The Redskins fell to 3-8 with a 17-13 loss at San Francisco on Sunday (Nov. 23, 2014). Here were the 10 most important items from the game:
1. We have been here before
This loss clinched the Redskins not having a winning record for the 16th time in 22 seasons. For comparison’s sake, New England, with its 34-9 win over Detroit in Week 12, clinched a 14th consecutive winning season.
2. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was benched following this game
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the news on Tuesday night (Nov. 25), and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed the decision the following day. This marked the second benching of Griffin in a calendar year, as he was benched by then-head coach Mike Shanahan on Dec. 11, 2013 for the rest of that season for protection and performance reasons.
The news was jarring given where Griffin was two years ago but not surprising given how poorly he has been playing.
If we remove the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville, a game Griffin left early due to suffering a dislocated left ankle, he now has played poorly in five of his last eight regular-season games: 2013 Week 11 loss at Philadelphia, 2013 Week 12 loss to San Francisco, 2013 Week 14 loss to Kansas City, 2014 Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay and 2014 Week 12 loss at San Francisco.
And it’s not like he was dynamic in those other three games: 2013 Week 13 loss to the Giants, 2014 Week 1 loss at Houston and 2014 Week 9 loss at Minnesota.
3. Griffin was terrible for a second straight game
Griffin led a Redskins offense that totaled 77 net yards passing and 12 first downs and went 2-for-13 on third downs.
Griffin recorded a 7.9 Total QBR, registering a season-low for a second straight game.
Griffin was better than he was in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay, but he still was guilty of missing easy looks and reads.
• The Redskins’ final offensive drive, which resulted in a third-and-eight sack-strip-lost fumble, included a first-and-14 shotgun incompletion that should have been thrown to receiver DeSean Jackson (who was open) instead of tight end Niles Paul.
• A first-quarter second-and-10 deep shotgun read-option play-action incompletion should have been throw to receiver Pierre Garcon instead of Jackson, who failed to come down with the ball with two defenders on him. The drive resulted in a punt.
Griffin got sacked five times, including the sack-strip-lost fumble on the Redskins’ final offensive play of the game. Three of the five sacks were on Griffin; the other two were on rookie left tackle Morgan Moses, who started in place of the injured Trent Williams.
• If you remove the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville, a game Griffin left early due to suffering a dislocated left ankle, Griffin now has been sacked 43 times over his last nine regular-season games.
Griffin appeared on his way to getting benched at halftime until a second-quarter 10-play, 61-yard drive that resulted in running back Alfred Morris’ third-and-goal one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown run. Griffin connected on three big plays on the drive:
• Third-and-five seven-yard shotgun completion to receiver Andre Roberts
• First-and-10 24-yard under-center play-action completion to Garcon
• Second-and-eight 11-yard offset-I play-action-boot completion to Paul
4. Several decisions by Gruden suggested a serious lack of faith in Griffin
Gruden called a third-and-13 shotgun quarterback draw that produced a run for no gain on a first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt.
Gruden didn’t use any of his first-half timeouts, even though the 49ers failed to convert on a third-and-14 with 46 seconds left in the second quarter. The 49ers didn’t call a timeout until there were 11 seconds left, converted a fourth-and-two and then ended the half with a 41-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
5. Griffin’s struggles meant that the Redskins’ top two playmakers weren’t big enough factors, and at least one of those playmakers appears to be getting frustrated
Garcon had three receptions for 34 yards on four targets and now has seven receptions for 55 yards on 11 targets since Griffin returned in the Week 9 loss at Minnesota. Garcon after the game: “What’s it going to take? Throw to the receivers. There were a lot of opportunities. Didn’t take them.”
Garcon also attempted a pass, throwing a second-and-eight deep incompletion intended for Jackson on a first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt. The gimmick play featured Griffin with an under-center toss to running back Roy Helu Jr., who then flipped the ball to Garcon. He said after the game regarding whether he had been looking forward to throwing a pass in a game: “Not at all. I was like, ‘This is where we’ve come?’ ”
It is worth noting that Garcon’s blocking was instrumental in the success of the running game.
Jackson had two receptions for 39 yards on five targets and now has six receptions for 74 yards on 11 targets over the last two games.
6. Morris had his best game of the season
Morris had 21 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown and now has 73 carries for 375 yards and four touchdowns since halftime of the Week 8 win at Dallas.
The 100-yard game was Morris’ first since the loss at Minnesota on Nov. 7, 2013.
Among Morris’ impressive runs:
• Second-quarter third-and-goal one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown run on a drive that also included a first-and-10 11-yard run off a toss out of the offset-I
• First-and-10 11-yard pistol-handoff run on the drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s late-third-quarter 27-yard field goal
• First-and-10 30-yard run off a toss out of the offset-I on a third-quarter drive that resulted in a punt
• Second-and-10 22-yard under-center-handoff run on a first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt
• First-and-10 16-yard run off a toss out of the offset-I on another first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt
7. The Redskins’ defense had one of its best games of the season despite a near-absurd situation at corner
The situation at corner: the Redskins entered this game without DeAngelo Hall (torn left Achilles) and David Amerson (inactive due to a violation of team rules), lost E.J. Biggers to a concussion in the first quarter and lost Tracy Porter to a right AC-joint separation in the third quarter. The Porter injury necessitated that Greg Ducre, who was signed off San Diego’s practice squad on Oct. 8, come into the game. Porter was placed on the reserve/injured list on Wednesday (Nov. 26).
And yet the Redskins held the 49ers to just 16 first downs, 5-of-13 on third downs, 312 total net yards of offense and an average of 2.3 yards on 29 carries.
The Redskins, who entered this game with just nine takeaways all season, produced three takeaways. The problem was what the Redskins’ offense did after those takeaways.
• The first play of the second quarter resulted in a forced fumble by safety Brandon Meriweather and a fumble recovery by safety Ryan Clark. But the ensuing Redskins drive was a three-and-out.
• Ducre had a third-quarter first-and-10 pick. But the ensuing Redskins drive was a three-and-out.
• Rookie linebacker Trent Murphy, who had a very good game, had a fourth-quarter forced fumble that was recovered by safety Phillip Thomas. The ensuing Redskins drive was a four-play, eight-yard drive that yielded a fourth-quarter 46-yard field goal by Forbath.
Linebacker Keenan Robinson had arguably his best game of the season.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a late-second-quarter second-and-10 sack for a four-yard loss on the drive that resulted in Dawson’s 41-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Murphy played a big role in that sack.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher had a fourth-quarter first-and-10 sack for a six-yard loss on the drive that resulted in rookie running back Carlos Hyde’s first-and-goal four-yard read-option-looking touchdown run.
8. The Redskins’ two starting safeties, though, were guilty of more costly negative plays
Meriweather got beat by receiver Anquan Boldin in man-to-man coverage on his first-quarter second-and-six 30-yard touchdown reception.
Meriweather had a missed tackle on running back Frank Gore’s fourth-quarter fourth-and-one three-yard run. The next play was a first-and-10 29-yard reception by Boldin, who also drew a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on Clark. Three plays later was Hyde running through Clark on the first-and-goal four-yard read-option-looking touchdown run.
9. Redskins special teams were very mixed
Positive: Tress Way averaged 46.6 yards and 45.6 net yards on eight punts. He exited Week 12 first in the NFL in yards per punt and tied for fifth in the NFL in net yards per punt.
Positive: Forbath went 2-for-2 on field goals, connecting on a late-third-quarter 27-yard field goal and a fourth-quarter 46-yard field goal. He now is 17-for-20 on field goals this season and 52-for-60 on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.
Negative: Roberts had punt returns of seven and four yards and was replaced on punt returns by Jackson in the third quarter.
Negative: Three of the Redskins’ seven accepted penalties came on special teams. The Redskins exited Week 12 30th out of 32 NFL teams with 20 accepted special-teams penalties this season.
• The Redskins committed two penalties on a late-fourth-quarter punt return by Jackson. The accepted penalty was a seven-yard illegal-block-above-the-waist penalty on safety Akeem Davis. The declined penalty was a holding penalty on tight end Logan Paulsen
• Davis committed a first-quarter five-yard false-start penalty as Way was about to punt
• Roberts committed a 15-yard facemask penalty on a first-quarter four-yard punt return
Negative: linebacker and special-teams captain Adam Heyward suffered a season-ending tibial plateau fracture in his right leg in downing a mere 31-yard punt by Way early in the third quarter. The Redskins placed Heyward on the reserve/injured list on Monday (Nov. 24).
10. Miscellaneous Notes:
Inactives for the Redskins were:
• left tackle Trent Williams due to sprains of the MCL and ankle of his right leg suffered in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay
• tight end Jordan Reed due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay
• defensive lineman Chris Baker due to an SC joint sprain suffered in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay
• receiver Leonard Hankerson, who committed a late-third-quarter third-and-eight five-yard false-start penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay. That game marked his season debut off having been 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 on Nov. 21, 2013.
• quarterback Kirk Cousins for a third straight game
• receiver Aldrick Robinson for a sixth straight game
The Redskins also played this game without:
• linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 21 due to a torn right pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 7 win over Tennessee
• 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. We learned on Oct. 31 that he had torn the Achilles again.
• 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
• 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