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Zorn’s strategic error costs Skins

Zorn’s strategic error costs Skins

There really isn't a whole lot to break down about today's game. The teams traded hot streaks for 55 minutes and then they exchanged scores at the end.

It's the Niners' last score, the game-winning field goal, that is the focus here. San Francisco never should have had a chance to try it, or at least it should have been a much greater challenge for them. They got the chance, however, because Jim Zorn made a rookie mistake.

Go back to the end of the Redskins' tying drive. At the 2:00 warning, the Redskins have a second and goal at the nine. Clinton Portis runs for two yards to the seven and the clock keeps ticking. On third and goal at the seven, the ball is snapped with 1:28 left and Campbell completes a pass to Chris Cooley for five yards down to the two. It's fourth and goal at the two and the clock is running. With 1:15 left, Zorn calls timeout.

That was his big mistake.

Why stop the clock then?

Sure you want to talk about the fourth-down play. After all, it's your last shot. If you score, you can put it into overtime. If you don't, you lose.

But why call timeout with well over a minute left with the clock running? It became a one-play game. Zorn needed to let the clock run down as far as he could, as though they were trying a game-winning or tying field goal, because you want to leave the other team as little time as possible to answer your score.

Cooley went down with about 1:21 left. The 40-second play clock started at about that time. Had Zorn chosen to burn off the maximum time before going for it on fourth, there would have been about 42 seconds left for the fourth-down play.

After Campbell scores, the Niners would have had about 35 seconds left to try to score. It wouldn't have been impossible, but certainly the extra 30 seconds they had thanks to the early timeout helped them dramatically.

I can think of a couple of reasons why Zorn might have wanted to preserve some time, but neither really holds water. He may have wanted to have some time with which to work had the Redskins failed to score but a penalty had given them a first down. But they still had two timeouts left. They would have been able to take four shots at the end zone in 35 or 40 seconds easily and they would have been able to run or pass.

Zorn might also have been thinking that he wanted to save time should his team not reach the end zone. But if Campbell's run fails, the 49ers get the ball with about 1:09 to go and the Redskins have two timeouts. Two kneel downs followed by the Skins' two remaining timeouts and there's about a minute left. Another knee on third down and the Skins can't stop the clock. At about 20 seconds, San Francisco has to run a fourth-down play.

The safe-aggressive call in that situation is to have your punter run around in the end zone and take an intentional safety. You then have a free kick from the 20 with 15 seconds left. It then takes a miracle.

If I'm missing something here, let me know.

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Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

Cousins believes "a lot rides" on the coming Redskins season

RICHMOND—While Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success in his first two seasons as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he and the team didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to. They lost four of their last six games to finish out of a playoff spot. With the game on the line in the season finale against the Giants, Cousins threw an interception as the team was driving for a late score to win or tie the game. The loss was the final blow to their playoff hopes.

As with any disappointing situation, Cousins and the team must walk a line between learning from the mistakes that were made—and there were many beyond the Cousins interception—and dwelling on the past. Cousins said today that the failure to make the playoffs will help drive the team this year.

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“I think what it does is it gives us an edge, because we stay humble and hungry because we left the season realizing we do have a long ways to go,” Cousins said of the late-season woes. “We do need to improve if we want to go in the direction that we all believe we can. In that sense we’ll take the silver lining that nobody is content, nobody is entitled, nobody feels like we can rest on what we’ve done in the past.”

While they can focus on the silver lining for now, Cousins says that they realize that coming close to the playoffs but missing out year after year won’t cut it. That’s what gets coaches fired and leads to players losing their jobs.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

“We do feel like a lot rides on this season up ahead,” he said. “Hopefully, that gives us a sense of urgency all through training camp to be really focused, and as a result gets the best out of every one of us so that our team can play as well as we possibly can.”

Cousins is playing on the one-year franchise tag. He has been quick to point out that many of his teammates are either on one-year deals or in the final season of a multi-year deal. Cousins is one of over a dozen starters or key contributors who will become free agents in 2018. If they are going to stay around they can’t go 2-4 down the stretch like they did last year.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

Redskins' Cousins says he bets on the system, not on himself

RICHMOND—As Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins goes into playing under the franchise tag for the second straight season, the phrase commonly used about him is that he is betting on himself, eschewing the long-term security of a multiyear deal in favor hoping to improve his leverage by playing on the tags.

However, Cousins said that is a misconception.

“I don’t know that I ever bet on myself, I bet on the system, he said. “It has nothing to do with myself. I’m just going out and playing and there’s never been anything but positive feelings. I’m excited to get to work here. As I’ve said, my wife and I love it here and we’re in a good place.”

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Ever since the deadline for him to sign a long-term contract this year came and went without a new deal, Cousins has been trying to debunk the notion that he has a desire to leave the Redskins as soon as he can. Appearing on 106.7 The Fan last week, Cousins said that the Redskins are his “first choice” to be his team going forward. He talked positively about his future in Washington again today after the Redskins first training camp walkthrough.

Although there was talk that the contract negotiations took a sour turn at the end after team president Bruce Allen revealed some of the details of the team’s final offer to Cousins, Cousins indicated today that everything is fine.

“W e’ve done a good job communicating between me and the team,” he said. “We’re on the same page and we’ve done everything we can possibly do to get that settled and move forward. I think we’re all in a good place right now and we’ve got enough to worry about getting our offense playing at the level we need to have a great season so I can be back in future years.”

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, the final update

What it really comes down to, what Cousins believes will make things good in the future for him and the Redskins, is success on the field.

“If you win football games, everything else takes care of itself,” he said.

“In the offseason, the ball’s in the team’s court. But from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball’s in my court and I’ve got to go play football well. That’s where my focus is.”

There likely will be more talk of Cousins future beyond the 2017 seas in the coming weeks and months. It appears that for right now that is the furthest thing from Cousins’ mind.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.