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Redskins still had their chances after borderline penalty


Redskins still had their chances after borderline penalty

Did the Redskins lose to the Panthers because they came apart at the seams after ending up on the wrong side of a borderline penalty call?

First of all, let’s look at the call that nullified Chris Culliver’s pick six. The rule is Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7. There was no question that Greg Olsen was a defenseless player as he was “a receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner.”

So, the question was if Culliver was guilty of “forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder.” Looking at the replay several times, it seems to me it’s a matter of how you define the “neck area”. Yes, Culliver did hit him high but it didn’t appear that he made contact with either Olsen’s head or his actual neck. But it was kind of close to the neck so I suppose that could be called. However, it didn’t appear to be the kind of dangerous hit that the rule is designed to prevent.

Unlike some of his teammates, the man who was flagged took it in stride. “Whether you think it’s right, I think it’s right—whoever thinks it’s right or wrong, the ref made his call,” Culliver said. “And we moved to the next play just like we move to the next game.”

The Redskins still had a chance to minimize the damage caused by the penalty. After the penalty was marked off, Carolina had the ball with a first down at the Washington 13. On second down from the 11, Cam Newton scrambled around and then fired for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the back of the end zone. The ball bounced off of Cotchery’s hands. Bashaud Breeland got both hands on a potential interception. But he lost the ball when receiver Devin Funchess came in and hit him. That would have made it a tough interception but it was an opportunity nonetheless.

On third down from the eight the Redskins rush got to Newton but he got the ball off in the direction of Ted Ginn in the right side on the end zone. Rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett lost his balance and fell on the receiver’s feet as he went for the ball. He may or may not have been able to reach it but it was a moot point after the pass interference call.

The Panthers scored two plays later to take a 21-14 lead. Then the Redskins had a chance to respond offensively but two plays into their ensuing possession Matt Jones fumbled after taking a pitchout and Carolina recovered at the Washington 24. Even though it was a short field, the defense had a chance to force a field goal try on third and two but Carolina converted on a pass from Newton to Ginn. Then with another chance to keep them out of the end zone, the Redskins let Olsen get wide open on third and goal at the five. Newton rifled the pass to the tight end for the score. The rout was on.

Did the Redskins get so riled up over the borderline call that they forgot to play football? They were upset but the flag didn’t cause Breeland to lose the handle on the potential interception and it didn’t make Jarrett draw the PI flag and it didn’t make Matt Jones fumble. You could have taken that sequence of plays, stuck it in at almost any point during the Redskins 0-5 skid in games not played at FedEx Field, and you couldn't have told the difference.

While there may be come cause and effect there, to me it just looked like another chapter in the sad saga entitled “On the Road With the 2015 Redskins.”

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Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

If the Redskins want to make a statement, Sunday marks a real opportunity. 

Washington, sitting at 6-3 and in first place of the NFC East, hosts Houston, a team that sits at 6-3 and in first place of the AFC South. Despite their records, neither team gets much consideration among the real Super Bowl contenders in the NFL. 

Like any NFL team, both the 'Skins and Texans have weaknesses. And unlike the top NFL teams, both the Texans and the 'Skins have a few warts, too. 

The team that best plays to their strengths will leave FedEx Field on Sunday at 7-3, almost assured of a playoff spot and no longer looking for a signature win. 

Going streaking

The Texans started the season bad, losing their first three games. Since then, Houston hasn't lost. Bill O'Brien's team didn't play last week, enjoying their bye in the actual middle of the season unlike the Redskins, but it's possible the layoff slowed the momentum.

When Houston last played, the Texans escaped Denver with a narrow, last-second victory. A six-game win streak is incredibly hard to come by in the NFL, and a seven-game heater is even harder to put together.

So. Much. Talent.

Not many teams can boast the type of elite talent like the Texans. The team has two possible future Hall-of-Famers in J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins both playing in their prime. Watt has nine sacks in nine games, and the Houston defense aggressively moves him around on the defensive line.

That means Watt will face up against Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, but also probably inside against right guard Tony Bergstrom. Charley Casserly described Watt against Bergstrom as a significant mismatch, and Washington will need to be creative to slow down the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

As for Hopkins, expect Redskins cornerback Josh Norman to travel with the athletic Texans wideout for much of the game. Hopkins is averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game, and has seven touchdowns in nine games. He will be a major part of the Houston attack. Oh yeah, we didn't even mention Deshaun Watson or Jadeveon Clowney.

Ground game

The Redskins and the Texans run the ball well. Washington ranks 10th in the NFL on the ground, averaging 121.2 yards-per-game. Houston ranks 11th, averaging 120.2 yards-per-game.

For the Redskins, however, the run game is their only means of offense. Their pass game ranks in the bottom third of the NFL, and in four of his last five games, Alex Smith has thrown for fewer than 180 yards. Weirdly, all four of those sub-200 passing yard games from Smith have resulted in wins for Washington.

The Texans throw the ball better, ranked 18th in the NFL, but aren't the type of dominant offense that the Redskins have struggled against (cough Atlanta, cough New Orleans).

Turn around bright eyes

Few things change NFL games like turnovers, and the Redskins' win last week in Tampa might be the best example. Washington got dominated in just about every offensive category, but the Bucs turned the ball over four times, and the 'Skins skated with a 16-3 victory.

At +4 in turnover margin, the Texans take care of the ball, but not like the +11 Redskins. Watson has thrown seven INTs this season. Not a lot, but four more than Smith. A huge part of the Redskins winning formula is protecting the ball and generating turnovers, and certainly Jay Gruden wants to replicate that on Sunday. 

They said it

  • Jay Gruden on the Redskins mindset in first place: "We're obviously not satisfied or sitting in the lounge chair with our feet up right now relaxing. We've got to get back to work and continue to work. We know there is a lot of football ahead of us, a lot of great teams come in here to play and we have to go there to play and we have to do better. We have to do better on offense and there's a lot more for us to get offensively and defensively for that matter. I'm glad that we're winning without a doubt."
  • Alex Smith on facing J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line: "They are one of the most disruptive fronts in football. I think when you just talk about just creating problems, penetration. They're all over the place. They obviously are really, really talented. They get up the field."
  • Texans coach Bill O'Brien on Redskins RB Adrian Peterson: "He is obviously one of the best to ever play the game. I mean, he's big, strong, fast, has got good vision, great cutting ability, very, very difficult to stop."



The 1991 matchup between the Redskins and Oilers is the only game D.C. fans should think of when they hear Washington vs. Houston. 

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park.