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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins’ Loss At Arizona In Week 6

The Redskins fell to 1-5 with a 30-20 loss at Arizona on Sunday (Oct. 12, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:

1. Quarterback Kirk Cousins fell apart in the second half for the second time in three games

Two games after throwing four second-half picks, including three third-quarter picks, in a loss to the Giants, Cousins tossed three picks in what proved a four-turnover fourth quarter for the Redskins, who entered the period trailing by just four points (17-13).

     •    Pick no. 1: first-and-10 at the Cardinals’ 47…Cousins working out of the shotgun…overthrows receiver Andre Roberts…safety Rashad Johnson with the interception…and a 30-yard return.

     •    Pick no. 2: third-and-three at the Cardinals’ 42…Cousins working out of the shotgun…Redskins inexplicably have three pass catchers in the same area, thanks to receiver DeSean Jackson giving up on his route and Roberts setting a weak pick on corner Jerraud Powers…Cousins still makes the throw…Powers with the interception…and a six-yard return.

     •    Pick no. 3: first-and-10 for the Redskins at their 14…Cousins working out of the shotgun…throws the ball into an area containing only Johnson…he makes a 28-yard pick-six that helps to give the Cardinals a 30-20 lead…  Cousins says after the game that he didn’t see Johnson on this play.

Cousins now has 18 picks over 13 career regular-season games.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III has 17 picks over 30 career regular-season games.

Another negative for Cousins were the two sacks he took.

     •    The first play of the second quarter featured Cousins getting sacked by linebacker Alex Okafor for a 10-yard loss on a first-and-10 off I-formation play-action.  Okafor did push right tackle Tyler Polumbus back into Cousins, but Cousins failed to climb the pocket and was too locked in on receiver Pierre Garcon, as Jackson was open.  The next play, though, was Cousins’ second-and-20 64-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jackson.

     •    The fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Cousins’ first pick included a second-and-one sack by Okafor for a nine-yard loss.  Cousins was in the shotgun, the Cardinals blitzed, tight end Jordan Reed could have been thrown to, but Cousins instead took the sack.

The Redskins ran at least one read-option play in this game: a second-and-15 one-yard run by running back Alfred Morris out of the shotgun on a first-quarter three-and-out.  Cousins should have kept the ball on this play, which would have resulted in a run for a significant gain.  Cousins admitted on Wednesday (Oct. 15), “I do believe that there are times where I probably don’t give myself enough credit as an athlete.  And I probably could…do a little bit more athletically than maybe what I give myself credit for…”

The positives for Cousins:

     •    Cousins made a nice throw on a short-middle pass on the second-and-20 64-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jackson on the second play of the second quarter.

     •    The drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s second-quarter 28-yard field goal included a fourth-and-one play-action-boot seven-yard completion to tight end Niles Paul.  Cousins displayed beautiful touch on a jump-throw.

     •    Cousins connected on four straight shotgun completions on the fourth-quarter four-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a first-and-goal five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garcon.  That scored helped to cut the Redskins’ deficit to 23-20 with 2:17 left.

2. The Redskins’ running game was essentially a non-factor for a second straight game

Running back Roy Helu Jr. had a meaningless 16-yard shotgun-handoff run on the final play of the game.  If you take that play out of the mix, the Redskins totaled 16 carries for just 56 yards (3.5 yards per carry).

Morris had just 13 carries for 41 yards (3.2 yards per carry).  He now has registered 14 or fewer carries in four of six games this season.  While at no point during the game did I feel like the Redskins weren’t running Morris enough, I do think the notion that Morris needs to get into more of a flow before he truly becomes effective is valid.  Morris hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game since the loss at Minnesota on Nov. 7, 2013.

The reasons for the lack of success for the running game were many.  Fullback Darrel Young played for just four plays due to a hamstring injury.  The Redskins had a bunch of missed assignments in the running game, as blocking from pass catchers like Jackson and tight end Niles Paul was poor and the offensive line certainly wasn’t blameless.  Morris himself isn’t blameless.  And I would argue not having read-option as a major threat is a factor as well.

Interestingly, Helu played more than Morris for a second straight game.

3. Three Redskins skill-position players stood out

Jackson had three receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown on five targets.  He had excellent catch-and-runs on his early-second-quarter second-and-20 64-yard touchdown reception and a second-quarter second-and-eight 42-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s 28-yard field goal.

Reed returned from a four-game absence caused by a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston.  He had eight receptions for 92 yards on 11 targets, continuing to shine on stick and slant routes and to display a knack for YAC.

Helu was a stud on an impressive late-second-quarter four-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in Forbath’s 43-yard field goal and consumed just 29 seconds off the clock.  Helu had a first-and-10 eight-yard pistol-handoff run and a second-and-two 33-yard reception on which he made an impressive catch on a low screen pass from Cousins and then produced a terrific run after the catch.  But Helu also missed three blocks in the backfield.

4. But Redskins pass catchers still were guilty of too many errors

Roberts had a lost fumble on a first-and-10 14-yard reception on the first play of a Redskins drive early in the fourth quarter.  He appeared as if he was down, but the play was reviewed and upheld (referee Ed Hochuli: “It is not clear when the ball starts to come loose compared to when the knee hits the ground…”).  Roberts also had what you could consider a drop on a late-first-quarter first-and-10 incompletion.  The drive, though, resulted in Jackson’s early-second-quarter second-and-20 64-yard touchdown reception.  And Roberts failed to make a catch on a high throw on a third-and-six incompletion on a second-quarter drive that resulted in a punt.

Jackson gave up on his route on Cousins’ second fourth-quarter pick.  And Jackson continued to be woeful when it came to blocking, particularly on an early-third-quarter third-and-one reception by Roberts for minus-two yards.  The next play was a punt.

The Redskins’ second first-quarter drive, which resulted in a three-and-out, included a first-and-10 drop by Morris, a second-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty on tight end Logan Paulsen and a third-and-14 incompletion intended for Reed, who failed to make the catch on a ball that was behind him but catchable..

Reed also made a bad choice in going inside of his defender on a second-quarter third-and-goal end zone incompletion.  The drive resulted in Forbath’s 28-yard field goal.

Garcon had the fourth-quarter first-and-goal five-yard touchdown reception but finished with just four receptions for 31 yards on six targets.  He now has just eight receptions over the last three games and 21 of his 30 receptions this season have come in two games: the Week 1 loss at Houston and the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia.

5. Cousins, the lack of an impactful running game and the struggles of various pass catchers contributed to another woeful performance on third downs

The Redskins went 2-for-10 on third downs and now are 6-for-30 on third downs over the last three games.

The Redskins exited Week 6 31st out of 32 NFL teams in third-down conversion rate (23-for-71 or 32.4 percent).

6. The Redskins’ defense gave the team nothing in the play-making department

The Redskins’ defense in some respects played well enough to win, holding the Cardinals to 23 true points (the final seven came on Johnson’s late-fourth-quarter 28-yard pick-six), 0-for-2 in the red zone, just 317 total net yards of offense and just 3.2 yards per carry on 23 rushing attempts.

But the Redskins totaled no takeaways and now have just four takeaways over six games this season.  No moment epitomized this more than linebacker Brian Orakpo’s dropped pick on an early-fourth-quarter first-and-10 incompletion on a play at the Redskins’ 17.  Orakpo is dealing with an injured left middle finger and an ankle injury, but that’s a play that a guy who wants a long-term, big-money contract makes.  The drive resulted in rookie Chandler Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals a 23-13 lead.

The Redskins totaled just one sack, and that was essentially a fluke sack, coming off a dropped shotgun snap by Palmer (linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive end Jason Hatcher were credited with the sack).  The Redskins did finish with seven quarterback hits (two apiece for Kerrigan and Orakpo), and the pass rush was decent at times, but it wasn’t good enough.  The final play of the third quarter was a third-and-two seven-yard completion to running back Robert Hughes on a play on which Palmer, a 34-year-old who hadn’t played since suffering a nerve injury in his shoulder in Week 1, made the throw while being taken down being taken down by Orakpo and Hatcher and being hit by nose tackle Chris Baker (though Orakpo was credited with the quarterback hit).

Safety Ryan Clark and corner E.J. Biggers had missed tackles on receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s late-second-quarter second-and-10 24-yard touchdown reception.

7. The Redskins were hurt by two bad calls

The Roberts early-fourth-quarter lost fumble should have been reversed, as Roberts’ left knee was on the ground before the ball came out.  Instead, the ensuing Cardinals drive resulted in Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals a 23-13 lead.

Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland was called for a second-quarter third-and-eight 36-yard pass-interference penalty that was iffy at best.  The eight-play, 85-yard drive resulted in Fitzgerald’s second-and-10 24-yard touchdown reception and the Cardinals taking a 14-10 lead.

It’s worth noting, though, that the Redskins benefited from Jackson not being called for a personal-foul penalty for slamming Johnson to the ground on the Cardinals’ sideline after his 30-yard return of Cousins’ first pick.

8. Redskins special teams were mixed

Forbath went 2-for-2 on second-quarter field goals of 28 and 43 yards and produced three touchbacks on kickoffs (his late second-quarter kickoff went just 56 yards, but the idea was for a return to end the half (and that’s what happened)).  But Forbath produced a bad attempt at an onside kick late in the fourth quarter after Garcon’s first-and-goal five-yard touchdown reception.

Tress Way had first-quarter punts of just 41 and 42 yards and a third-quarter 43-yard punt but also a second-quarter 58-yard punt and a third-quarter 53-yard punt.

Cardinals receiver Ted Ginn Jr. averaged 12.3 yards on three punt returns.

Linebacker Akeem Jordan committed a second-quarter six-hard holding penalty on a punt that resulted in a fair catch by Roberts.

Roberts had a first-quarter 12-yard punt return but then later in the first quarter returned a kickoff for just 23 yards from five yards deep in the Redskins’ end zone.

9. Have the Redskins fixed their penalty problem?

The Redskins had just six accepted penalties and now have totaled just nine accepted penalties over the last two games off having 39 accepted penalties over the first four games of the season.

The Cardinals won despite totaling 14 accepted penalties.  Seattle won at the Redskins in Week 5 despite recording 13 accepted penalties, including three that negated touchdowns by receiver Percy Harvin.

10. Miscellaneous notes:    

The Cardinals displayed curious clock management in the second half, calling two of their three timeouts while on offense and by the 12:59 mark of the fourth quarter and having Palmer pass on three straight downs (all incompletions) on a mid-fourth-quarter drive while leading, 23-13.

Inactives for the Redskins were:

•    Griffin for a fourth straight game due to the dislocated left ankle he suffered in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville

     •    linebacker Perry Riley Jr. due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the Week 5 loss to Seattle

     •    receiver Aldrick Robinson

     •    corner Tracy Porter, who re-injured his hamstring in the Week 4 blowout loss to the Giants off missing the first three games of the season

     •    rookie tackle Morgan Moses

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long

     •    linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat, who was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Oct. 8

The Redskins also played this game without:

     •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was placed on the reserve/injured list (designated to return) on Sept. 9 due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

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