My six pack of observations from the Washington Redskins’ 45-41 win over the Bears on Sunday:
1. The Redskins’ defense was not good yesterday but it was not as bad as it looked. There is no reason to celebrate giving up 41 points, 140 yards on the ground and to have Josh McCown, who last threw a pass in the 2011 season finale, throw for 204 yards, post a 119.6 passer rating, and scramble 4 times for 33 yards. But if you look at the 41 points, you can point the finger directly at the special teams for seven of them on Devin Hester’s punt return. Another Bears touchdown came two plays after Charles Tillman picked off a Robert Griffin III pass and returned it to the 10 yard line. And, while we’re at it, Chicago had to move just 18 yards to get into position for a field goal after the Redskins had to punt from inside their one yard line. So that makes 27 points that the defense was really responsible for. Throw in the fact that the defense scored a TD on Brian Orakpo’s first interception at any level of football and it’s not as bad a defensive showing as it appears to be at first glance.
2. It’s not a coincidence that Alfred Morris had his best rushing game of the year on a day when Griffin was so effective on the ground. And, of course, Morris’ effectiveness opened room for Griffin to roam, giving the game a decided 2012 feel on offense. Morris got his season high in carries with 19, and his second-highest yardage total of the year with 95. The key was that the Redskins never got away from him. The Redskins had 12 possessions in the game and Morris got at least one carry on all but two of them. One of those possessions lasted just one play, Griffin’s first-down pass that Charles Tillman intercepted.
3. How good was Jordan Reed? He only played about half of the snaps (40 of 76) but he still was Griffin’s favorite target. Reed was targeted nine times and he caught nine passes. Many thought that the fade had been taken out of the Redskins’ playbook but Reed and Griffin executed it to perfection. Reed lined up wide right and was being covered by safety Chris Conte. He took a quick jab step to the inside and then headed for the corner. Griffin’s rainbow pass was perfect and Reed managed to get both feet in before falling out of bounds. That is the kind of play that will help boost the Redskins’ red zone percentage. They had four touchdowns in five red zone possessions yesterday after going 0-3 against the Cowboys. Reed has two good things going for him. For one, he’s highly confident without being cocky. And, he used to be a quarterback so he’s smart and has a deep understanding of the game.
4. The Redskins had 73 offensive snaps yesterday and, going off of the NFL play by play, they ran 13 of them out of the no huddle or “Turbo” offense. The snaps came in four different drives although they did not run the no huddle during the entirety of any possession. Still, they scored a touchdown at the end of every drive where they went to the Turbo at some point during the possession. On those 13 plays they gained a total of 149 yards, an average of 11.5 yards per play. Doing the math, since the Redskins gained 499 yards of total offense they gained an average of 5.8 yards on their other 60 snaps. This doesn’t mean that they can or should go to the Turbo full time. They can’t change personnel while they are going no huddle so they have to stay in the base formation they started the drive with. And utilizing a zone-blocking scheme you could just as easily wear out your offensive line going Turbo full time as you could wear down the defense. Still, as Griffin gets more experience running it we could see it more and more.
5. I’ll admit that I’m not much of an expert on special teams X’s and O’s but it seemed to me that Devin Hester’s TD Punt return was the result of Sav Rocca’s 53-yard line drive punt, Niles Paul going out of bounds as he went downfield for coverage so that he ended up chasing Hester from the side instead of slowing him down by coming straight on, and the other 10 players failing to contain. Rocca may have outkicked his coverage to some extent but the hang time was 4.9 seconds, respectable for a kick that distance. I had a feeling that the Bears were going to try an onside kick as they huddled before the kick (no, I didn’t say or tweet it so you’ll have to take my word for it). It was just sheer blind luck from Eric Weems being slightly offside, not a heads-up play by the special teams unit, that kept the Bears from stealing an extra possession in a game where every possession mattered.
6. Did the win save the Redskins’ season? Only time will tell. It was certainly a great boost for the offense to gain 499 yards and put up 38 points (subtracting the seven from the Orakpo touchdown). They had scoring drives of 60, 80, 74, 83, 80, and 80 yards. Yes, the Bears have a pretty bad defense (bottom third of most statistical categories except for takeaways) but the Redskins will face a lot of bad defenses the rest of the way. The defense, as noted, didn’t play as poorly as many think. Special teams will have to be fixed, perhaps by just booting every kick out of bounds to prevent a big play. Last year, my pat answer going into any game and in almost any situation during a game was, “if they have RG3, they have a chance”. Now that the Redskins have that Robert Griffin back, the pat answer is back.