Quick Links

Miscue-riddled Redskins fall to Steelers, 27-12

morgan_drop_vs.steelers.png

Miscue-riddled Redskins fall to Steelers, 27-12

In summary: Although Chris Cooley hadn’t played in an NFL game for more than a year, the veteran had little trouble summing up Sunday’s 27-12 loss in Pittsburgh.

“This is our worst performance as a team,” the tight end said. “It’s frustrating to come back and watch that happen."

The 15-point margin of defeat, indeed, was the largest of the Redskins' five losses this season. In a lot of ways, it also might have been the most disheartening.

Not necessarily because of the score but rather the sloppy manner in which the afternoon unfolded. Ten dropped passes by Coach Mike Shanahan’s count. Missed tackles everywhere. A blocked point after attempt and a shanked punt. DeAngelo Hall’s meltdown and subsequent ejection.

“When your playmakers don’t make plays for you, you can’t win football games,” Cooley said. “We had too many letdowns. We had too many drops.”

It all added up to an all around miserable performance on a raw, drizzly day at Heinz Field that Cooley and his teammates will no doubt be eager to put behind them.

“We’re better than what we showed today,” said Cooley, who was targeted only once.           

Here are 10 more notes, quotes and observations from Sunday’s unsightly defeat:

Turning point: Steelers’ running back Chris Rainey rushed for 26 yards all afternoon, but 19 of them came on a play that erased any chance the Redskins had of rallying.

In the third quarter, the Steelers were leading 20-9 when Rainey took a direct snap and Ben Roethlisberger feigned as though the ball had been snapped over his head. Rainey broke free and rambled to Washington’s 2-yard line. Two plays later, Roethlisberger’s one-yard pass to Will Johnson had given the Steelers a 27-9 edge. 

Offensive play of the game: It didn’t work, and it could have got the Redskins’ most important player injured, but wide receiver Josh Morgan’s pass attempt to Griffin was the most exciting play on an otherwise ho-hum day.

Morgan, a quarterback at H.D. Woodson High, took a reverse from Griffin and then launched a long pass back across the field to Griffin, who had raced down the sideline. The pass fell incomplete and Griffin was whistled for offensive pass interference. Griffin also took a hard shot from safety Ryan Clark but emerged uninjured.

Asked if he put Griffin in a dangerous situation as a receiver, Shanahan said: “It sure looked like it with that hit. We weren’t counting on that hit. I’ve run that play a lot of times and quarterbacks have walked [into the end zone]. We got the wrong coverage to throw it.”

Griffin added: “It was successful in practice. It just didn’t work out in the game.”

Defensive play of the game: There weren’t many candidates for this one. But, in terms of timing, Larry Foote’s tackle on Alfred Morris on the Redskins’ opening drive was huge.

Foote (team-high five solo tackles and a sack) dropped Morris three-yard loss at the Washington 25-yard line. Five plays later, the Steelers had an early 10-0 lead from which the Redskins did not recover.

Special teams play of the game: It’s a lowlight rather than a highlight, but Sav Rocca’s 12-yard punt in the second quarter edges Kai Forbath’s blocked point after attempt. Although the punter is nursing a sore right knee, his short kick put the Steelers on their own 45-yard line. Six plays later, Pittsburgh had a 20-6 lead.

Quote of the day: Shanahan on the rash of drops: “I don’t care where the placement is. As long as it hits your hand, you better catch it or else you won’t be in the National Football League for very long.”

Quote of the day, Part II: Shanahan on Hall getting ejected in the fourth quarter for cursing head linesman Dana Mckenzie. “I’m very disappointed. We talk all the time about keeping your composure regardless of what happens, regardless of what the situation is. You never put your team in that type of situation.”

Hall was upset after being wrestled to the ground by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was run blocking downfield. When no flag was thrown, Hall removed his helmet and began berating Mckenzie.

Hall, who assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, said he hopes to speak to the league about the incident.

Injury report: Linebacker Perry Riley left the game in the fourth quarter with a left hamstring injury. He said he attempted to return, but deciding against aggravating the strain and ending up with a pull. Riley said he expects to play next week. …London Fletcher, who missed two practices this week because of hamstring and balance issues, declined to put a percentage on how he felt today, saying, “I was well enough to play. I don’t know if anybody is 100-percent at this point in time.” Fletcher extended his NFL best streak of consecutive appearances to 232 games.

Game ball: Roethlisberger gets it. The veteran finished the game 24 of 33 for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He is now 15-1 at home vs. NFC teams during the regular season.

By the numbers: Dick LeBeau, the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, improved to 15-1 all time against starting rookie quarterbacks since 2004. 

By the numbers, Part II: Griffin’s completion percentage of 47.1 marked the worst of his career. His previous low was 61.8-percent against the Bengals. 

Quick Links

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

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. 

Always something on social:

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Quick Links

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

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.

Timeline

Days until:

—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.

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.