DeAngelo Hall expects Sundays game against the undefeated Falcons to be the stiffest challenge the Redskins defense has encountered in 2012.Its also a prime opportunity for the veteran cornerback to bounce back from an uneven performance against the Buccaneers.Definitely, he said, this is the biggest test we will have faced so far this season.Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leads the league in passer rating (112.1) and is second in passing touchdowns (11). Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones each have three touchdown receptions, as does tight end Tony Gonzalez. And then theres 247-pound running back Michael Turner, whos 15thin rushing yards with 257.Combined, they form a formidable offense thats scoring 31 points per game (3rd).Its going to take all of us, Hall said. Their offense is rolling. Theyre clicking. At certain points in the season, it happens like that, where everything goes right.It will be our offense being to sustain drives and our pass rush being able to get in Ryans face, Hall added. It will be us in the back being able to cover. Its the linebackers dropping into zone or playing man if they have to. Its not one guy shutting someone down.That all said, Hall knows the spotlight will be on himself and fellow cornerback Josh Wilson. Not only because of big-play ability that White, Jones and Gonzalez possess, but also because both got burned by big plays on Tampa Bay scoring drives Sunday as the Bucs rallied from a 15-point deficit. You can play 60 perfect snaps, then one bad judge of a ball and the sky is falling down, Hall said. Its part of it. Wilson gave up a play, hey, go out there and make a play. I gave up a play, hey, got to go out there and make a play now. Luckily, we were able to pull the game and so it didnt feel as bad coming out with the win. You can always critique things a little easier when you win.The consensus in the Redskins locker room is that the defense took a small step forward in Tampa. But there's clearly still much room for improvement from a unit that's yielded 11 passing touchdowns (32nd), 8.8 yards per pass attempt (30th) and 30.8 points per game (27th).We have to be better, Hall said. We all know that.
Redskins fans can be an odd bunch.
The team suffered a major loss on Sunday when Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, and for many supporters on social media, the questions all turned to what happens at quarterback next season. Can Smith return? Will the team draft another passer? What are the salary cap implications of the injury?
Jay Gruden had a simple message about where his mind was focused after the 23-21 loss to Houston on Sunday.
"To Dallas," the head coach said. "We're excited about it."
For the Redskins, the only thing to think about is winning on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. At 6-4, Washington remains in first place in the NFC East, holding a one game lead over the Cowboys.
While it might seem like the playoff hopes vanished when Smith got carted off the field, Redskins players and coaches don't see it that way.
"I have confidence in Colt, always have. I'm a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy's ability to play football in the National Football League. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason," Gruden said.
Particularly for McCoy, there is no looking ahead to 2019. He's not even looking ahead to December. The former University of Texas star is going to take his opportunity one game at a time, and that starts Thursday in Dallas.
"You never like to see how it happened today, but for me I just have to go out there and give it all I’ve got. I’ve been a starter before, had it taken away, and it’s not a good feeling," McCoy said. "We have a good team here and they’ve got us in great shape, Alex [Smith] has got us in great shape, we’ve just got to go continue to play football.”
In less than a half against Houston, McCoy moved the Redskins offense and energized the crowd. On just his second snap, McCoy threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. On the day, McCoy finished with 54 yards passing and another 35 yards on the ground.
McCoy won't be Smith, but that isn't all bad.
Despite two interceptions on Sunday, Smith basically protects the football like a mother grizzly bear protects her cubs. McCoy will take more chances, and that could mean more big plays and more scoring for the Redskins offense. It could also mean more turnovers, but that's probably something Gruden will live with.
Remember, too, this Redskins coaching staff believes in McCoy.
When the organization was considering all options with Kirk Cousins last season, handing the team over to McCoy was a possible option. Or at least letting McCoy compete with another veteran free agent passer was taken into account.
McCoy knows that Gruden's comments are sincere, and he knows this is a major chance for him to prove he belongs as an NFL starter.
"I know how Jay [Gruden] wants this offense run," McCoy said. "I’ll do my best to make that happen.”
The Redskins have six games remaining, and four of them will be in the division. Washington's season is anything but over.
The focus for Jay Gruden and Colt McCoy remains firmly on 2018. And with an NFC East title firmly in play, that's what the fans should be looking at too.
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When the sun came up Sunday morning, the Redskins held a two-game lead in the NFC East and looked to have a clear route to a division title.
By the time the sun went down, a lot changed.
Washington lost at home in a crazy game to Houston, but big picture, the more important outcome was the broken leg for Alex Smith. The Redskins now turn to backup Colt McCoy, and while the Burgundy and Gold remain in first place, their lead shrunk.
Washington Redskins (6-4, 2-0)
Talk about a roller coaster game. The Redskins got down early to the Texans, trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, but fought all the way back. In the process, the team lost Smith for the season, but McCoy played well when he entered the game. A veteran in Jay Gruden's system, McCoy should be able to step in and run the offense without any hesitation. Will that be enough? What isn't being talked about in Washington: a suddenly slumping run defense. A huge game looms Thursday against Ezekiel Elliott and a surging Cowboys squad.
Up next: Nov. 22 @ Dallas, 4 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2-1)
It seemed like the Cowboys season was over a few weeks ago after a humbling home loss on Monday Night Football to the Titans. Two weeks later, the script has flipped. Dallas won their second straight game on Sunday, holding off a late Atlanta rally and winning the game on a last-second field goal. Elliott went for 201 total yards from scrimmage and the Cowboys young defense continued to make impressive plays. Jerry Jones' team struggles on the road, but at home, the Cowboys are 3-1 this season.
Up next: Nov. 22 vs Washington, 4 p.m.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 1-1)
Fans waiting for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to get it together might want to stop waiting. Philly got boat raced in New Orleans on Sunday, losing 48-7 and dropping to two games below .500. Carson Wentz threw three INTs in New Orleans and really, while the QB was bad in the Superdome, it's hard to pin the Eagles' woes on any one thing. The offense hasn't been very good, and the defense hasn't either. Sitting just two games back of the 'Skins and one behind Dallas, don't count the Eagles out yet. But don't really count them in either.
Up next: Nov. 25th vs New York Giants, 1 p.m.
New York Giants (3-7, 0-3)
Don't look now but the Giants might be the hottest team in the division. Or at least not the coldest team in the division. The Giants won their second game in a row on Sunday, a nail-biting 38-35 victory over Tampa. New York got out to a big lead before the Bucs crept back in it, but powered by four combined TDs between Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning, the Giants did enough. Simple arithmetic suggests the Giants are closer to a Top 5 draft pick than a playoff run, but hey, they haven't been eliminated yet. Crazy things happen in this league.
Up next: Nov. 25th @ Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
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