Redskins' season?

morris-vs-raiders.png

Did the no-huddle save the Redskins' season?

With an 0-4 record staring them in the Washington Redskins in the face, Kyle Shanahan decided it was time to try something different.

The 0-3 Redskins trailed the Raiders 14-0 late in the first quarter. At that point the offense had mustered just one first down in three possessions. Washington had the ball at its own 20.

Shanahan figured it was time to pull out something they have had in their arsenal since training camp. After talking to head coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III, Kyle called for the offense to go in no-huddle mode.

“It's something that we talked each week that there's a possibility we could go with it,” Kyle Shanahan said yesterday. “We knew that we wanted to, we were struggling a little bit at the beginning, not converting those third downs and staying on the field and we thought it would be a good time to try it.”

Things started out with Griffin making a play-action fake to Alfred Morris and zipping a 15-yard pass down the middle to Leonard Hankerson. They immediately lined up, snapped the ball 19 seconds after Hankerson was tackled, and Griffin handed to Morris, who picked up eight off right tackle. Twenty seconds later Morris picked up the first down by going up the middle for three.

The quick pace continued:

  • 16 seconds later, play action-bootleg right pass to Hankerson for 15 yards.
  • 19 seconds, Morris off the left side for nine yards
  • 22 seconds, Morris to the right for eight yards
  • 17 seconds, play action-bootleg left pass to Niles Paul for 16 yards
  • 38 seconds, pass to Pierre Garçon for two yards to set up second and goal at the four.

On that last play, they went no huddle but it appeared that Griffin was changing the play at the line, not an easy thing to do in the “Black Hole” end of the Raiders’ stadium.

That play ended the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Griffin was called for intentional grounding, a penalty that cost 14 yards and the Redskins ended up settling for a field goal.

In the six no-huddle plays starting with the second play of the drive and ending with the pass to Paul, they averaged just shy of 19 seconds in between snaps. They gained 59 yards. There were no third-down conversions because they didn’t face a third down until after the grounding penalty.

They ran the hurry-up here and there after that, including a stretch during their 2-minute drill near the end of the first half. They cranked it up again for a few plays in the third quarter and it appeared to jump-start their game-winning drive.

Starting at their own 42 with 6:51 left in the third, Paul made a diving catch of a four-yard pass in the flat. The Redskins made some substitutions, taking Paul out and putting in another receiver but still got off the next snap in 20 seconds. Morris picked up a couple of yards but the Redskins accepted an offside penalty, negating the play. Even with the time needed to enforce and announce the penalty, they still got off the snap 32 seconds after the previous play had ended.

Morris spun out of some trouble at the line and made his way up the sideline for 13 yards. They lined up quickly, Griffin again appeared to call and audible, and the ball was snapped after 33 seconds. The Raiders’ Mike Jenkins was shaken up on the play so the Redskins could not hurry back up to the line. Then Griffin threw back across the field deep to Davis and play again was stopped as the officials briefly huddled to decide to pick up a pass interference flag because the ball was uncatchable.

They went back to the huddle after that. Four plays later, Griffin threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon to give the Redskins their first second-half lead of the season.

“They weren't ready for it, something we hadn't done before so I'm sure they didn't have a big plan against it,” said Shanahan. “I'm not exactly sure, I think we had about 19 hurry up plays and it really got our run game going I thought.”

The part about getting the running game going seems to be accurate, particularly when talking about Morris. Before leaving with a rib injury late in the third quarter Morris carried 16 times for 71 yards. During just the two hurry-up sequences outlined here he carried five times for 41 yards. Doing the math, that’s 8.2 yards a carry in the no huddle and 2.7 yards per carry the rest of the game.

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The Final Countdown: Redskins 8th worst play came from a big hit in Arizona

The Final Countdown: Redskins 8th worst play came from a big hit in Arizona

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 8 worst play of 2016

Redskins at Cardinals Week 13

5:13 left in Q3, Redskins ball 2nd and 8 at their own 29, Redskins leading 13-10

Kirk Cousins sacked at WAS 36 for -9 yards (Calais Campbell). FUMBLES (Calais Campbell) [Calais Campbell], RECOVERED by ARZ- Markus Golden at WAS 30. Markus Golden to WAS 10 for 20 yards (Chris Thompson).

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Tandler: The Redskins had survived a rocky start and they were in position to take control of the game after the Cardinals missed a long field goal attempt. But the situation turned abruptly when Campbell blew over guard Shawn Lauvao and hit Cousins, sending the ball flying. Golden scooped it up and returned it to the 10. Three plays later Carson Palmer threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd. That was the beginning of the end of the Redskins’ chances to get a road win that they desperately had to have.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Finlay: When the Cowboys opened the game by marching right down the field against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, nobody blinked, as Dallas' offense had been superb all season. When Arizona did the same thing the following week, there was reason for concern. The 'Skins were able to stem the Cards early, and even took a lead, before Campbell bull-rushed his way into the Washington backfield and blasted Cousins. The Cardinals defensive line was hitting Cousins all game, and this play almost seemed inevitable. It would later come out Lauvao was playing through injury, but bigger picture, the Cardinals loss was the first game the 'Skins truly needed and the team couldn't win. The loss dropped Jay Gruden's squad out of a playoff spot, and though the team would eventually inch their way back into contention, in hindsight, losing in Arizona was the first real indicator that the 2016 Redskins would not make the postseason. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Dennis Thurman

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Dennis Thurman

The Redskins are set to interview Dennis Thurman for their vacant offensive coordinator position. Here is a look at Thurman’s qualifications for the job.

Before becoming a coordinator: Thurman played in the NFL for the Cowboys from 1978-1985. Redskins fans may best remember him for trying to break up the “Fun Bunch” celebration in a 1983 game. He played for the Cardinals the last season of his career. He coached the secondary for the Cardinals for two years before going to USC and holding the same job there from 1993-2000. Thurman then returned to the NFL as a Ravens defensive assistant and secondary coach. He moved to the Jets to coach the secondary there before getting promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012.

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Note: If you want more complete stats on Thurman’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2013 Jets (8-8)

Rankings: Yards 5,359 (11th), points 387 (19th), takeaways 15 (31st), 3rd down 38.8% (13th), DVOA -5.6% (12th)
Notable players: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Antonio Cromartie*, S Ed Reed

The Jets traded away their best defender, Darrelle Revis, during the offseason. Wilkerson led a good pass rush as he racked up 10.5 sacks and LB Calvin Pace had 10. It should be noted that head coach Rex Ryan is a defensive-minded head coach and he certainly had influence in what went right and what went wrong on that side of the ball.

2014 Jets (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,235 (6th), points 401 (24th), takeaways 13 (32nd), 3rd down 45.2% (30th), DVOA 3.5% (21st)
Notable players: DT Sheldon Richardson*, DE Quinton Cooples

If you want to know how a team can finish in the top six in yards and in the bottom 10 in points allowed just look at the lack of takeaways and the porous third-down defense. An offense with Geno Smith at quarterback couldn’t keep thinks afloat and Thurman was fired along with Ryan after the season.

More Redskins: Setting the odds on what will happen with Cousins

2015 Bills (8-8)

Rankings: Yards 5,702 (19th), points 359 (15th), takeaways 25 (12th), 3rd down 40.5%, DVOA 8.6% (24th)
Notable players: DE Mario Williams, DE Jerry Hughes

Ryan and Thurman both moved to upstate New York when they were hired by the Bills. This unit ranked fourth in both yards and points the year before Ryan and Thurman arrived and they obviously didn’t maintain that. It didn’t help that 2014 first-team All-Pro Marcell Dareus got into some legal trouble during the offseason and his production plummeted from 10 sacks in 2014 to two.

2016 Bills (7-9)

Rankings: Yards 5,712 (19th), points 378 (16th), takeaways 18 (23rd), 3rd down 40.0%, DVOA 8.0 (26th)
Notable players: LB Lorenzo Alexander*, CB Stephon Gilmore

Former Redskin Alexander had a good year, racking up 12 sacks and making the Pro Bowl but there wasn’t much else to talk about on defense. They essentially spun their wheels and Ryan was fired with a game left and Thurman soon followed him out the door.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.