When you lose a game by a point, a team can go back and point a finger at almost any moment during the game where something went wrong.
One such moment for the Redskins on Sunday came in the second quarter. With the Cowboys leading 7-3, Washington embarked on one of their better drives of the game, moving from their own 21 to a first and goal at the nine. They got closer after a Kirk Cousins pass to Darrel Young set up third and goal at the two.
Then the march backward started. Santana Moss saw Cousins shift back from under center to shotgun formation. Thinking the ball had been snapped, he took off early. The false start pushed the line of scrimmage back to the seven. It looked for a moment that Mike Shanahan would have a tough fourth-down decision to make as a Cousins pass to Pierre Garçon got them inside the one.
But due to a flag for an illegal shift it became third down at the 12. For good measure, the Redskins had to burn a timeout due to some confusion as they lined up. A Cousins pass to Moss over the middle got the ball to the four and Kai Forbath booted a 22-yard field goal. Where the could have had seven points they were forced to settle for three.
The Redskins actually haven’t been bad in goal to go situations. They have converted those on into touchdowns 73 percent of the time, 11th in the NFL. But when you essentially stop yourself because of a Keystone Cops-style sequence of events when you’re in the 15th game of the fourth year of a coaching regime and lose by a point, the mistakes are magnified.
When you’re fighting for a playoff spot, it’s not only about what happens to you. It’s also about what happens to the teams you’re competing against for that playoff spot. And one of the Redskins’ main competitors got some very bad news this morning.
The Giants, who are in the No. 5 spot in the NFC, the first wild card spot, got word today that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has had sports hernia surgery. The recovery time is at least four weeks, probably more like six. The Giants’ season is likely to be over by the time six weeks elapse, barring a playoff run without one of their best defensive players.
Pierre-Paul has helped solidify what was a shaky Giants defense last year. He has seven sacks and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He has been heating up down the stretch with 5.5 sacks in his last three games.
His loss is a big blow for the Giants. They are a game ahead of the Buccaneers, who hold the No. 6 spot, and a game and a half ahead of the Redskins, who are currently seventh.
The Redskins play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins have to pick up just one game on the Giants over the next three to have a shot at passing them in the season finale.
The chances of that happening looked pretty good with Washington playing playing three teams with losing records in the Eagles, Panthers, and Bears and the Giants going against division leaders Dallas and Detroit in addition to the Eagles. With the Giants now without Pierre-Paul, the Redskins’ probabilities got tilted in their direction a little bit more.
Just finishing ahead of the Giants wouldn’t guarantee a playoff spot but it would come close. It would mean that the Redskins would have at least nine wins and the Redskins’ tie means that two teams would have to get to 10 wins to knock them out of the playoffs. The Bucs have to win three more games to get to nine wins and the Packers and Vikings would have to run the table.
CSN has teamed up with The Edge Systems to provide the occasional statistical review of Redskins game film. The Edge is analytical football software currently being used by coaches in the NFL, SEC, ACC and the media, providing some of the fastest and best data in football.
Below is a breakdown of the Redskins run game against Arizona - a game coach Jay Gruden admitted did not feature enough carries for Robert Kelley.
The Redskins had a lot of success with their GAP runs early in the game.
In the first half they were successful on 75 percent of their GAP runs.
As the game wore on the Redskins moved away from what had been successful and only ran two GAP runs in the second half.
As the Redskins power run game vanished, so did their prospects for winning the game.
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