The Redskins improved to 2-5 with a 19-17 win over Tennessee on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 19, 2014). Here were the 10 most important items from the game:
1. Overly impressive this was not
It was great to see the Redskins snap their four-game losing streak and win the annual Alumni Homecoming Game, and who knows how many more victories we’ll have to talk about this season. But there was little from this game that has you feeling better about this season.
The Redskins won despite going 0-for-4 in the red zone and 3-for-11 on third downs and totaling just 19 points and 16 first downs. The Redskins now are 9-for-41 on third downs over the last four games.
The Titans, who fell to 2-5 with this loss, had three key players inactive: quarterback Jake Locker, running back Shonn Greene and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua.
2. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was benched at halftime
Cousins committed two first-half turnovers and now has 23 turnovers, including 19 picks, over 14 career regular-season games.
• First-quarter lost fumble on a third-and-10 sack-strip by linebacker Derrick Morgan off working out of the shotgun but then displaying poor pocket awareness
• Late-second-quarter first-and-10 pick to linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Cousins, operating out of the pistol, stared down his intended receiver, Andre Roberts. Roberts did make a bad choice to go inside the defender, but, still, that’s a throw that Cousins shouldn’t have made. Head coach Jay Gruden on this pick after the game: “That was a standard pass play that we’ve run for a long, long time.” The worst part about this play was that it was the very first play off rookie corner Bashaud Breeland’s second-quarter second-and-20 pick.
Cousins had an early-second-quarter second-and-five offset-I-formation completion to running back Roy Helu Jr. for minus-three yards, leading Helu right into fullback Darrel Young and Morgan. The drive did result in Kai Forbath’s second-quarter 31-yard field goal.
Cousins also committed three first-half penalties.
• First-quarter third-and-five five-yard delay-of-game penalty on the snap right before his lost fumble
• Second-quarter first-and-10 five-yard delay-of-game penalty on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s second-quarter 31-yard field goal
• Third-and-five 15-yard intentional-grounding penalty on the final play of the second quarter, concluding a hideous first-half-ending drive for the Redskins
Cousins wasn’t all bad in the first half, connecting on a second-and-nine 50-yard under-center play-action completion with tight end Niles Paul on the game’s opening drive (which resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 31-yard field goal) and finishing 10-of-16 for 139 yards.
But Cousins’ confidence looked shot by the end of the half, and Gruden said as much after the game: “He’s been tentative a little bit here and there, a little bit more tentative than you would like him to, and sometimes he takes poor plays a little bit too hard.”
I am a fan of Cousins. I supported spending a fourth-round pick on him in the 2012 NFL Draft. I did not want him traded last offseason because of 1) quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injury history 2) Griffin’s poor 2013 season and 3) Cousins’ potential (which was certainly on display in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville and the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia).
But I had no problem with the benching. Cousins has proven to be a turnover machine, with too many of his turnovers being straight giveaways. The goal for Gruden should be to win until the team is mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. And benching Cousins, while obviously not an endorsement of him, doesn’t doom him as a Redskin, either, especially if Griffin gets hurt again.
3. Colt McCoy was the Redskins’ quarterback in the second half, and he came through
McCoy went 11-for-12 for 128 yards, including a third-quarter second-and-nine 70-yard pistol touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garcon on McCoy’s first pass as a Redskin.
McCoy delivered on the Redskins’ game-winning drive that resulted in Forbath’s 22-yard field goal as time expired, going 5-for-5 for 38 yards.
Was McCoy spectacular in relief? No. Did he get lucky on the touchdown pass to Garcon, who literally ran by safety Michael Griffin after making the catch? Yes. But McCoy took what was given to him and, most significantly, didn’t commit a turnover.
4. Linebacker Brian Orakpo is done for the season
Orakpo suffered a torn right pectoral muscle and was placed on the reserve/injured list on Tuesday (Oct. 21), when the Redskins signed linebacker Everette Brown. Orakpo also had been dealing with an injured left middle finger and an ankle injury.
Orakpo’s season ended with him having totaled ½ sack over seven games this season, during which he was playing on a one-year, $11.455 million franchise tender. He has been good against the run, a point that was made by Gruden on Monday (Oct. 20).
Orakpo did have his moments in this game, including pressuring quarterback Charlie Whitehurst on his second-quarter second-and-20 pick to Breeland. But Orakpo had a missed tackle on rookie running back Bishop Sankey’s early-fourth-quarter second-and-one two-yard run on the drive that resulted in receiver Derek Hagan’s first-and-10 38-yard touchdown reception that helped to give the Titans a 17-16 lead.
This is the fourth time that Orakpo has suffered a pec injury over the last three calendar years.
• Jan. 1, 2012 – Week 17 34-10 loss at Philadelphia – torn left pectoral muscle in the season finale
• Aug. 18, 2012 – Preseason Week 2 33-31 loss at Chicago – left pectoral injury that wasn’t a tear
• Sept. 16, 2012 – Week 2 31-28 loss at St. Louis – season-ending torn left pectoral muscle
5. Redskins special teams, thanks in part some good luck, had their first net-positive game since the 2012 season
Forbath went 4-for-4 on field goals: first-quarter 31-yarder, second-quarter 31-yarder, early-fourth-quarter 27-yarder and the game-winning 22-yarder as time expired. He is now 11-for-12 on field goals this season and 46-for-52 on field goals over his two-plus seasons with the Redskins.
Paul had a late-third-quarter fumble recovery off a muffed catch of a punt by running back Dexter McCluster, who made a mistake in fielding what was a terrible punt by Tress Way (just 28 yards). The ensuing Redskins drive resulted in Forbath’s early-fourth-quarter 27-yard field goal.
Way had mixed game punting
• late-first-quarter 44-yard punt that was downed at the Titans’ 13-yard line
• late-third-quarter 28-yard punt that resulted in Paul’s fumble recovery
• fourth-quarter 52-yard punt that was downed at the Titans’ 33-yard line.
There were two major negatives for Redskins special teams:
• rookie linebacker Trent Murphy had a second-quarter fourth-and-five five-yard offside penalty on a Brett Kern punt, extending a Titans drive that did ultimately result in the second-and-20 pick to Breeland
• Roberts was underwhelming on returns, including an early-second-quarter one-yard punt return and a late-second-quarter 20-yard kickoff return
6. The Redskins’ defense, overall, did its job well
The Redskins held the Titans to 17 points, just 236 total net yards of offense, 14 first downs, 3-for-11 on third downs and 3.5 yards per carry on 22 rushes. Hard to complain about any of those numbers.
Breeland had the second-quarter second-and-20 pick and two tackles for loss.
Linebacker Keenan Robinson led the Redskins with 14 tackles, more than doubling the team’s next-best total (linebacker Will Compton’s six). Robinson was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday (Oct. 22).
Defensive end Stephen Bowen made his season debut off missing the first six games due to being on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, which he was placed on this past Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3. He played on just nine defensive snaps and two special-teams snaps.
7. But the Redskins’ defense remained lacking in impact plays and was guilty of some key lapses
The Redskins totaled just one sack and three quarterback hits. Whitehurst, a backup quarterback not exactly known for his mobility, evaded the Redskins’ pass rush on multiple occasions, including on a fourth-quarter third-and-six five-yard completion to tight end Delanie Walker on the drive that resulted in Hagan’s first-and-10 38-yard touchdown reception that helped to give the Titans a 17-16 lead.
The Redskins officially totaled two takeaways, but one of them was Paul’s late-third-quarter fumble recovery on special teams. Breeland’s second-quarter second-and-20 pick was the Redskins’ first takeaway since the Week 4 blowout loss to the Giants. The Redskins now have six takeaways over seven games this season.
Corner E.J. Biggers got beat on Hagan’s fourth-quarter first-and-10 38-yard touchdown reception that helped to give the Titans a 17-16 lead, getting fooled by Whitehurst’s shotgun play-action.
Receiver Kendall Wright ran right between safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather on a late-second-quarter second-and-10 14-yard touchdown reception. Clark really struggled in this game when it came to tackling.
8. Redskins play makers largely delivered
Receiver DeSean Jackson drew a fourth-quarter third-and-two 22-yard pass-interference penalty on corner Jason McCourty on the game-winning drive, which resulted in Forbath’s 22-yard field goal as time expired.
The Redskins had two more receptions of at least 50 yards and now have seven receptions of at least 50 yards this season, exceeding the team’s output from the 2013 (three) and matching the team’s output from 2012 (seven).
• Garcon’s early-third-quarter 70-yard touchdown reception featured him beating corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson to make the catch and then literally running by Griffin. Garcon finished with five receptions for 87 yards and the touchdown on six targets.
• Paul had a second-and-nine 50-yard reception on which he ran through safety George Wilson and stiff-armed McCourty. The drive resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 31-yard field goal.
Young had two impressive plays on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s early-fourth-quarter 27-yard field goal: a third-quarter third-and-one 14-yard I-formation-handoff run and a nice catch on a high throw by McCoy off I-formation play-action boot on the final play of the third quarter, a first-and-10 10-yard reception.
Tight end Jordan Reed had three receptions for 25 yards on the game-winning drive and finished with five receptions for 54 yards on six targets.
A negative: Roberts failed to make the reception on what was a catchable ball on a second-quarter second-and-five Cousins shotgun deep incompletion on the Redskins’ hideous-looking drive that ended with the conclusion of the first half. Roberts now multiple times this season has failed to make receptions on catchable balls.
Another negative: tight end Logan Paulsen initially was ruled to have committed a lost fumble on a first-quarter second-and-nine reception from Cousins off an under-center play-action boot on the game’s opening drive, but the play was reviewed and ruled an incompletion. The drive resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 31-yard field goal. It is worth noting that Paulsen had by far his best blocking game of the season so far.
9. The Redskins’ running game was underwhelming for a fourth straight game
Running back Alfred Morris had 18 carries for just 54 yards. He had seven carries for just 17 yards in the second half. Gruden said on Monday (Oct. 20) that Morris missed several cuts in the game, and our own Chris Cooley said on Tuesday (Oct. 21) on The Drive on ESPN 980 that Morris had a chance for a 100-yard game had he properly read his keys and found the right fits.
Morris did injure his ankle on a first-quarter second-and-seven five-yard under-center-handoff run on a drive that resulted in a punt, but he soon returned to the game.
Morris also had another near-fumble, losing the ball off hitting the grass on a second-and-13 under-center-handoff eight-yard run on the game’s opening drive (which resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 31-yard field goal). The Titans challenged that Morris was down before the fumble, but the ruling was upheld. Morris has two official fumbles over seven games this season but also had two near-fumbles in the Week 1 loss at Houston (one was officially a fumble on Griffin; the other was ruled to have happened after Morris was tackled).
As is always the case, the running-game struggles weren’t just on one player. This game saw center Kory Lichtensteiger have his worst game of the season, although he, left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester have been overall positives this season.
Helu did have five carries for 29 yards, but 15 of those yards came on a late-second-quarter first-and-20 shotgun draw-play-handoff run on the Redskins’ hideous-looking drive that ended with the conclusion of the first half. Helu also had three receptions that totaled minus-nine yards.
The Redskins exited Week 7 21st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (99.4) and tied for 16th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.1)
10. Miscellaneous notes:
Cousins wasn’t the only Redskins starter who got benched. Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton split time at right tackle in the second half, though Polumbus has been dealing with a right knee injury. Still, Polumbus was easily bull-rushed and had essentially zero punch when it came to his pass blocking according to Cooley.
The Titans hae 11 accepted penalties. Redskins opponents now have totaled 38 accepted penalties over the last three games.
Inactives for the Redskins were:
• Griffin for a fifth straight game due to the dislocated left ankle he suffered in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville
• linebacker Perry Riley Jr. for a second straight game due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the Week 5 loss to Seattle
• receiver Aldrick Robinson for a second straight game
• 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
• defensive end Clifton Geathers
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
• 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
• linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 18 due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 and then re-aggravated in the Week 6 loss at Arizona
• 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