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Monday six pack: Reed disappears from offense in second half

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Monday six pack: Reed disappears from offense in second half

My six pack of observations on Redskins-Cowboys:

—If you glance at the stat sheet it looks like Alfred Morris had a pretty respectable game against the Cowboys with 81 yards rushing on 16 carries. But 45 of those yards came on one touchdown run. It’s not as though the 45-yard run doesn’t “count”; it was a big play at the moment as it made it a one-score game. But on his other 15 carries he gained 36 yards, an average of 2.4 a carry. That’s not the kind of running we saw from Morris last year, the kind that sets up second and short or moves the chains. It’s been a pattern all year. Morris has four carries of 30 yards or more. Outside of those plays he is averaging 3.5 yards a carry.

—The performance of Robert Griffin III in this game can’t really be summed up in a bullet point but it’s safe to say it was up and down. He had his legs under him, no question about it. He was credited for 77 yards rushing but a pair of 15-yard penalties the defense incurred while he was scampering out of bounds pushed the net result of his runs over 100 yards. But you have to juxtapose that against him completing fewer than half of his passes for just the second time in his 21 NFL starts. The only other time he did that his receivers let him down as they dropped about 10 passes on a rainy day in Pittsburgh. He had a few drops and there were other issues that were out of his control like Santana Moss falling down on the interception in the end zone. But he flat-out misfired on some to open receivers.

—Jordan Reed went from potential star of the game in the first half to someone who needed to have his picture on a milk carton in the second. After being targeted five times and making four catches for 58 yards in the first half, Reed was targeted just once in the second. It’s possible that the Cowboys worked to take him out of the game but you’d have to think that Griffin would at least give him a chance to make a play. And if he’s not getting open, why not try Fred Davis? He played just 18 snaps. In a league where teams are trying to figure out how to get two pass-catching tight ends involved in their offenses all over the league, the Redskins, who have at least two such players (and maybe a third in Niles Paul), can’t get one TE to be consistently effective.

—For a couple of games, it looked like the Redskins had shaken the penalty bug that has plagued them since the start of the 2012 season. But after committing just nine penalties for 74 yards in their previous two games, the flags were flying against them last night. They racked up 12 for 104 yards including that bizarre flag drawn by special teams coach Keith Burns when the got too close to the sideline and ran into an official. The 104 yards is bad enough but there was hidden damage as well. Jerome Murphy was flagged for illegal motion on a punt that was downed at the 16. The Cowboys elected to have them re-kick and Dwayne Harris returned it for a touchdown. The penalty on Burns happened on that return so a simple five-yard penalty ended up costing an 86-yard return, seven points, and another 15 penalty yards.

—The fears that Tony Romo would eat up the Redskins’ defense did not materialize. After passing for 506 yards and five touchdowns against the Broncos, Romo passed for 170 and one on Sunday. No question, the Redskins played some solid defense and Dez Bryant caught just five passes for 36 yards. But I kind of had the feeling that the Dallas offense could have turned it up a notch if it needed to. After Kai Forbath missed a field goal that would have pulled the Redskins to within two points early in the fourth quarter, the Dallas offense flipped the switch to on. They moved 49 yards in nine plays to a Dan Bailey field goal that pushed the Cowboys’ lead to eight. Had the Redskins responded, I suspect that Romo could have cranked out another scoring drive.

—Back to Griffin, much is being made of the fact that he had only five interceptions all of last year and he has five in five games this year. There is no way to sugar coat that as he almost certainly will throw more interceptions as the year goes one. But it is not a particularly alarming statistic. For this season, 2.9 percent of his passes have been intercepted. The league average is 2.8 percent. Griffin is regressing to the mean. He’s gone from being extraordinary when it comes to protecting the ball to being average. That’s not particularly surprising when you look at the fact that he has take just 19 snaps with the Redskins in the lead this year. That’s 19 out of 341 total snaps, or just 5.6 percent.

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to spend send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110 but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!