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Old 12-02-2010, 09:48 AM   #1
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Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Offense

In 2005, I believed that the Redskins were good enough to make a push for the postseason sitting at 5-6 at the end of November. In 2007, I didn't know that the Redskins were good enough, but believed that only a single team on the remaining schedule provided a real issue in terms of making the postseason.

It's different this year. Those were good football teams who had underachieved to be sub-.500 at the end of November, and so while it was difficult to see how so much could go right down the stretch, I was able to point out that those teams were at least good enough to push for the postseason. This 2010 team isn't in the same class as those teams. The cold truth is that both Jim Zorn teams likely had better defenses than last season, and we're looking at a potential reality where both offenses in the Zorn era were better than this offense. The special teams units generate as many points as the offense this year, which is why the defense has more points to work with than last year.

I'll say this: in terms of an all or nothing scenario, this 2010 team has an opportunity to do something amazing and end up winning the NFC East because the division leaders both have four losses. Neither the 2005 or 2007 teams had any opportunity to reach that level. For this team, 5 wins and just a bit of help from a pair of Eagles opponents down the stretch put the Redskins in the postseason. Put as simply as possible: at 10-6, the Redskins would hold all tiebreakers within the division (Philadelphia cannot hold the common opponents, conference, or divisional tiebreakers against Washington in any outcome where the Redskins come back to tie the Eagles). What the Giants do in their other three games is irrelevant if the Skins win out.

So that's how a team inferior to both the 2005 and 2007 teams could end up hosting the game. As the Vikings game tape shows, there's not enough talent here to make a push for the postseason. At least not when looking at the big picture. There might be enough to beat the Giants on Sunday. Then we can talk.

The Redskins offense was dreadful in the second half of this game. They got 45 yards to Anthony Armstrong on a blown coverage -- Donovan McNabb did almost everything he could to throw it out there, unfortunately, he just waited a bit too long to throw the football. If he had seen FS Madieu Williams from the snap, he would have seen his eyes on the flat and his feet standing flat footed and would have been able to anticipate Armstrong being wide open. As it was, we should be satisfied that McNabb saw Armstrong in time to make that completion with Kevin Williams bearing down on him. I can't tell you where Armstong was in the QB progression. My suspicion is that he was the second guy. McNabb got the ball to him and got 45 yards on the play. Hard to complain that you didn't get more than that when the offensive line didn't execute a simple stunt pickup and that the QB didn't see him running open immediately.

Outside of that play, the Redskins had two gains over 4 yards in the half, and collected one other first down. That was a 3rd and 3 play where they managed three yards on a mismatch: K. Williams on a corner.

What was the difference between the first half (when the offense was good) and the second half? It was the much-maligned third down offense. The Redskins were bad on first and second downs all day, which is completely predictable when your longest run goes for four yards. The average third down attempt in the first half came from 4.25 yards shy of the marker. In the second half the average third down attempt came 8 yards shy of the marker. While that's a significant reason that the conversion rate was so low in the second half, the Redskins averaged 10.1 yards per play on third down in the first half, and then 1.3 yards per play in the second half. Of the seven first half plays of 10 or more yards, 5 came on third downs. Of the two second half plays of 10 or more yards, none came on third down.

The other difference between the halves is that the tight ends were very involved in the first half. In the second, Minnesota took away Cooley and Davis first, and put pressure on McNabb second. The Redskins didn't complete a pass to a receiver more than five yards down the field in the second half, with the exception of the Armstrong play. You have to credit the Vikings for taking away the things the Redskins were doing well in the first half. Then blame the Redskins for not coming up with something else that would work. The number of receiver drops (4) in this game created an ugly result, evidenced by the numbers above. The Redskins offense, blocking and all, would have produced excellent results in the first half if not for the drops. In the second half, the drops simply compounded an offense that couldn't find anything that would work.

Offensive Line Play

The interior offensive line did a really poor job generating any lanes in the rushing game. Lichtensteiger, Rabach, and Hicks were all equally responsible for this issue. Will Montgomery came in for an ineffective Hicks after just two drives. He did pretty well at right guard again, but didn't exactly solve the lack of push in the middle. The edge blockers -- Cooley in particular, but also Trent Williams -- did a nice job getting push on the edge to open up the cutbacks. The backs, specifically James Davis, did not execute and take advantage of these lanes. Jammal Brown missed multiple run blocks, sometimes not getting the linebacker even with good position. Consequently, the Vikings were able to shut down the run with just their front seven.

Kory Lichtensteiger was the weak link in pass protection (at least, after Artis Hicks went out) allowing a sack and a half, and a number of additional pressures. What wasn't the fault of Lichtensteiger was the missed stunt pickups, where Letroy Guion and Kevin Williams did nearly all of their damage. Oftentimes, Trent Williams and Jammal Brown just weren't aware that their outside shoulders were about to be attacked by looping defensive tackles. That led to late chases around the outside, and swinging gates in both B gaps, hanging the guards out to dry.

Receiver Play

DL stunts, by their nature, give the quarterback time to hit his drop and throw off a hitch step. It's not the fault of the offensive line that the Redskins couldn't get open from their three receiver sets. Santana Moss played well in the first half up until his bad drop and made a number of good adjustments on the ball, but after the interception that hit him in the face, Moss definitely mailed it in on more than one occasion. On one hand, it demonstrates how important Moss is to the pass offense. But on the other hand, it shows that Moss can still get disinterested and just not work hard enough to help his team. In the second half, Anthony Armstrong was open whenever he wasn't doubled, and it just didn't matter. When Moss isn't doubled, teams have problems with him. Schematically, Armstrong is tougher to get the ball to.

I can't begin to answer why Moss came out of the half so unwilling to sell his routes to the defense, I can just tell you how much it hurt McNabb's performance.

Quarterback Performance

Donovan McNabb made a couple of bad throws on his first throw of the second half (forcing a throw across his body to Cooley through Kevin Williams), and the final throw of the game (deep pass to Armstrong which he threw to the safety). More or less, the rest of his day was pedestrian and efficient.

I continue to feel that the way the Shanahan's corrected the reads system at the bye has helped McNabb. Whatever we were running in the first half of the season...I was confused as how that was supposed to work. That wasn't a professional passing game, that was a gimmick passing game. I feel like we have a much better offense now, and that McNabb is playing a lot better and is throwing more accurately because the passing game has an engine: we use the tight ends in so many different ways over the last three weeks that it's taken some pressure off of both the offensive line and the quarterback. That's good. That's very good.

The pressure on McNabb in the second half broke down his game a little bit. It didn't force him into his mistakes, but he was caught looking at the rush once or twice -- and who can blame him? McNabb was pressured, hit, or sacked on 7 of 14 dropbacks in the second half, and on two of the other seven, McNabb missed a downfield opportunity by giving up on the downfield action to try to find a spacier part of the pocket. That made for a very rough half for McNabb, while at the same time, the Redskins defense was doing a lot of Brett Favre's job for him.

Overall, I thought McNabb played well, but a disproportionate amount of his plays were made in the first half. Chris Cooley could have gone for 100 in the first half easily, but clearly, the Vikings took his presence more seriously in the second half.

Rest of Season Outlook

Although the raw efficiency of the first half offense could have fooled me, this still looks like a team that is trying hard to find something it can do really, really well. Despite Keiland Williams' recent success, the coaching staff doesn't appear sold on him as a runner, using Brandon Banks as a wildcat back and giving James Davis twice as many carries with half the playing time.

The offensive line has played at a better level than it did in this game most of the year. Stunts have given our tackles issues. One of them is young, so it's okay. The other isn't under contract past this season. The nice thing about this game is we executed better with just the five guys up front than we have in past games, and that allowed the Redskins to do a lot of empty backfield stuff for the first time this year. Minnesota adjusted to it in the second half, but I think those empty backfield sets might have some promise in the last five games if our line can hold up. We're going to need to develop some better route combinations out of them to use them to the extent of their promise.

The dropsies shouldn't be an issue going forward because they weren't an issue coming in. They were just an example of another way the Redskins have failed to execute offensively when their season was on the line.
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Old 12-02-2010, 09:49 AM   #2
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Defense

There were just a couple of issues in this game that hadn't already surfaced with the defensive unit. A banged up Carlos Rogers allowed three consecutive completions for first downs before he left the game with a hamstring injury. London Fletcher read more than one running play wrong, and not just when Adrian Peterson was the running back. Phillip Daniels might have had his best game of the year. The pass rush returned, to a degree, after a three week absence with 8 hits/hurries and 2 sacks. Lorenzo Alexander made a number of bad reads on bootlegs by Brett Favre, none more costly than the very last play before the two minute warning.

Mostly though, the problems with the defense in this game were entirely predictable based on the rest of the season to this point. This was true of the Redskins strengths as well. They got off the field on third down short yardage runs using the same formula as always: Albert Haynesworth penetrates decisively and immediately, then someone else makes the hit at the line for no gain. London Fletcher still shut down the opposing tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe. The Redskins got a high number of three and outs in the second half. In five consecutive drives, the Vikings had one first down play, and that drive lasted just four plays before the punt.

The story of the game was two-fold: way too much first and second down success for the Vikings which didn't only keep them out of third and long, but out of third altogether, and Brett Favre held the ball when he could have forced it in all pressure situations but one, and that ended remarkably harmlessly. Favre didn't do anything to beat the Redskins in this game, but likely even one mistake would have given the Redskins their window of opportunity. In hindsight, the missed opportunities for the Redskins came on the offensive and special teams ends. The defense did alright, but the word of the day would seem to be disappointment: 17 points against isn't too bad, but both TD drives were long ones, and while the defensive stand after the McNabb INT was big, the Vikings were able to add the third long drive that they needed to in order to win the game, this time to close it out at the end.

Adrian Peterson continued to be a stud in the first quarter of this game, but on the first play of the second quarter, he became the next casulty on the long list of players the Redskins defense have knocked from the game, and did not return. Toby Gerhart was mildly effective as his replacement, on no play more so than a 3rd and 1 middle dive where he got the first and scored behind strong blocking. The Redskins had no answers for screens or bootlegs. Favre was not effective the two times he booted to his left, so they merely needed to keep contain to the right side to bottle up this part of the passing game. For whatever reason, Lorenzo Alexander kept buying the run fakes when his number one responsibility is Favre. Then on the last play of the game, he followed the tight end Shiancoe when Reed Doughty had already taken that responsibility, and Favre got his longest run in three years.

Screen defense continues to be a problem for this group. The Vikings threw two screens to their backs. The second one was sniffed out well by the Redskins. The first one went for 34 yards to Peterson because no one in the pass rush sensed it was coming, and the Vikings executed the blocking perfectly. If you went to the three long, crushing Vikings drives, you could probably pin the first one primarily on Kedric Golston and Rocky McIntosh, the second on Lorenzo Alexander and Carlos Rogers, and the third on Philip Buchanon and Alexander. I wouldn't say that is an exhaustive list of everyone who made a mistake on the Redskins defense, but it's a mix of repeat offenders (Golston, McIntosh), and guys you'd normally expect more from (Alexander, Rogers, Buchanon).

The other big deal in this game was that the safeties were used fairly interchangeably with LaRon Landry on the mend, and Kareem Moore probably did more strong safety "stuff" and less free safety "stuff" than Reed Doughty did. Moore was primarily responsible for the Sidney Rice reception in the third quarter, reading run and heading to his gap on a run action pass, then trailing Rice on the play in coverage. For once, however, the safeties weren't the major problem. This game was all about the front seven: when it played well as a unit, the Vikings went on a streak of five consecutive offensive drives. When it didn't play well, they couldn't get off the field.

From a defensive perspective, this game is only remarkable in the way that it all went according to plan. Both teams looked bad on offense in terms of the number of procedure penalties they took, and neither line protected the quarterback. Both quarterbacks protected the football pretty darn well. Minnesota was able to generate some semblance of a running game, although if the Redskins had played more disciplined and took away the easy passes, it wouldn't have resulted in points. This game didn't feature a lot of great throws by the two legendary quarterbacks. It was a game where tackling meant a lot, both teams had some success with the blitz, and the game was decided in the second half by the relative merits of the passing game. Pass defense has been the overall weakness of the Redskins this year, more than any other facet of football. Pass offensive has been the overall weakness of the Vikings this year. We can just look at those numbers and get a good picture of which team was able to win this game on the margin.

Brett Favre was 15/23 for 172 and 0 turnovers, about 7.5 yards per attempt with better than 65% completion. That's not quite 2009 Favre re-incarnated but it's average in a limited capacity. The Redskins were going to have to either make Favre a non-factor, or make him and his struggles the story. The disappointment is that, even though they were able to limit the points against them, the Redskins did neither with Favre. No matter what has already been written about this game, this was not a different Vikings team. It was not a different Redskins team. Its not a bend but don't break defense. It was a unit that kept the Vikings under control, but not out of the end zone.

The Redskins remain a defense-first team. In this season, when you ignore the critical field position game that has been such a variant this year, a single interesting stat emerges. The Redskins are 5-0 this year when the defense allows one touchdown drive. They are 0-6 when the defense allows at least second touchdown drive. Turnovers have helped the Redskins allow fewer touchdowns, but nothing has correlated to wins and losses for this team quite like touchdown drives against. The Redskins were likely a single play away from winning this game, a play which was obviously not made.
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Old 12-02-2010, 10:13 AM   #3
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Your last sentence on defense kinda sums up bout half our loses. I thought interior line play was back to disgusting as a whole. No surprise when you see who we started and played again. Im praying Artis Hicks and Rabauch are cut the first day of the offseason, they are just terrible.

This Defense is not the same with Laron out...

Nice review
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Old 12-02-2010, 11:53 AM   #4
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Good reviews as always. This game more than any other this year felt like Gibbs II w/GW, or Zorn & Blache. I don't think P. Riley can be held too much to blame, the D couldn't get the Vikes off the field in the end. If Banks' td stood it would've been an interesting finish though.
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:07 PM   #5
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Thought I'd just throw this in here. What's been long anticipated and perhaps overdue is now true. Will Montgomery is the new starting RG
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:20 PM   #6
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Another excellent breakdown GTripp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTripp0012 View Post
Offense
The other difference between the halves is that the tight ends were very involved in the first half. In the second, Minnesota took away Cooley and Davis first, and put pressure on McNabb second. The Redskins didn't complete a pass to a receiver more than five yards down the field in the second half, with the exception of the Armstrong play. You have to credit the Vikings for taking away the things the Redskins were doing well in the first half. Then blame the Redskins for not coming up with something else that would work. The number of receiver drops (4) in this game created an ugly result, evidenced by the numbers above. The Redskins offense, blocking and all, would have produced excellent results in the first half if not for the drops. In the second half, the drops simply compounded an offense that couldn't find anything that would work..
You Fred Davis only played 19 snaps out of 56?
Roydell Williams played more snaps.
9 carries by the RBs only 3 for KeiWi

Quote:
In the second half, Anthony Armstrong was open whenever he wasn't doubled, and it just didn't matter. When Moss isn't doubled, teams have problems with him. Schematically, Armstrong is tougher to get the ball to.
I don't understand what you mean that its tougher to get Armstrong the ball.

Quote:
Quarterback Performance
More or less, the rest of his day was pedestrian and efficient.
I'm just happy to see McNabb throw the flat route.
He hit one to Davis early and threw another to Armstrong who dropped probably from shock that McNabb threw the ball there he hasn't all season.

Quote:
I continue to feel that the way the Shanahan's corrected the reads system at the bye has helped McNabb. Whatever we were running in the first half of the season...I was confused as how that was supposed to work.That wasn't a professional passing game, that was a gimmick passing game.
I don't think it was anything different.
Some commentator from some game explained that the reads were from deep to short and ithought that was wrong and Kyle later came said in a presser that they way that announcer described the read progression was wrong.

Quote:
I feel like we have a much better offense now, and that McNabb is playing a lot better and is throwing more accurately because the passing game has an engine: we use the tight ends in so many different ways over the last three weeks that it's taken some pressure off of both the offensive line and the quarterback.
Long time coming too.
I think they should take the open script and expand it into their gameplanning philosophy going forward.

Quote:
Although the raw efficiency of the first half offense could have fooled me, this still looks like a team that is trying hard to find something it can do really, really well.
Agree and i believe its been under their noses the whole time.
Center the passing game around Cooley and Davis then the WRs.

Quote:
Despite Keiland Williams' recent success, the coaching staff doesn't appear sold on him as a runner, using Brandon Banks as a wildcat back and giving James Davis twice as many carries with half the playing time.
Yeah its weird that they didn't give Keiland the lions share of the carries, but i don like the wildcat just as a change up.
Only giving the backs 9 carries imo was a mistake even if it was against the Williams wall.


Quote:
The dropsies shouldn't be an issue going forward because they weren't an issue coming in. They were just an example of another way the Redskins have failed to execute offensively when their season was on the line
After watching Armstrong run that shallow crosser and get his bell rung yet make the catch and pop up no worse for wear and showing the speed to get passed the coverage with ease yet the tracking ability to come back and make a tough catch i'm starting to wonder how the offense would look if Armstrong was the 1st option WR.
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:04 PM   #7
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Speaking of our Tight Ends, our TE Coach Jon Embree has just been offered the head job at Colorado University
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:56 PM   #8
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Every time I have a breakdown that is (seemingly) a bit low in substance, Ben Muth seems to come along and bail me out:

FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS: Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis | Word of Muth: Stretch Seek
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Old 12-02-2010, 03:17 PM   #9
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Re: Redskins-Vikings Game Reviews

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmootSmack View Post
Speaking of our Tight Ends, our TE Coach Jon Embree has just been offered the head job at Colorado University
Not my prediction for the first guy on our offense coaching staff to be offered a college head coaching job. That would have been Kyle.
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