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Flashback Friday—Skins comeback at the Silverdome

Flashback Friday—Skins comeback at the Silverdome


Joe Gibbs was 12-0 against the Detroit Lions. He beat them early in his career and he beat them late. He won close games and he won blowouts.

The streak was in its greatest jeopardy on November 3, 1990 with about ten minutes left in the third quarter in the Silverdome. Barry Sanders had just broken up the middle for a 45-yard touchdown and the Lions had a 35-14 lead. Redskins QB Stan Humphries had set up the touchdown run by throwing his third interception of the day. Humphries had had started in place of an injured Mark Rypien so when Joe Gibbs looked down the bench he saw third stringer Jeff Rutledge. He told Rutledge to start warming up.

Rutledge quickly led the Redskins on a 63-yard TD drive that pulled the Redskins within 14, but the Lions got three back on a field goal on the last play of the third quarter. It was 38-21.

Then Washington got two strokes of good fortune. First, Eric Williams sidelined Lions quarterback Rodney Peete after a hit. Second, Wayne Fontes got brain lock. OK, Fontes getting brain lock wasn't good luck; it was one of the natural advantages of playing against a Wayne Fontes coached team. Regardless, during the entire fourth quarter, when just a couple of first downs strung together would have clinched the game for the Lions, when he had Bob Gagliano was at quarterback, Fontes did not once call the number of his emerging superstar running back, Barry Sanders. Through three quarters, Sanders had 10 carries for 100 yards. When the game ended, Sanders had 10 carries for 100 yards. Unbelievable. After a Chip Lohmiller field goal that made it 38-24, the comeback began in earnest.

With 8:41 to go, Washington took over at its own 20 and moved smartly down the field, taking seven plays to score, a drive finished off with a 34-yard TD pass to Gary Clark. Detroit could only manage to burn two minutes off the clock and punted with 3:24 left. Washington got the ball at its own 15. Rutledge converted three third downs in moving the ball downfield, completing 8 of 12 passes, the last to Clark moving the ball to the Lions 12. Washington called its last time out with 24 seconds left. The Posse of Clark, Art Monk, and Ricky Sanders was having one of its best days ever, on the way to combining for 32 catches for 432 yards. So it was going to be four shots to the end zone to tie the game, right?

But Gibbs had seen something in the films that somehow made him think that the slow and not-so-nimble Rutledge could score on a quarterback draw. Rutledge seemed to take forever to make his way to pay dirt, but he did and the score was tied.

Each team had a possession in overtime before the Redskins started their game winning drive. The big play was a 40-yard Rutledge to Monk connection on third and fifteen at the five. Nine plays later, Lohmiller was perfect from 34 yards out 9:10 into overtime and Washington had a 41-38 win.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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

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