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Despite plenty of excuses to lose, Redskins went out and won

Despite plenty of excuses to lose, Redskins went out and won

The Redskins had plenty of excuses to lose.

Two of their best players didn't suit up. A poorly timed turnover. Continued red zone struggles. Coughing up a lead, and, coughing up a game's momentum.

But here's what's happened: The Redskins won.

In Sunday's 26-20 defeat of the Vikings, Washington could have lost a few different ways.

And if players or coaches wanted to, they could have made excuses.

Trent Williams didn't play, serving the first game of a four week-suspension. Few teams can afford to lose an elite talent like Williams, especially against a defensive front like the Vikings. 

But Bill Callahan's unit would make no excuses.

DeSean Jackson didn't play either, still dealing with a shoulder injury sustained two weeks prior in London. Though Jackson's numbers are down this season, his impact on the offense can't always be measured, and without him, surely the 'Skins offense would become more stagnant.

But Kirk Cousins' offense would make no excuses.

RELATED: THE BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' WEEK 10 WIN

To a man - from head coach Jay Gruden to seldom used special teams players - the Redskins insisted on the Next Man Up philosopy that winning teams embrace. After three straight weeks without a win, Washington went out and took one, regardless of how close they came to a different result.

"Quite frankly, I don’t think you ever step into a football game without urgency, otherwise you get beat," Gruden said after his team moved to 5-3-1 on the year.

Like they've done in previous home games against the Browns and the Eagles, the Skins got out to an early 14-0 lead.

For a stretch, it looked like Washington would roll to a big win over the slumping Vikings, but like against the Browns and Eagles, the Redskins could not pull away. Minnesota clawed back to tie, and even took the lead going into halftime.

"We just had to keep our poise. I remind them every game this year, we’ve been leading and we’ve been trailing, and today’s no different," the coach said. "We just have to continue to handle the adversity, the adverse situations."

RELATED: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM REDSKINS' WIN OVER VIKINGS

In the second half the Redskins defense did just that - shutting down the Minnesota attack, allowing zero points over the game's final 30 minutes.

"We have a pretty good resolve in this locker room. We know every game is going to be close," Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "We know most games we’re playing are going to be close and you have to have that mindset going into every game that you have to play for a full 60 minutes.”

A good effort against a mediocre Vikings offense, the Washington defense was spurred to victory by Preston Smith's two sacks and an interception.

In a way, Smith's breakout game exemplifies what the Redskins did to win against the Vikes. Underwhelming at times this season despite showing great promise last year, Smith made the crucial interception when his team needed it most. 

"He answered the bell, he really did," Gruden said. "Preston showed up in a big way."

Smith wasn't the only one to 'answer the bell.' 

Ty Nsekhe answered the bell at left tackle with Williams out. Pierre Garçon had a season high 81 receiving yards with Jackson out.

"We do miss those players, without a doubt," Gruden said of Jackson and Williams. "The guys that played I’m very happy for, proud of the way they came and competed. It wasn’t too big for them and they made plays.”

In just his second season, Jamison Crowder has become Cousins' most trusted receiver. Leading the team in touchdowns and catches, Crowder again impressed, and afterwards, he explained that the whole offense stepped up with D-Jax on the sideline.

"We knew that with him being out we lost a big-time weapon but, you know, we just have to go out there and still have to do our job," Crowder said. "I wouldn’t say that we were pressured but we knew that we had to step it up another notch and make plays."

Then there is Robert Kelley, an undrafted rookie who has supplanted 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones as the starting running back.

"I really like the way these guys play. It’s a great effort. The guys are stepping up to fill in for crucial players," Gruden said. "A lot of guys are stepping up, everybody’s pitching in and doing their part, whether it’s one catch or five catches. Whether it’s one tackle or five tackles, everyone’s pitching in and doing their part."

To be clear, there is plenty to criticize from the Skins game on Sunday.

Red zone struggles continue to plague Washington, and the problem became very apparent in the second half against the Vikings. Cousins threw a highly questionnable ball early in the game that could have been intercepted, and Chris Thompson had an unfortunate fumble just before halftime. And, oh yeah, the Redskins defense proved entirely incapable of slowing former Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.

RELATED: COUSINS EXPLAINS ORIGIN OF POSTGAME CELEBRATION

But for the Redskins, there will be no excuses. 

That's the fun thing about winning. Problems can be addressed, but excuses aren't made. Yes, DeSean and Trent didn't play, but the team won without them. Yes, Cousins' group left points on the field, again, but the team won despite it. 

Believe it or not, those are signs of good teams.

This Redskins team isn't great — but they are good. And there's a lot of season left to keep improving. 

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.