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The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.26.06: The Tuesday Take--While Mark Brunell's performance on Sunday answered some questions, others remain. Plus a look ahead at the Jaguars, who go by the simple philosophy that if the other team doesn't have the ball it's hard for it to win.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It was only Houston. They were only dink and dunk passes. So what.

That was the reaction of Mark Brunell’s detractors to his NFL-record 22 consecutive pass completions on Sunday, a performance that wound up with the much-maligned quarterback going 24 of 27 for 261 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating for the game of 119.3.

And, to an extent, it’s a justified reaction. Houston has the worst defense in the league statistically. They’re almost 100 yards a game behind the team ranked 31st. While such stats can be misleading early in the season, they seem to be pretty darn accurate in this case. They have no impact players, they have no identity as a unit; they’re just not very good.

But there have been some pretty bad defenses in the history of the NFL and in all the thousands of games played before this one nobody has completed 22 consecutive forward passes in one game. Not Unitas against the pitiful Redskins teams of the early 60’s, not Jurgensen against the expansion Saints, not Montana playing the horrid Bucs teams of the late ‘80’s, not Marino while the Dolphins were regularly beating up on the Bills, not Manning in facing these Texans twice a year. Nobody.

This doesn’t qualify Brunell for the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that his struggles are over. But to brush it off and say that anyone from your little sister to a horrible NFL quarterback could complete 22 straight passes against an NFL defense is going to the other extreme and not giving him enough credit.

Yes, they were short passes. The record would have be exponentially more impressive had even a couple more of the attempts been of the length of the one on which David Patten made that spectacular catch 25 yards downfield. On at least a couple of occasions it looked like Brunell had time to find a receiver downfield but he checked down to Ladell Betts or another receiver roaming a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Redskins will need to go deep in the passing game on occasion if they are going to beat the better teams on their schedule. Brunell needs to develop the confidence to throw the intermediate and deep routes and the patience to wait for those plays to develop when he’s getting time to throw.

But for six games, including the preseason, no facet of the offense was working well. It was a train wreck. Now it appears that a few of the cars have been put back onto the track. We will see if the rest of the mess can be straightened out.

Jaguars a team in possession

In taking an early look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, one number jumps out—23. That’s the average number of possession minutes that the Jags’ three opponents have managed so far this season. And this meager total has been compiled by some quality opponents in Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. There’s nary a stiff among them.

The flip side of that coin is that the Jaguars’ offense has had the ball for 37 minutes a game. There is no secret formula for putting up numbers like this. You run the ball and you stop the run. The Jags defense has allowed just 59 yards a game on the ground, the third-best total in the league. They’re eighth in the league in rushing offense, but they’re third in rushing attempts. Jacksonville is one of just four teams who have run the ball more than 100 times. That’s 33 times a game and even though their average is mediocre at 3.7 yards a crack, they keep at it and they wear their opponents down.

The closer the Redskins come to evening up that time of possession the better their chances will be of pulling the upset (yes, the Redskins are a three-point dog at home). That means showing the same patience with the running game that the Jags have shown. It also means not prolonging Jacksonville’s possessions and shortening their own by creating a bunch of yellow laundry all over the field. They won’t be able to bail out of very many first and 20 or second and 15 situations like they could against Houston.

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Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

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Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Just when you thought it was going to stay tight in various NFL divisions, 2016 Week 13 came along. We saw DALLAS gain a firm 3-game lead in the NFC East, DETROIT jump out to a 2-game lead over Minnesota and Green Bay in the NFC North, SEATTLE maintain its 3-game lead in the NFC West and NEW ENGLAND vault to a 3-game lead in the AFC East.  Other division races remain either tied (NFC South, AFC North and AFC South) or within one game at the top (AFC West).

That separation in various divisions has us looking at three division title clinching scenarios this week and Dallas and New England can first-round playoff byes, with Dallas also having a shot at claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.

Before we get to those scenarios and one involving Oakland gaining a playoff berth, let's recap Week 13.  With DALLAS' win over Minnesota last Thursday and Washington's loss at Arizona, the COWBOYS clinched a playoff berth.  Week 13 is the earliest DALLAS has clinched a playoff spot since 2007 when they clinched playoffs in Week 13, Division title in Week 14, a playoff bye in Week 15 and homefield advantage Week 16.  That was also the year the 10-6 NY GIANTS beat the 13-3 COWBOYS on the road in the Divisional Round 21-17. :-)

Two teams were also eliminated from playoff contention during Week 13 as JACKSONVILLE's loss to Denver was the Jaguars final nail in the coffin and the NY JETS loss on Monday Night at home to Indy spelled their playoff doom.  Jacksonville has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and the NY Jets haven't seen Postseason since 2010.  That leaves 28 teams in Super Bowl contention with four weeks to play which is 5th best in last 9 years, but 3 off last year's record number of 31 teams in contention.

QUIZ TIME: Which NFL team hasn't made the playoffs in ANY YEAR since the League realigned in 2002?   Answer Below (and it might surprise you).

HERE ARE YOUR 2016 WEEK 14 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: 

DALLAS COWBOYS
   Dallas clinches division title:
    1) DAL win
   Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie
    2) DAL win + SEA loss
   Dallas clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
   Seattle clinches division title:
    1) SEA win + ARI loss or tie
    2) SEA tie + ARI loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
   New England clinches division title:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie
    2) NE tie + MIA loss
   New England clinches a first-round bye:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

OAKLAND RAIDERS
   Oakland clinches a playoff berth:
    1) OAK win + MIA loss or tie
    2) OAK win + DEN loss
    3) OAK tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie
    4) OAK tie + MIA loss + PIT loss or tie  

MORE NFL: SHOULD THE REDSKINS' OL TAKE SOME OF BLAME FOR RECENT LOSS?

OAKLAND's situation is interesting as the Raiders have two-team tiebreaker advantage over both New England and Miami (whichever one doesn't win the division when looking at playoff berth clinching scenarios). You then have to look to see if eitehr Miami or New England can use Kansas City or Denver to jump over Oakland in this exercise.  Miami loses tiebreaker to Denver based on common opponents and canít use Kansas City since there is no scenario where the three-way KC-OAK-DEN tie ends with DEN finishing first, KC second and OAK third.  Kansas City would win the AFC West in that tiebreaker in this scenario no matter what happens in future games after this Thursday.  However, Miami CAN use Kansas City if Denver ties this week instead of loses and Denver wins division at 11-4-1 and KC and OAK tie at 11-5.  New England can beat KC and jump Oakland in that same Denver division winner scenario.  THUS...the need for a DENVER LOSS with an OAKLAND WIN as one clinching option this week.

TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed this week, not only will it be interesting to see what the COWBOYS do with playing time for Tony Romo and the Rookies, but it will also mean that DALLAS won't have "must-win" motivation when they face TAMPA BAY Week 15 and DETROIT Week 16...two teams firmly in the Playoff hunt.
- If NEW ENGLAND clinches the AFC East title this week, it will be the EIGHTH consecutive division title for the Patriots and 13 titles in the last 14 years.  Amazing.
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed in week 14, it will be the earliest any NFL team has accomplished that since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (who also did the same thing in 2005). No NFC team has clinched the #1 seed with three weeks to play since the 1985 Chicago Bears.  Super Bowl Shuffle anyone? 

QUIZ ANSWER: THE BUFFALO BILLS have not made the playoffs since realignment in 2002 (only NFL team) and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 which be remembered as the year Buffalo lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs 22-16 in what is known as the "MUSIC CITY MIRACLE".  Can you say Frank Wycheck?

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 12:
SEED    AFC                NFC
1    New England Patriots        Dallas Cowboys
2    Kansas City Chiefs        Seattle Seahawks (jumps ATL for #2)
3    Pittsburgh Steelers        Atlanta Falcons
4    Houston Texans            Detroit Lions
5    Oakland Raiders            New York Giants
6    Denver Broncos            Washington Redskins (need to go 3-1 vs. TB 2-2)

Enjoy Week 14 and best of luck to your favorite team!

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Need to Know: Do the Redskins need a big day from Cousins to win?

Need to Know: Do the Redskins need a big day from Cousins to win?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 6, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 14; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 19; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 26

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion)
Postgame injury report

Last look at Redskins vs. Cardinals

Turning point: I have feeling that Sunday was a pivotal point in the season. When it’s all over the Cardinals game will either be looked at as the beginning of the end of their playoff run or as the low point that preceded a streak that got them into the playoffs.

A one-man show? One question raised on Sunday is whether the Redskins can win without a stellar performance from Kirk Cousins. His completion percentage of 56.8 on Sunday was his worst in any game this season. He made some nice passes but all in all he was not the guy who has carried the team for the past six weeks. If they are going to make the playoffs and perhaps do something when they get there the defense and running game are going to need to pitch in.

Pass happy play calling: The Redskins’ first four plays were passes. Then Rob Kelley went up the middle for 13 yards. The next five plays were passes. It was foreshadowing; during a game they never trailed by more than one score the Redskins called 39 passes and 17 runs. Kelley got 63 yards of 14 carries and Chris Thompson got 24 yards on two. Doing the math, the running backs averaged 5.4 yards per carry. I’m not one to nitpick the play calling but perhaps a few more handoffs would have helped move the ball more effectively.

Snap count spot check: Vernon Davis played every offensive snap but one. On defense, Duke Ihenacho played 64 snaps, his second-highest total of the season. They were in nickel a lot—Kendall Fuller played 55 snaps—but Su’a Cravens played only 37 snaps, about half.

Potpourri: If Dustin Hopkins was in a slump it looks like he’s out of it after booming a 53-yard field goal and pounding all six of his kickoffs for touchbacks . . . Although Davis did catch five passes for 47 yards with Jordan Reed out, he is missed as a second option when Reed can’t play . . . With Tyrann Mathieu, who usually covers the slot receiver, out Cousins tried to go to Jamison Crowder but he caught just three of the eight passes targeted to him . . . Like many games, we could stop all analysis of this game after seeing that the Redskins turned the ball over twice and didn’t manage to take it away.  

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