IT WAS OVER WHEN...
Robert Griffin III was sacked by Bengals DL Geno Atkins, losing 15 yards and pushing the Redskins back to the Bengals' 34 yard line. Another 25 yards in penalties would follow seconds later, forcing the Redskins to heave a Hail Mary pass as time ran out, dropping Washington 1-2 on the season. It was the team's 6th straight loss at home, the longest current such record of humiliating haplessness in the NFL.
The Redskins are an amazing +6 in turnover ratio, a major reversal from last year and second best in the NFL three games into the 2012 season. And yet, the team is 1-2 and their one victory does not look quite as impressive now that the Saints are winless. Why? The turnovers are not mattering quite as much because opponents just come back on their next drive and throw a touchdown pass. Washingtin is giving up 3.3 TD passes per game [4 against the Bengals] and 8.8 yards per pass attempt, both worst in the entire NFL. Yesterday, Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw for 328 yards, 12.1 yards per pass play and 3 TD. All were highs for him on the season. His 132.9 passer rating was also his high for the season. [Remember, the Bengals just played the Cleveland Browns.] Finally, Dalton lost only 16 yards on sacks, Cincinnati's lowest total of the season.
THINGS I LIKED...
First of all, Robert Griffin III. The kid is just amazing. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 221 yards and ran for 85 yards on 12 carries for [7.1 ypc] and another touchdown.
RG3 led the team back from a 14-point deficit at halftime to tie the game before the start of the third quarter with drives of 80 and 86 yards. Then, when the defense gave up another two touchdown passes in quick succession, RG3 led the Redskins to another scoring drive and then took the ball from the Redskins' 2 yard line to the Bengals' 19 yard line with less than two minutes on the clock and no timeouts. The drive came apart at that point thanks to poor blocking from the offensive line and a mental meltdown by the Crown Prince -- Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who stormed onto the field and got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Nevertheless, the final drive was a work of art by RG3 until his teammates and coaches destroyed it. The young man is a marvel.
The offense was stymied for the entire first half, managing only three points and about 50 yards of total offense. It came back after halftime to score three touchdowns, with much of it coming on the ground from RG3 and Alfred Morris -- the two rookies -- operating out of the pistol option.
TE Fred Davis, the team's most reliable receiver, has been strangely absent from the game plan the first two weeks. That ended yesterday, with Davis catching 7 passes for 90 yards. RG3 repeatedly looked for Davis to help him out when the pass blocking broke down and the wideouts didn't get open. Good to see Davis back.
The Redskins finally got WR/RS Brandon Banks involved in the offense, with the little speedster repeatedly lining up in the backfield and turning option pitches into 29 yards on three attempts. Let's see more of that.
I'm a big fan of the Redskins running game right now. It's the best in the NFL because it is creative and makes good use of the personnel. RG3 is just a superlative talent and people who don't want him running the ball don't understand how to properly use a player of his skills. The way to protect RG3 is not to keep him from running, but to keep him from being sacked. He's far more likely to be injured in the pocket than out of it. Want to keep RG3 healthy? Block better. Don't keep him from running. That won't save RG3 and it will deprive the offense of the thing it does best right now. The option offense is working. Stay with it.
There were no punts blocked this week! In fact, there were no special teams meltdowns at all. Banks had a 55-yard kickoff return and nothing really bad happened to the Redskins because of their special teams. So that's improvement.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE...
The offensive line continues to be terrible at pass-blocking and it is getting RG3 hit too many times. The Redskins gave up six sacks on Sunday and only one of them can plausibly be blamed on RG3 holding on to the ball too long. There has been far too little attention paid to the offensive line for many years, a point I've made numerous times and repeatedly dring the offseason. The run-blocking continues to be fine -- sometiimes better than fine -- but they are simply not protecting the passer well enough.
Is there a wide receiver on this team not named Pierre Garcon? If so, let him step forward.
The secondary is a complete mess. Even the team's best defensive back, CB Josh Wilson, got burned badly yesterday. CB DeAngelo Hall got burned, CB Richard Crawford got burned and the safeties got burned, too. Botth FS Madieu Williams and SS DeJon Gomes are both out of position far too often and simply don't make stops after catches. Opposing wideouts are getting a lot of yards after catches, frequently just running until they cross the goal line, because the coverage is poor and the safeties, who are supposed to be the last line of defense, are nowhere to be seen. The Redskins were frequently in single coverage yesterday, a game plan that mystified opposing WR A.J. Green. I have to agree with him. It's not clear the Redskins are capable of double-covering adequately, so single coverage seems reckless.
AND IT ALL MEANS...
The Redskins are in a lot of trouble. Nothing new there. They've been in a lot of trouble for years. So long, in fact, that it doesn't seem like trouble anymore, it's just par for the course. The wideouts are not getting open without the injured Pierre Garcon around, the offensive line does not pass block, the team's best offensive lineman, LT Trent Williams, is injured and may miss a lot of time. The only thing worse than the pass blocking is the pass coverage, which is entirely absent. I don't know that I've ever seen an NFL team cover receivers as poorly as this one does. I expected some of this. I predicted before the season that the secondary would be a major point of weakness and there would be opposing receivers running free in the defensive backfield on a fairly regular basis. But even I didn't expect it to be this bad.
The Redskins have an immense talent in RG3, a young man who may have more potential for greatness than any other football player in the world. But it is not enough. Football is a team sport and this team is relying far too much on one man. The kid isn't complaining and appears comfortable doing as much as the team needs him to do, but this is too much. He needs more help from his wide receivers, who are not getting open. He needs more help from his offensive line, who are not blocking well enough for him. He needs more help from his defense, which is simply awful.
The good news is: The Redskins have finally fixed their problem at the game's most important position. Now, for the rest of the team... But who is the right person to fix the mess that is the rest of the Washington Redskins? The job belongs to Mike Shanahan right now. I'll be watching closely the remainder of this season to see if he's still the man who deserves the job.
Lot of fans I noticed want to blame Jim Haslett. Haslett certainly deserves some blame. However, lets remember, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen provided Haslett this horrific secondary. Second, as often as Trent Williams is injured, the fact the backup LT, arguably one of the most important position on offense, was a retired player who never played in 2011, is simply front office malpractice. Period.