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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins’ Loss At The Giants In Week 15

The Redskins fell to 3-11 with a 24-13 loss at the Giants on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:

1. Familiar spots

This loss clinched the Redskins finishing last in the NFC East for the sixth time in seasons.  The loss also clinched the Redskins finishing with a 1-7 road record for a second consecutive season.

2. Bad offense

There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that the Redskins are a bad offensive team and have been for a while.  Since the 37-34 loss at Philadelphia in Week 3, they are averaging 16.0 points per game (176 points over 11 games).

The Redskins allowed seven sacks, marking the sixth consecutive game in which they gave up five or more sacks.  The Redskins exited Week 15 31st out of 32 NFL teams in fewest sacks allowed with 53.  The single-season franchise record for sacks allowed is 61 in 1998.

The Redskins went 4-for-14 on third downs and exited Week 15 30th out of 32 NFL teams in third-down efficiency (31.8 percent).

The Redskins went 1-for-4 in the red zone and exited Week 15 tied for 21st out of 32 NFL teams in red-zone efficiency (50 percent).

The Redskins had 107 total net yards of offense in the second half, though they exited Week 15 12th in the NFL in yards per game (358.6).

3. Bizarre ending to the game

The Redskins essentially tapped out with more than two minutes left and an 11-point deficit, basically giving up on trying to score.

The Redskins got the ball back with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter and trailing, 24-13.  And yet they didn’t display nearly enough tempo and did not throw the ball downfield on a five-play drive that included the following four-snap sequence:

•    A first-and-10 shotgun six-yard completion by quarterback Robert Griffin III to receiver DeSean Jackson

     •    A second-and-four shotgun sack of Griffin, who literally lay on the field for multiple seconds after the play despite not being injured

     •    A third-and-eight minus-one-yard draw-play run by running back Chris Thompson out of the shotgun, presumably because head coach Jay Gruden thought that Griffin was hurting

     •    A fourth-and-nine five-yard delay-of-game penalty on Griffin 45 seconds after the previous play had began

The Redskins punted at the end of the drive, becoming according to Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post the first NFL team since 2011 to punt after getting the ball back with less than three minutes remaining while trailing by two possessions. (i.e., trailing by between nine and 16 points).  Rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. actually muffed the catch of the punt, and safety Trenton Robinson recovered the ball.

And yet what did the Redskins do on the ensuing drive’s first play, which turned out to be the last play of the game?  A first-and-10 Griffin shotgun three-yard completion to Jackson.  Very strange, very odd, and Gruden did not provide a quality or acceptable explanation during his postgame press conference, his day-after-the-game press conference on Monday (Dec. 15) or his post-practice press conference on Tuesday (Dec. 16).

4. Bizarre ending to the first half

The final play of the second quarter was a third-and-goal-at-the-8 under-center scramble by Griffin, who dove head-first into the front-right corner of the end zone in a play that brought back memories of his historic 2012 rookie season.  The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but replay officials then reversed the call, ruling that Griffin was guilty of a lost fumble for a touchback off a seven-yard scramble.  The play was odd, as he lost control of the ball while in mid-air, then re-possessed it while crossing the goal-line, but then lost control of the ball upon crashing back down on the field.

As much as the reversal stung, and as bad of a reputation as referee Jeff Triplette has, the correct call was made.  As FOX Sports NFL-officiating insider Mike Pereira tweeted, “RGIII needs to repossess it after the ball comes loose.  It’s like catching a pass.”

But the correct call being made didn’t stop receivers Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon from going off on the officials.  Moss ended up getting ejected, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and a 15-yard disqualification penalty.  The 30 yards in penalties meant that the second half’s opening kickoff occurred at the Redskins’ 35.  The Giants’ Josh Brown booted an onside kick that was recovered at the Redskins’ 17, and the ensuing drive resulted in Brown’s early-third-quarter 32-yard field goal that tied the score at 10.  So the Redskins, instead of potentially having a 24-7 lead off touchdowns at the end of the second quarter and early in the third quarter, instead found themselves tied at 10.

5. Quarterback Colt McCoy lasted for just one drive and then was done for the season

McCoy started off suffering a neck injury in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis, but he left this game after just one drive due to an aggravation of the injury.  He was placed on the reserve/injured list on Tuesday (Dec. 16).

Griffin played for the rest of the game, but had he gotten injured, the Redskins would have gone to either fullback Darrel Young or receiver Andre Roberts as their emergency quarterback.  Gruden made a major mistake in not having three quarterbacks active.

McCoy’s lone drive was a 13-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s first-quarter 35-yard field goal.  McCoy had a first-and-10 20-yard read-option shotgun run and a first-and-15 I-formation play-action 17-yard completion to rookie running back Silas Redd.  But McCoy also got wacked around on a second-and-10 four-yard shotgun scramble and threw short on several incompletions, including a third-and-six shotgun incompletion intended for Garcon.

6. Griffin was very mixed in his first extended action in three games

Given Griffin’s disastrous performances in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay and the Week 12 loss at San Francisco, this game was a step forward and, to me, his best game of the season from a play-making standpoint.  But Griffin also was guilty of taking too many sacks and not throwing to open receivers.

Griffin went 18-of-27 for 236 yards and a touchdown and was truly impactful as a runner for the first time this season: five carries for 46 yards.  But he registered a Total QBR of just 21.3.

Griffin’s second drive of the game, a seven-play, 77-yard second-quarter drive that resulted in his third-and-four nine-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Thompson, also included:

     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action 22-yard completion to Garcon

     •    A first-and-10 offset-I play-action 17-yard completion to tight end Niles Paul

     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action-boot 18-yard completion to Moss

The late-second-quarter drive that resulted in Griffin’s third-and-goal-at-the-8 seven-yard under-center scramble and then lost-fumble also included:

     •    A second-and-10 shotgun 37-yard completion to Redd on a short pass

     •    A first-and-10 shotgun 20-yard completion to Roberts

     •    A third-and-three shotgun eight-yard completion to Redd

The Redskins’ eight-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in Forbath’s third-quarter 38-yard field goal, included:

     •    A third-and-six shotgun 61-yard completion to Roberts

     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action-boot 11-yard scramble and then a nine-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Antrel Rolle

The Redskins’ early-third-quarter drive that resulted in a fourth-and-two sack-strip of Griffin included a second-and-six 23-yard I-formation play-action scramble on which he provided a beautiful stiff-arm on Rolle.  The unfortunate part of this play, though, was that Griffin could have thrown deep to either Jackson or Garcon.

And there was still too much bad from Griffin:

     •    Griffin got sacked seven times and was at fault on at least five and perhaps as many as six of the seven sacks.  The protection certainly wasn’t perfect, but he repeatedly failed to see or throw to open pass catchers on plays that resulted in sacks.

     •    Griffin was guilty of three fumbles, including the lost fumble on the final play of the first half.

     •    Griffin’s laying on the field for multiple seconds on the Redskins’ penultimate drive was “Robert being Robert” according to Gruden on Tuesday (Dec. 16), and that apparent overly-dramatic reaction to being sacked may have been the cause of Gruden essentially tapping out (though the Griffin reaction doesn’t excuse that; Gruden and the Redskins were still wrong to give up offensively as they did).

7. This was a typical game for the 2014 Redskins defense

Good yardage numbers, especially against the run, but not enough play-making and not enough quality defense late in the game.  That could be said of many games this season, including this one.

The Redskins held the Giants to 287 total net yards of offense, 2.2 yards per rush on 22 carries and 4-of-13 on third downs.

But the Redskins got scorched by Beckham: 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns on 15 targets.

Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland had quite a battle with Beckham, committing four penalties while dealing with breathing/bronchial issues:

     •    First-and-10 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on the first offensive play of the game for shoving Beckham

     •    Second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard taunting penalty off a 16-yard reception by Beckham that came despite a defensive-holding penalty by Breeland.  The drive, though, resulted in a punt.

     •    Third-quarter first-and-10 17-yard pass-interference penalty while covering Beckham.  That drive, though, resulted in a punt.

     •    Late-third-quarter first-and-10 23-yard pass-interference penalty while covering Beckham.  The drive resulted in Beckham’s late-third-quarter second-and-five 35-yard touchdown reception.

     •    It is worth noting that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said on Wednesday (Dec. 17) that the NFL had acknowledged that the taunting penalty and one of the two pass-interference penalties were bad calls

The Redskins’ defense totaled zero takeaways, though the Redskins did recover the late-fourth-quarter muffed catch of a punt by Beckham for a takeaway.  The Redskins exited Week 15 tied for 26th out of 32 NFL teams with 16 takeaways.

The Redskins totaled just one sack, a third-quarter second-and-sack by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for a 12-yard loss.  He now has a career-high 12 ½ sacks this season, including five over the last four games.  The Redskins exited Week 15 tied for 16th out of 32 NFL teams with 33 sacks.

8. Redskins special teams had another bad game

Redd was in position to recover Brown’s onside kick at the start of the third quarter but wasn’t aggressive enough, and the recovery was made by corner Chandler Fenner.

The Redskins allowed a 45-yard kickoff return by receiver Preston Parker.  The ensuing Giants drive resulted in Beckham’s late-first-quarter third-and-eight 10-yard touchdown reception.  The Redskins exited Week 15 26th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest yards allowed per kickoff return (26.1).

The Redskins committed two more special-teams penalties and exited Week 15 21st out of 32 NFL teams with 24 accepted special-teams penalties this season.  The Redskins had 21 accepted special-teams penalties all of last season.

     •    Linebacker Trevardo Williams, whom the Redskins signed off their practice squad on Dec. 9, committed a 10-yard illegal-block-above-the-waist penalty on an early-second-quarter punt return by Roberts.

     •    Long snapper Nick Sundberg committed a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 13-yard punt return by Beckham.

The Giants downed two punts inside the Redskins’ 10, catching each punt on the fly.

Tress Way was credited with a fumble on a dropped snap in the second quarter.  But the resulting punt went 51 yards and yielded a return of just one yard by Beckham.  Way averaged 45.2 yards per punt and 42.0 net yards per punt on six punts.  He did exit Week 15 first in the NFL in yards per punt (47.9) and tied for 10th in the NFL in net yards per punt (39.9).

Forbath went 2-for-2 on field goals: a first-quarter 35-yarder and a third-quarter 38-yarder.  He now is 21-for-24 on field goals this season, ranking tied for 11th in the NFL in field-goal percentage (87.5).  Forbath is 56-for-64 on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.

9. Redskins running backs were impactful in the first half but then mostly silent in the second half

The Redskins had 27 carries for 144 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.  But if you remove Griffin’s early-third-quarter second-and-six 23-yard I-formation play-action scramble on which he provided the beautiful stiff-arm on Rolle, the Redskins had just 10 carries for 23 yards in the second half.

Running back Alfred Morris had nine carries for 47 yards in the first half but five carries for two yards in the second half.

Thompson, whom the Redskins signed off their practice squad on Dec. 11, had the second-quarter third-and-four nine-yard touchdown reception and three carries for 12 yards, including a late-second-quarter first-and-10 seven-yard shotgun read-option run on the drive that resulted in Griffin’s lost fumble and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-10 six-yard shotgun read-option run on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.

Redd had three receptions for 62 yards on three targets.  He had a first-and-15 17-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 35-yard field goal and two receptions for 45 yards on the late-second-quarter drive that resulted in Griffin’s lost fumble.

10. Absentee report:

Inactives for the Redskins were:

     •    defensive end Jason Hatcher due to inflammation in his right knee.  He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this past June.

     •    linebacker Keenan Robinson for a second straight game due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    safety Brandon Meriweather for a second straight game due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    running back Roy Helu Jr. due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson for the third time in four games

     •    quarterback Kirk Cousins for a sixth straight game

     •    guard Josh LeRibeus

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.

     •    corner Tracy Porter, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 26 due to a right AC-joint separation suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    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 Adam Heyward, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 24 due to a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    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

     •    rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 11 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in practice on Dec. 10

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