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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

I admit It's getting better

A little better all the time (it can't get much worse)

Yes, I admit it's getting better

It's getting better since you've been mine!

--The Beatles


It wasn’t their best game of the year, not even their best of the month. They committed a dozen penalties for 137 yards, clunked on offense for most of the game, let Eagle receivers run open deep often, gave up six receptions to Terrell Owens, and put little pressure on Donovan McNabb.

Still, they almost pulled out a game against on the three best teams in football. Despite the penalties, Philadelphia converted just 3 of 13 third downs. Offense woes aside, the Skins held the ball for over 33 minutes. The Eagle receivers didn’t always catch the ball when they were open deep including one where Todd Pinkston developed one of the most severe cases of alligator arms ever seen when it appeared that the safety was bearing down on him (Pinkston might have to have surgery to remove his elbows from his rib cage, so severely did he yank his arms back to protect himself). Owens’ catches gained just 46 yards and McNabb was effective but hardly dominant.

If I believed in moral victories, I’d say this was one, but I don’t so I won’t. Still, while putting numbers in the left-hand column of the standing is what it’s all about, you can take some good out of a loss.

  • The defense was good, very good. Holding the Eagles to 17, with seven of those points coming off of a highly questionable pass interference call on Shawn Springs against Owens, is an impressive performance. Not dominant, but impressive nonetheless.
  • Ladell Betts continues to impress in different ways. Against Pittsburgh and the Giants he ran well from scrimmage. Yesterday his return of the opening kickoff set up a seven-yard touchdown drive, a score that gave Washington a working margin that got them through some poor stretches to come.
  • The whole offense is running more smoothly. It’s not always effective, but there seems to more some continuity. Part of this is due to the fact that the offensive coaches are getting the plays in more quickly. The call gets in, they line up, Ramsey starts the cadence, players go in motion, and there are still over 10 seconds left on the play clock. Sure, they cut is close from time to time, but nearly every team does.


Still, when it came down to it, the Redskins didn’t get it done. Every week, you see teams turn a deficit into a lead in the last two minutes of the game. I’m just going off of memory here and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s been over five years since the Redskins did that. On October 3, 1999 Brett Conway booted a field goal in the dying seconds for a 38-36 win. Since then, the Redskins have taken the lead in tie games in the last two minutes and they’ve come from behind to tie it up in the late going, but they haven’t turned a loss into a win during crunch time in a half a decade.

Nobody on this team was playing for the Redskins that day (Jon Jansen is the only one left in the organization and, of course, he’s out with an injury). There’s no carryover, no legacy of pulling out the close ones. If this team is ever to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a regular basis it will have to do it the hard way—they’ll have to learn it on their own.

Certainly, Gibbs and the coaches will help them learn how to win and a lot of the players who were with other teams recently played in games that their teams won in the dying seconds. That helps, but until they mesh as a team during crunch time and each player knows what the others are doing, it will be a hit or miss proposition.

Last night, it was a miss.

Yes, you Eagle fans who called my sanity into question when I predicted that the Redskins will win, I will examine my predictions and rate them, but that won’t happen until tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I will reveal how I voted for the Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year award.

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Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan spoke to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco about the loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl and how the Falcons will rebound in 2017. 

In the process, he took a shot at former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and put some of the blame on his style of coaching for the disastrous fourth quarter.

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan said. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

Those are some harsh words from Ryan and not exactly a ringing endorsement of Kyle Shanahan. This loss will surely haunt him should he never get back to another Super Bowl.

"There's always going to be a little sting," Ryan said. "You never lose that. Hopefully we've got four Super Bowl victories after this one, but that doesn't mean we won't still be like, 'Damn, let's talk about the other one we should've had."

Redskins fans may be able to relate to Matt Ryan's pain as some were vocal about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling during his time in Washington. Maybe Kirk Cousins takes notice of Ryan's comments as well before he considers San Francisco next off-season.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS STATEMENT WAS A MISTAKE, BUT WON'T HAVE IMPACT ON THE FIELD

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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