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Redskins vs Texans: Highs and Lows from Week 11

Redskins vs Texans: Highs and Lows from Week 11

The Redskins have one of their toughests tests remaining of the 2018 campaign, as the red-hot Houston Texans entered Sunday's contest on a six-game winning streak in a battle of two 6-3 teams.

Washington entered Sunday's contest without four major contributors, as left tackle, Trent Williams, wide receiver Jamison Crowder, running back Chris Thompson, and cornerback Quinton Dunbar all were declared inactive for Sunday's game.

Can Washington overcome the plethera of injuries they have and knock off the Texans, something no team has been able to do since September?

Here are the highs and lows from the Week 11 matchup...

Redskins vs. Texans: Highs and Lows

FIRST QUARTER:

HIGHS: The Redskins punted on their first two drives, including a three-and-out to open the game. Backed up inside the 15, Washington did manage to convert a 3rd-and-6 from Alex Smith to Michael Floyd to keep the drive going before it stalled.

Washington’s third drive went a little better with a 24-yard catch by tight end Jordan Reed and a 13-yard reception by Maurice Harris. It looked like J.J. Watt blew up the drive with a strip on 3rd-and-10 that pushed the Redskins out of field goal range, but a defensive holding call kept the drive alive. 

Trey Quinn’s diving 15-yard catch put Washington in good shape at the 15. It is Quinn’s first game since Week 1 after a serious ankle injury. The Redskins ended the first quarter with 2nd-and-4 at the 8 after an Adrian Peterson run. Can they punch it in? 

LOWS: The Texans drove 68 yards in 10 plays and 4:38 to take a 3-0 lead on a Ka’imi Fairbairn 23-yard field goal. The good news? They only allowed nine rushing yards to Lamar Miller. The bad? They gave up two pass plays of 16 yards or more to Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson and neither went to Houston star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Uh oh.   
 
You knew what was coming. Hopkins caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Watson on the Texans’ second drive and suddenly bad memories of the Atlanta and New Orleans blowout losses came rushing back. A Redskins team not built from coming back was down 10-0. The Texans needed just six plays to go 69 yards in 3:13. 

SECOND QUARTER:

HIGHS: Adrian Peterson punched in a 3-yard touchdown run and Houston’s lead was cut to 10-7. Peterson tied Redskins legend John Riggins with his 104thcareer rushing touchdown. They are tied for sixth all time. The scoring drive was an impressive 10 plays, 75 yards in 4:01.

The Redskins have now forced at least one turnover in 13 consecutive games. Mason Foster intercepted a Deshaun Watson pass tipped by teammate Josh Harvey-Clemons.

A subsequent three-and-out wasn’t ideal. But punter Tress Way did what he does and pinned the Texans at the 4.

Trey Quinn showed his face again with a 13-yard catch on a 3rd-and-6 at the 29. That put the Redskins in scoring position. Or…at least ONE team was in scoring position. It wasn’t Washington.

LOWS: Alex Smith never forces anything. That’s his whole deal. But on 3rd-and-goal from the 9 he forced a pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Instead of at worst a 10-10 game after a short field goal attempt, the pass was intercepted and returned 101 yards by Houston safety Justin Reid. That made it 17-7. A brutal turnaround.

And it happened again moments later. A pass under pressure to running back Kapri Bibbs was intercepted by linebacker Brennan Scarlett at the 22. Lucky for Smith and the Redskins, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a 44-yard kick.

THIRD QUARTER:

HIGHS: Hard to talk about any highs in a third quarter where it looked like quarterback Alex Smith sustained a season-ending right leg injury.

But the Redskins defense struck again early in the second half. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix jumped a pass to DeAndre Hopkins and Mason Foster recovered the subsequent fumble. Honestly, it looked like he intercepted the ball by taking it off Hopkins’ chest as he bobbled it. Whatever. Washington stopped Houston’s opening drive with its second forced turnover of the game.

Outside linebacker Preston Smith intercepted Deshaun Watson at the 13 and backup quarterback Colt McCoy came in for Smith and immediately threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Houston’s lead was 17-14.

LOWS: Alex Smith is hurt and it was gruesome and it was hard to watch. Thirty-three years after Joe Theismann’s infamous broken leg in a 1985  game against the New York Giants, Smith sustained a brutal leg/ankle injury. Watch the replays only if you aren’t squeamish. It was devastating and nothing else that comes of this game really matters. It is Colt McCoy’s team for the foreseeable future. Smith was sacked by cornerback Kareem Jackson and defensive end J.J. Watt and his right leg bent under him. He was carted off the field with an air cast on the leg.

The Texans did answer the McCoy touchdown pass with a 33-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. Houston led 20-14 with 1:19 left in the third quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER:

HIGHS: The Redskins shook off the shock of Alex Smith’s injury. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy followed his third-quarter touchdown pass with a 10-play, 67-yard touchdown drive. Adrian Peterson had his second touchdown of the day from seven yards out. The extra point gave Washington a  21-20 lead at 12:02 of the fourth quarter.

With :52 to go, Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a 35-yard field goal to give the Redskins a chance with no timeouts left and down 23-21. The Redskins failed to advance past the 45 though and a 62-yard field goal attempt came up 10 yards short.

LOWS: The Texans had a drive stall in Washington territory after an illegal block in the back and settled for a 54-yard field-goal attempt from kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn. He nailed it. Barely. That made it 23-21 Texans with 7:30 to go.

The Redskins couldn’t answer on the next drive. They got an Adrian Peterson first down, but J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney each sacked Colt McCoy to force a punt with under five minutes to play.

Washington could have got the ball back quickly, but on a 3rd-and-7 at the 45 the Texans completed a pass to running back Lamar Miller for a first down to keep the clock running.

On 3rd-and-5 at the 37 the Redskins thought they had stopped Watson shy of the first down on a run. Instead, Josh Norman was hit with a defensive holding penalty. The Texans had a first down with 1:51 to go.

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Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

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USA Today Sports

Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

The Redskins defense clicked earlier this season when the team seemed playoff-bound. This same group with scant personnel changes then started getting clocked starting with a Week 9 loss against the Falcons.

Everyone began wondering why. 

The most notable switch, HaHa Clinton-Dix replacing Montae Nicholson at safety, received additional scrutiny in the loss against the Giants on Sunday. 

Through seven games, Washington won five of seven games and allowed 322 yards per game. The Redskins have since lost five of six including four in a row while surrendering an average of 426 yards. The primary struggles exist on the ground, though the Redskins allowed seven touchdown passes over the last three games.

The start of the current six-game stretch coincided with the addition of Clinton-Dix. Washington traded a 2019 fourth-round pick to Green Bay on Oct. 30 for the one-time Pro Bowl safety. Clinton-Dix, 25, played 100 percent of the defensive snaps over the last five games. Despite the heavy workload, an adjustment period remains.

"I think he's finding his way, really,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week of Clinton-Dix.

His arrival sent Nicholson to the bench. Last May Gruden praised the 2017 fourth-round selection turned starter during his rookie season. “Montae I think is really an important piece,” Gruden said at the NFL Combine. “Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense.”

After playing all but 440 of 445 defensive snaps during the initial seven games this season, the second-year safety played on 26 snaps after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. He hasn’t taken the field defensively for the last three games.

NBC Sports Washington sought an explanation for the safety swap from NFL analytics website Pro Football Focus.

“HaHa has actually been a reliable tackler when he actually makes contact,” PFF analyst Trey Cunningham said via email. “He's saved several [touchdowns] with tackles where others were beat. Of course, the most notable gaffes for him have come when he's taken bad angles as the last line of defense and not even been able to attempt a tackle."

Cunningham cited both Amari Cooper's long catch-and-runs touchdowns in the Cowboys Week 12 win over the Redskins and Giants running back Saquon Barkley's 78 yard TD run last week as examples. Clinton-Dix was blocked during two touchdowns against Atlanta and knocked down on Darren Sproles’ touchdown run in Week 1 against the Eagles, according to Cunningham. 

Tackling concerns and "average" speed was considered issues during Clinton-Dix's time with the Packers, though PFF rated him among the top safeties in coverage at the time of the trade.

Yet Cunningham noted Clinton-Dix provided pop with a forced fumble against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. He also reasons why the Redskins may have felt compelled to seek safety help in the first place.

“Aside from health concerns with Montae Nicholson, his biggest flaw when he was starting was missed tackles - nine in the first four games including an astonishing five in the (win over the) Packers,” Cunningham said. “His primary coverage numbers weren't great either. Allowed 13 of 17 targets to be complete for 192 yards and a TD.”

Nicholson’s struggles continued after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. Cunningham recalled the safety taking a bad angle as the last line of defense on Falcons’ receiver Calvin Ridley's long catch-and-run touchdown in Week 9 among his errors.

While Clinton-Dix hasn’t wowed, perhaps the Redskins appreciate him limiting the mistakes.

“I would personally say Clinton-Dix has been an upgrade on Nicholson,” Cunningham said, “but that upgrade didn't come with any game-changing plays.”

Gruden hinted this week at a possible Nicholson return especially as the regular season winds down. Clinton-Dix enters free agency in 2019.

"Yeah, we have to look at Montae again,” Gruden said. “I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in HaHa and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play. It wasn’t that we were down on Montae at all, we just needed depth at that position, got him in here and we liked what we saw, so we put him out there early.

“But, Montae does have a chance to play in the next three weeks quite a bit if we choose to that route because he is a good player with great speed."

The Redskins have perhaps three more weeks to determine how good Nicholson is or enter the offseason wondering if a new safety plan must emerge.

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It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

It's not just Alex Smith - Derrius Guice also dealt with post-surgery infection

During the last month, the average Redskin fan learned more about post-surgery infections than most football fans ever considered. 

The news surrounding Alex Smith's recovery from a broken leg has been upsetting, particularly that Smith has dealt with a serious infection and had to undergo multiple procedures to clean up the wound. Smith's situation was unique, he broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg, and the fracture wasn't clean

Still, alarming news emerged this week that Smith was not the only Redskins player to deal with post-surgery infection. 

Rookie Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason, ending his season and ruining a full offseason of momentum. Before he ever played a game, Guice became a fan favorite with his engaging enthusiasm. Then, he injured his knee in the preseason and was lost for the year. 

For many players, surgery is tough, but then rehab begins. 

For Guice - like Smith - that wasn't the case.

After his knee surgery, Guice suffered an infection that lasted two months and required three additional procedures, The Washington Post reported. That required seven weeks of antibiotics which included significant use of IVs, swelling, flu-like symptoms and having his knee drained. 

The experience forced Guice to stay in Louisiana for months, closer to Dr. James Andrews office in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and away from his Redskins teammates in Ashburn. 

Now, finally, Guice is feeling better and expects to be all the way back for offseason work in 2019. That's great news for the Redskins.

Guice was considered to be the focal point of the Washington offense before the knee injury in the preseason, and he's a running back with immense potential. 

On some level, however, it's quite alarming that both Smith and Guice suffered infections after major injuries. 

Smith's injury was grotesque enough that there were immediate worries of infection. Even with the advanced concern, the infection still came. 

Guice's injury was severe, but not like Smith. And still, the infection came. 

It would take a forensic medical team to compare the situations and figure out if there is something the Redskins need to address. That won't happen on this page. 

At the same time, however, what were the odds back in training camp that the Redskins' then starting quarterback and running back would not only need surgery on their leg, but both would suffer from post-op infection? 

Like many things with the Redskins' 2018 season, there seem to be more questions than answers. The good news, Guice should be back for 2019. As of now, the same can't be said for Smith. 

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