- I really liked the play calling on that first drive; Zorn's script worked to near perfection. Play action to pass Moss, Portis up the middle, Portis off right end, sprinkle in a little Randle El, then the slip screen to Moss for a first and goal at the one. Then they missed connections on a handoff, ran a pitch to the left which was a). Stephon Heyer's side of the field and b). the short side of the field, and then a shovel pass that did not fool the Lions at all. The fact that the Redskins had to settle for three there set the tone for the game.
- Mike Green played fairly well in his first start in place of Chris Horton, especially for someone who was on the street a couple of weeks ago. He had six tackles, second on the team to London Fletcher.
- Dan Orlovsky is not a smooth operator and he gets a little sloppy in some of his throws. He doesn't possess a laser or a cannon for an arm. But he could be a good QB someday, someday soon. Not a Pro Bowl type or anything like that, but he looks like someone who could develop into a Kyle Orton type.
- It seems like Jason Hanson has been kicking for the Lions forever, but it's only been 17 years. He made his debut for Detroit about seven months after the Redskins won their last Super Bowl.
- The Redskins run the traditional screen to a running back so poorly that they rarely even try it. But the tight end screen to Chris Cooley works nearly every time it's tried. Cooley usually is able to rumble for at least 10 yards before even needing to elude a tackler.
- I thought that the facemask call on Jansen that cost a first down in the Red Zone was bad, but on another look, it was awful. Jansen never touched the defender's face mask. Suisham missed a 50-yard field goal after that.
- I hate Jim Zorn's two-minute philosophy. He says that he's afraid of the other team getting the ball back with enough time to move in for a score so he doesn't even think about calling a timeout with less than 50 seconds left. That's fine, but why not go no-huddle, spike the ball, work the sidelines, anything to conserve the clock and get in more plays. They got the ball back with 2:30 left. Portis runs for five and they let the clock run down to 2:00. Then a pass to Cooley picks up about 10 and the clock continues to tick. The next snap comes with 1:24 left. That's 1:06 for two plays. Yes, the Skins got a field goal but with a slightly more aggressive philosophy they might have been able to score a TD.
- That said, the third and 19 conversion pass was a thing of beauty. The Lions had eight back in coverage, Thrash found a soft spot and Campbell just dropped it in right on the money.
- Even after watching it a few times, I can't decide whether or not to blame Cooley for the incompletion that stalled the Skins' first drive of the second half. He did have both hands on it but the safety did make hard contact on the arm.
- The biggest little play of the game came in the middle of the third quarter. Cooley caught that TE screen for 17 yards to convert a third and six at the Washington nine. If the Redskins punt there, trailing 10-9, the Lions have a good shot a good field position to expand their lead. As it is, the drive stays alive and ends with the Skins taking the lead for good on Campbell's 50-yard bomb to Moss.
- On that pass to Moss, Campbell did a great job of just shrugging off the unblocked blitzing defender and firing on target.
- Brian Billick referred to Santana Moss as "Santonio" at least four times, maybe more. He even did it while he was in the process of apologizing for doing so. I trust that his boss will give him a verbose, convoluted reprimand.
- Devin Thomas was the first Redskin to greet Moss in the end zone after the punt return for a TD. I'm sure that Thomas was relieved that Moss was able to make something out of it after the collision.
- At the time, I liked the decision to go for two after that, but it could have come back to bite them. The return put them up by 12 and the thought process was that two Detroit touchdowns beats you if you're up by 12 or by 13. But after Detroit scored a TD, Suisham's field goal just after the two-minute warning would have wrapped up the game had they kicked the extra point. Instead, the Lions could have sent it into overtime with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
- There are complaints that the Redskins let the Lions get back into it with their touchdown drive after that. Those concerns are legitimate but the Lions, for all their faults, have a way of coming back. They made competitive games out of brewing blowouts against Houston and Green Bay earlier this year. Still, you'd like to see the defense make a statement and force a three and out or get a turnover in that situation. Greg Blache wasn't happy with it; see the last bullet point in this article.
- You have to like the Redskins coming out throwing on that last drive—which, again, would have been a classic game clincher had they been up by six instead of five. After the passes to Moss for 20 and to Cooley for seven, it was Portis three times for four, four and 31 yards. They burned off over four and a half minutes.
- We nearly saw the downside of Zorn being aggressive in late-game situations with the Campbell fumble. The ball took a nice bounce away from a few Lions and Jon Jansen was able to pounce on it.
- London Fletcher knew where that fourth-down play was going better than most of the Lions did. The stop was reminiscent of Sean Taylor leveling Patrick Crayton in Dallas to clinch the Brunell to Moss game in 2005 in Dallas.
- After the game, Greg Blache said that the performance of his defense was like "the South end of a North-bound skunk." Why don't you tell us what you really think, coach?
Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.
—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.
Tandler on Twitter
I had to leave early in the fourth quarter. Just saw this, how much did the Jaguars win by? https://t.co/5GSJaCeV5R— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS) January 22, 2018
In case you missed it
- A random walk through the Redskins past for edition NTK No. 2000
- The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top draft pick
- The truth behind Zach Brown's mysterious tweet about respect
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.
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