Sunday, September 22, 2013
Lions 27, Redskins 20: Ten observations
By John Keim
1. The Redskins are better than this. That’s what many people have said or are saying. Why do we assume that they are better than what they’ve shown so far? Because they won seven straight last season? Right now this is what they are: a team that can't defend the pass in a passing league and with a quarterback who is not what he was -- not yet anyway. Last season was not a fluke, but they had so much momentum going that they could overcome Robert Griffin III's knee injury and keep rolling. They can’t overcome a still-not-himself Griffin right now because other parts aren’t working. So, no, they’re not better than this. Griffin’s injury haunts this team still. And because he’s not himself teams can defend him, and the rest of the offense, differently. Everything changes.
The Detroit Lions shut down running back Alfred Morris and showed they were willing to let Robert Griffin III, left, try to beat them on Sunday.
2. I liked this quote from DeAngelo Hall: “We can’t live on what we did last year. That means nothing right now.” It speaks to the urgency of the situation. Don’t assume it will turn around just because it did so last season. It’s tough to keep beating the odds and that, once again, is what the Redskins are trying to do. A couple wins in a row changes everything, but after Oakland and the bye week they play at Dallas, host Chicago and play at Denver. Even if they play better a turnaround will be tough.
3. One big concern I had before the season was the turnover differential. The Redskins were plus-17 last season; it’s tough to keep that going for a second season, and it was a major reason why they excelled. They’re minus-2 through three games. Last season, Griffin did not throw an interception in the red zone; he threw one today. Think about this: the defense has scored in two games and they still can’t win a game. At home. Against two teams that combined for eight wins in 2012.
4. Missed tackles. Yikes. You can’t blame Bacarri Rambo for this one because he didn’t play from scrimmage as the Redskins used their base front, in an attempt to stop the run, and three cornerbacks. They did stop the run (23 carries, 63 yards for the Lions). But they allowed 385 through the air, and they missed so many tackles. Joique Bell broke three tackles on his 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He’s a physical runner, but come on.
5. On that drive, the Redskins had a third-and-10 in which they missed four tackles on Bell -- Brandon Meriweather could have had Bell stopped after 12 yards. Instead, he gained 25 more and another 15 was added for a Perry Riley penalty on a roughing penalty. That’s how you get to 0-3. Three plays later, the Redskins stopped them on third-and-6. But London Fletcher was flagged for holding a linemen as he rushed, an automatic first down. So two terrible third downs put Detroit in position for a touchdown instead of either a punt or a field goal.
6. The Redskins’ defense allowed plays of 47, 41, 37 and 33 yards. There were two other gains of 20 and 23 yards. That means of Detroit’s 441 yards, 201 came on six plays. The Redskins have allowed eight plays for 30 yards or more in the past two games combined (and 10 for the season). Good lord. It’s a combination of missed tackles and poor secondary play, a combination of youth and past-their-prime vets. Rookie corner David Amerson admitted he tried to make a big play on one route to Nate Burleson; a risky decision -- the play wasn't there to be made -- turned into a 41-yard play. Youth.
7. One of the big mysteries of the second half: Why so few carries for running back Alfred Morris? It will be asked Monday. Here is what he did on his first six carries of the third quarter: 0, 4, 1, 1, 3, 1. Not exactly a great stat there, and the Lions made it clear they were going to focus on stopping Morris. Why? Because they did not think Griffin could beat them with his arm. They were also content with him running on the zone read-option, because they were willing to give him four or five yards in order to prevent Morris from getting a lot more. Get used to it.
8. The Redskins won 10 games last season and had an explosive offense by being balanced. It’s who they are and it’s what they need to be, given where Griffin is as a passer. The imbalance was evident in the first half, too, as Griffin threw 21 passes (five coming with less than 38 seconds left) compared to nine runs. The Redskins moved the ball with 180 yards, but scored just once -- on a 30-yard Morris run.
9. Aldrick Robinson has to make that catch. Has to. Your team is struggling; you’re in position to change the game and you fail to complete the catch. Robinson was insistent that the ball “never hit the ground ... I know what it looked like, but I know what it was.” But replays (and photos) disagreed with him, as did his coach. The pass was there; all Robinson had to do was hold onto the ball as he hit the ground. His job is to get open deep and make big plays.
10. What a luxury to have a player such as Calvin Johnson. And quarterback Matthew Stafford throws with an unreal amount of trust when going to him. There were a handful of throws where that was evident. Stafford doesn’t throw it blindly, but he does throw it knowing that few in the game are better than Johnson when the ball’s in the air. And if you give Stafford a little window, as the Redskins did before the back-breaking touchdown, he shows his arm strength.