- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.