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Tuesday Take—The Drive

Tuesday Take—The Drive

Make no mistake about it, the Washington Redskins' 26-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys was no fluke.

The better team won.

Not the better collection of talent. Jerry Jones has pieced together an excellent mosaic of individual talent. They are big and fast on defense, quick and sharp on offense.

The Redskins aren't as impressive under the stop watch or doing the bench press. They sent three players to the Pro Bowl, 10 fewer than did Dallas, and one of them was their long snapper.

But in the fourth quarter of a six-point game, the Redskins got it done and the Cowboys didn't. The Skins came together as a team while Dallas was focused on one tile in its mosaic.

Dallas took possession with 10:48 after the Redskins had taken that six-point lead. Washington had turned Chris Horton's interception of Tony Romo into a field goal. Romo, of course, is one of the NFL's glamour boys while Horton is a rookie seventh-round pick. But the rook jumped the route and picked off the Pro Bowler.

So the Redskins go back on defense with some of their backs sidelined with cramps and other muscle ailments. The Cowboys go three and out with all three plays being passes going to a tightly covered individual, one Terrell Owens.

Were the three attempts to TO an response to "give me the ball" complaints on the sideline, an effort to prevent a blowup by #81?

As far as I know, nobody asked those questions.

In any case, the Redskins took over at their own 34 after a punt. What followed hasn't been talked about much, but if this turns out to be a special season for the Washington Redskins the 12-play, 6:54 drive that followed will be one of those moments to remember.

Back in the prime of The Hogs, game-clinching drives like this one were accomplished primarily through brute strength with the offensive line blasting back a tired defensive front and a big back slamming in behind them.

This drive was achieved by using a combination of brains and brawn.

Watching it again and breaking it down, I noted that on a few occasions Dallas was in a pass-defense alignment, with only five in the box, when it seemed apparent that the Redskins were in a running frame of mind. This was a result of Jim Zorn's play calling in late-game situations over the last two weeks when he has shown a willingness to pass in run-out-the-clock scenarios.

1-10-WAS 34 (10:16) 26-C.Portis left guard to WAS 37 for 3 yards (94-D.Ware).

Dallas has the two outside linebacker crowding the line with an inside linebacker five yards off the line.

2-7-WAS 37 (9:38) 26-C.Portis up the middle to WAS 48 for 11 yards (25-P.Watkins).

The two outside backers are again at the line with the two inside LB's within five yards. The safeties both are fairly shallow, about 11 yards downfield. The offensive line gets about three yards of push and Sellers clears the way for Portis to break for the last five yards.

1-10-WAS 48 (8:58) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 39 for 13 yards (55-Z.Thomas).

Every Dallas defender except one safety is within five yards of the line. There isn't as much surge by the line this time but a large hole opens between Jansen and Thomas. Portis shakes off an attempted tackle by Bradie James (who was expending an awful lot of energy preening and celebrating earlier in the game) and breaks loose for five more.

1-10-DAL 39 (8:18) 17-J.Campbell pass short right to 47-C.Cooley pushed ob at DAL 33 for 6 yards (98-G.Ellis). Pass complete off play-action and roll right.

Only six in the box this time, a pass defense alignment. Cooley sets up as if to block for a moment and Greg Ellis and a safety are fooled. Cooley slides into the flat and catches Campbell's throw off of the bootleg.

2-4-DAL 33 (7:43) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 31 for 2 yards (94-D.Ware; 55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #1 by WAS at 06:58.

Three linebackers crowd the line and the line gets no push.

3-2-DAL 31 (6:58) (Shotgun) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 31 for no gain (94-D.Ware). PENALTY on DAL, Defensive 12 On-field, 5 yards, enforced at DAL 31 - No Play.

All 12 defenders are within five yards of the line with nine of them on the line. I'm not sure how Wade Phillips could be paying attention and not see the mistake. As you know, it wasn't one of these situations where a player is caught running off the field at the snap. They were all right there, seven crowding the middle, two corners in press coverage and a linebacker and a safety—apparently the extra defender—five yards back.

1-10-DAL 26 (6:32) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 25 for 1 yard (96-M.Spears).

Dallas has six in the box. The Redskins get no push and Marcus Spears gets penetration and trips up Portis before he got going.

2-9-DAL 25 (5:52) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 18 for 7 yards (72-S.Bowen).

This is where it looks like the fact that Zorn has shown that he's willing to call a pass in what normally would be a running situation pays off. The safeties are 10 yards downfield, the corners are playing seven yards back from Moss and Randle El, and Zack Thomas is six yards downfield. So in a situation where the other team is pounding the ball down your throat and is in an I formation with a tight end, the Dallas D is lined up just like it would be in the second quarter of a 7-7 game. The offensive line gets a nice surge and Betts follows the pile for seven yards.

3-2-DAL 18 (5:07) 46-L.Betts right guard to DAL 16 for 2 yards (99-C.Canty; 96-M.Spears).

The entire Dallas defense is within eight yards of the line this time. Betts disappears into the pile at the line of scrimmage and finds enough daylight in between three Dallas defenders to get just enough for the first down.

1-10-DAL 16 (4:22) 46-L.Betts left guard to DAL 16 for no gain (96-M.Spears).

The defense is bunched at the line, Betts has no chance.

2-10-DAL 16 (3:37) 26-C.Portis right guard to DAL 12 for 4 yards (55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #2 by DAL at 03:30.

Again, the Cowboys are playing loose. Only six defenders are within five yards of the line.

3-6-DAL 12 (3:30) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 11 for 1 yard (97-J.Hatcher). Timeout #3 by DAL at 03:26.

Zorn got the defense spread out by lining up with four wide receivers, but the line couldn't get any push despite a 5-4 man advantage. The run up the middle kept the ball in the center of the field for Suisham's clincher.

4-5-DAL 11 (3:26) (Field Goal formation) 6-S.Suisham 29 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-67-E.Albright, Holder-14-D.Brooks.

WAS 26    DAL 17    Plays: 12    Possession: 6:54

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Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

The Redskins moved the ball well against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but continued red zone woes again sent Washington home with a loss. While the late November schedule proved brutal for the 'Skins, playing two games in five days, now the Redskins come to Arizona for an early December game with fresh legs and ample rest. Played indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium, weather will not be a factor for the 4 p.m. EST kick, but all the action starts on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at 3 p.m. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Keep it moving - Kirk Cousins showed he likes to get hot in the second half of the season during 2015. The quarterback's play late last year won the 'Skins the NFC East, and while a division title is out of reach with the Cowboys already at 11 wins, Cousins again looks to be on a heater. In three games since the bye, Cousins has thrown for more than 1,000 yards to go with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The No. 1 story for the 'Skins is Cousins, and if he keeps his hot streak going, Washington should find itself in position to win in Arizona.
  2. Missing in action - This will be the final game of a four-game suspension for left tackle Trent Williams, and the Washington offensive line has performed admirably in his absence. Arguably more important this week will be the absence of tight end Jordan Reed, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in Dallas. What's wild about Reed - he came back to play in the second half against the Cowboys - and score two touchdowns - while playing with a separated shoulder. Reed did not practice this week, and Jay Gruden said his range of motion in the shoulder is just too limited to go against the Cardinals. 
  3. Consider the source - The Redskins offense might be the most potent group in this game, but Washington would be foolish to sleep on the Cardinals. Arizona was widely considered a Super Bowl contender coming into the season, and though they are in the midst of a disappointing year at 4-6-1, a win against the Skins could get the Cards back on the playoff track. Arizona running back David Johnson is the 3rd leading rusher in the NFL with 921 yards on the ground, not to mention an additional 613 yards receiving. Gruden on Johnson, "He is probably the best all-around back there is in the National Football League right now as far as being able to move outside, be a great route runner but also run between the tackles and run outside with his speed. So it’s going to be a matchup problem." Defensively, the Redskins ranks 25th in the NFL at stopping the run. Watch out for David Johnson.
  4. Problems don't just go away - Look at just about any metric on the Redskins offense, and the results are impressive: No. 2 in yards-per-game, No. 2 in yards-per-play, No. 2 in pass yards-per-game. But for all the yards, the 'Skins don't score at a corresponding clip as they rank 9th in the NFL in points. The culprit? Red zone troubles. "There are so many good things we’re doing on offense to put a damper on what they’re doing offensively with the red zone. It’s hard to do, but it’s something that is a glaring weakness of this football team right now," Gruden said of his team. The best road to wins for the Redskins is by scoring, ideally at least 30 points, and that will require some success inside the 20s.
  5. The harder they fall - If the Arizona offense has an Achilles heel, it's their offensive line. Carson Palmer has been sacked 16 times in the Cards last four games, and the 'Skins need to focus on bringing Palmer down. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy - who will be playing in his hometown - have been the leaders at getting sacks for Joe Barry's defense, and Preston Smith could be in line for another big game. Getting to Carson Palmer should be among the defense's top priorities, as that can slow Larry Fitzgerald and the Cards pass game.

Numbers & Notes:

  • DeSean Jackson's 67-yard reception in Dallas was a season long and his longest since a 77-yard touchdown vs. Buffalo in Week 15 of the 2015 season.
  • Kirk Cousins' 3,540 passing yards in 2016 now rank 10th-most in a single season in team history, and he still has five games left to play.
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFL in percentage of fewest 3-and-out drives at 9.5 percent.
  • If Pierre Garçon can gain 137 receiving yards on Sunday, he will pass Michael Westbrook for 10th-most career receiving yards in team history.
  • With nine sacks, Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from becoming the fifth member of the Redskins (Dexter Manley, 4; Charles Mann, 4; Andre Carter, 2; Brian Orakpo, 2) to post multiple 10-sack seasons since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances