Washington Redskins: 2013 Week 9 SD at WAS

Ten Observations: Redskins 30, Chargers 24

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:20
PM ET
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  1. I don’t know if Sunday turned the Washington Redskins’ season around; I do know it would have been over with a loss, especially with both Dallas and Philadelphia winning. And until they play well in consecutive games it’ll be difficult to take them seriously. But Sunday was a good bounce-back game after a horrendous finish in Denver and after some bad plays in the first half (blocked field goal, tipped pass for a touchdown). They blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but the focus was on a goal-line stand and touchdown drive in overtime. Quite a turnaround indeed. Now, do it again Thursday and we’ll talk.
  2. Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield knew the Chargers would try to catch them with their nickel defense on first-and-goal from the 1. So Cofield played it as a run. His penetration made a big difference in stopping Danny Woodhead. “I can just fire off the ball; I don’t want to get knocked out of the A gap,” he said. “I’m trying to force them to make a cut right away. I was able to penetrate and he had to cut back.” If Cofield had played for the pass? “You can get caught playing high or in a pass rush and get knocked out of your gap. … If it was a pass, then God bless 'em.” Defensive end Stephen Bowen said, “I was surprised they had Danny Woodhead in for a run.” We’ll add Bowen to the list.
  3. The Redskins were caught with one defensive back in a goal-line situation by Denver last week. When they shifted to a pass, the Redskins were overmatched and Denver scored. The Redskins tweaked that package this week. The result? Corner DeAngelo Hall was in the game and covered tight end Antonio Gates on the fade. Hall jammed him and disrupting the timing. “Thank God I was on him,” Hall said. “Normally we line up with a bunch of big guys trying to stop the run. It worked out for us.”
  4. Corner David Amerson made a terrific fourth-quarter play, intercepting Philip Rivers at the Redskins’ 49-yard line. It led to a field goal and 24-14 lead. Receiver Keenan Allen, Amerson’s boyhood buddy, took an inside release, tipping Amerson to two possibilities: a sucker route in which he cuts back out or a dig. Allen leaned hard on the outside to get back inside, another clue. “Basic stuff,” Amerson said. “I played the dig heavy and was able to get around him.” After that, the Chargers used more double moves to counter his aggressiveness – as they did on a touchdown later in the quarter, with Allen breaking hard inside and cutting out.
  5. On the fourth-and-2 that San Diego converted with 1 minute, 45 seconds left in the game Hall could be seen pointing to his right. There was supposed to be an adjustment, but only Hall and Amerson got it. Corner Josh Wilson and Hall ran with the front man against the Chargers’ bunch formation while Amerson ran toward Antonio Gates near the first-down marker. Amerson called it a miscommunication as Wilson should have dropped to the outside – where Allen caught the ball.
  6. Still not sure the reason for all the batted passes (the field goals, based on replays both looked too low). It’s not like Robert Griffin III has had a lot of issues in this area. On the first one that resulted in a touchdown, Griffin paused before he threw and, with his eyes focused on his target, San Diego’s Lawrence Guy raised his arms at the right time and deflected the pass. Another time, there was too much push and a hand was in Griffin’s face. It’s not always a height issue; it’s about timing and reading clues for the release.
  7. But Griffin did a good job with his eyes on a critical third-and-8 on the game-winning drive in overtime, forcing linebacker Reggie Walker to stay in the middle. That enabled Griffin to squeeze in a pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Had Griffin eyed him the whole way, the pass would not have been open.
  8. The drift pass – when the Redskins fake the play-action and hit a receiver down the seam -- still works. There have been times it hasn’t this season, but it’s not as if teams had taken it away (some had based on how they used their safeties over the middle). But San Diego’s linebackers were fooled time and again on the play fakes, leaving nice throwing lanes that Griffin used to make big passes. He connected with Pierre Garcon on one of these routes for 17 yards in overtime, making a tremendous throw in tight coverage. As the game progressed, Griffin threw with more rhythm and decisiveness (and trust). There are missed plays, but it was a good bounce-back game from Griffin.
  9. Garcon was a beast all day and finished with seven catches for 172 yards. His blocking was good, but his hands were fantastic and he made plays downfield for a change. He made another one-handed grab while covered by corner Derek Cox and then caught a pass behind him while going to the ground on a dig route. Griffin has two targets that he can trust to catch the ball as long as it’s near them: Garcon and Reed. No one has been more frustrated the past several weeks than Garcon. But nobody plays harder all game than this guy.
  10. It’s hard to imagine a more popular player in the locker room than Darrel Young. All the guy does is try to open holes for Alfred Morris. Young has always wanted more opportunities, but it never affects how he plays. So players were genuinely thrilled that he scored three touchdowns in this one. They knew he could have success based on how the Chargers handled those situations, with the line playing straight up; that left gaps Young ran through.

RG III helps propel Redskins

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
8:45
PM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- Robert Griffin III vowed to run safer this season. He also said when situations called for him to take a chance he would take it.

That’s what happened Sunday in the Washington Redskins' 30-24 overtime win versus the San Diego Chargers. Late in the third quarter with the Redskins facing a third and 9 from the Chargers’ 46, Griffin scrambled around the right end. He could have run out of bounds to save himself but opted for the hard route, one that ended with him getting crunched. But also the option that Washington the first down.

It helped that running back Roy Helu blocked linebacker Reggie Walker. Linebacker Thomas Keiser was flying at him from the inside. Griffin launched himself forward.

“You just have to make a decision,” Griffin said. “A lot of people criticize me for that type of stuff all the time and I could have gone out of bounds and we could have been short of the first down. I saw an opportunity to fly, so I got my wings and tried to fly. I hit the ground pretty hard, so you know people, we really can’t fly. No matter how much we dream about it, but I saw the opportunity and at that point in the game I thought we needed it and that’s why I took it.”

The Redskins ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive to take a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“I thought that was the play of the game,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of Griffin’s dive. “We needed to get that first down. He gave up his body and he didn’t care about getting out of bounds. He just cared about finding a way to keep the drive going and that’s what you have to do every once in a while. A guy says, ‘Hey, we need this play,’ and he made it happen.”

It enabled Griffin to bounce back after a mediocre first half in which he completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards, but no touchdowns and an interception. He completed 13-of-17 for 179 yards in the second half.

“I thought he was cool, calm and collected out there,” Shanahan said. “He played hard and competed. It wasn’t a perfect game but I was proud of how he bounced back [from Denver]. The one run was typical of his mindset going into the game. You don’t see very many players make that play.”

Goal-line stand might have saved season

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
7:50
PM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- Less than a yard dictated the future of the Washington Redskins' season. Three plays that could reshape a season-gone-bad. Or, perhaps, lead to an unofficial elimination loss, followed by weeks of frustration and speculation. Which is not what anyone in the Redskins' organization had in mind just two months ago.

Still, that's what the Redskins faced when the San Diego Chargers lined up with a first and goal inside the 1-yard line. Moments earlier, Danny Woodhead dove for the pylon, missing by inches as the replay showed. But with all sorts of momentum, San Diego was in good shape with 21 seconds and two time outs.

[+] EnlargeDanny Woodhead
AP Photo/Alex BrandonWashington's goal-line stand may be a turning point for the Redskins' season.
Here's how the Redskins responded: stopping Woodhead – really? – for no gain; defending a fade route to tight end Antonio Gates; leaving no one open for Philip Rivers on a sprint rollout to the right.

Yes, San Diego punctuated the drive with a field goal to send the game into overtime as the Redskins blew a 10-point lead.

But.

The offense responded with a 78-yard drive to win the game in overtime, a 30-24 victory that left them at 3-5 and with a pulse.

“That was a big-time stand and a big-time drive by the offense,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “You know it can be some momentum for us, big-time momentum for us. It says there's a lot of fight in this team.”

And it might have saved the season.

“Maybe. We'll see,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “This was a must win. We're not going to say that [before the game] but it was a must win for us. We needed this game. It was remarkable the way our guys fought.”

They needed to fight, with a game that had slipped away and a season that was in danger of doing the same. The Redskins can point to last year all they want, but had they fallen to a 2-6 record they would have been alive only mathematically. Now? They still need to win consecutive games before they can think they're back in any race.

But the goal-line stand and subsequent overtime drive gave them a chance. "The way we won the game, that can be a turning point for us," Griffin said. "It’s definitely a team bonding type game."

Woodhead went nowhere on first down and the fade to Gates, whose route was thrown off by a hard jam from corner DeAngelo Hall, was too long. On third down Rivers sprinted right, no one was open and he threw incomplete to the back of the end zone to Keenan Allen. The Chargers tied the game; the Redskins celebrated. Or, at least, exhaled.

“It's a confidence builder, definitely,” Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “It was do or die man. Guys stood up man and everyone did their job. That's why we were able to be successful.”

“A character building situation,” Hall said.

It needed to happen. Perhaps what the Redskins needed was a game in which they were tested this way, forcing a prove-yourself moment. They made plenty of mistakes on this drive, miscues that could have cost them the game. They came through when needed.

“Anybody else would have folded,” Orakpo said. “Your first and one on the goal line. They converted big play after big play. Momentum was swinging to their side. You could hear the gasps in the stadium with our fans and everybody really not sure. We looked in each other's eyes and just made sure that, look they do not score; they will not cross the goal line. It was remarkable, one of the best situations I've been in in a while.”

It kept their season off life support. They're still alive.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
4:34
PM ET

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 30-24 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Redskins needed a win -- badly -- or they could forget any thoughts of a turnaround, especially with first-place Dallas beating Minnesota. And next would have come serious evaluations of where the Redskins were headed, especially after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. It never gets pretty in that case. Instead, they gutted out an overtime win in a game in which they hurt themselves a number of times. But now, at 3-5, Washington can rightly still talk about winning a mediocre-to-bad NFC East, especially with a winnable game versus Minnesota up next.

The Redskins still have not played well enough this season to think they could go on a hot stretch; there’s too much inconsistency. However, they bought themselves time for a turnaround. It helps that the passing game had a better day, even with the batted-down throws. But there were enough plays made, thanks in part to play-action passes because of the run game's success, to hurt San Diego on intermediate passes over the middle.

Stock watch: Up: Pierre Garcon. For one of the few times this season Garcon was able to make plays downfield, in part because he was getting separation and also because linebackers weren’t always getting to their drops. Garcon caught seven passes for 172 yards, including a key catch on first-and-20 in overtime. Up: run game. It hasn’t exactly been down, but it was highly productive Sunday. Alfred Morris ran a season-high 25 times for 121 yards, while fullback Darrel Young rushed for three touchdowns, including the game winner.

Season-saving stand: The goal-line stand at the end of regulation might have changed Washington’s season. The Chargers had a first-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line and failed to score on a run and two passes. Had they scored, Washington would have had less than 20 seconds and no timeouts to drive for a touchdown. Instead, the Redskins stopped them, forced a field goal and won in overtime.

Up Next: The Redskins play at Minnesota on Thursday, so there’s not a lot of time to enjoy this win. It will be a good chance for the Redskins to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

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