Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the loss at the Chiefs
Week 4: The Redskins fell to 2-2 with a 29-20 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football (Oct. 2, 2017)
Passing Game: B
This game should be remembered for how little the Redskins had the ball after the first quarter. The Redskins had the ball for 10:37 in the first quarter but incredibly just 12:14 the rest of the game. And so the Redskins ran just 50 offensive plays the entire game to the Chiefs’ 72.
Kirk Cousins attempted just 24 passes. But don’t let this get lost in the shuffle: he was terrific. Kirk became one of just five quarterbacks in NFL history to be 0-5 or worse on Monday Night Football with this loss. Whatever. He went 14-of-24 for 220 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and no sacks. He registered a Raw QBR of 90.3, which is actually better than the 88.5 he had in the Week 3 win over Oakland (those two games are two of the top 11 games by NFL quarterbacks per Raw QBR so far this season). Remember, QBR factors in running, and Kirk was terrific with his legs in this game: seven carries for 38 yards.
And Kirk’s final numbers should have been even better. Oh how different this game could have been. Josh Doctson was unable to hold onto the football in attempting to make a leaping and twisting catch over Phillip Gaines in the end zone on a third-and-two shotgun deep ball from the Chiefs’ 22 with less than a minute left. A touchdown and extra point would have given the Redskins a 24-20 lead. Instead, they settled for a Dustin Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 20. Was that a difficult catch that Doctson was attempting to make? Sure. Is that a catch that a 2016 first-round pick known for his leaping ability and ball-tracking skills should make? Absolutely.
To Doctson’s credit, he did make a nice catch of a low throw on a Kirk second-and-seven seven-yard under-center completion on the play that preceded Kirk’s first-quarter first-and-10 44-yard touchdown bomb to Terrelle Pryor Sr. off offset-I play-action. And Doctson made a great diving catch (though it may not have actually been a catch) on the first play of the fourth quarter, a Kirk second-and-four 20-yard under-center play-action completion on a drive that resulted in an early-fourth-quarter punt.
Other bad moments for the passing game:
- Also on the drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 20 was Kirk telegraphing a pass to Vernon Davis on a second-and-eight shotgun incompletion that was broken up by Terrance Mitchell.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in an early-fourth-quarter punt…Kirk overthrew an open Ryan Grant on a third-and-12 shotgun deep incompletion.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…resulted in a late-second-quarter punt…Kirk and Jordan Reed clearly were not on the same page on a third-and-three shotgun incompletion.
- Redskins’ fourth offensive drive…resulted in a second-quarter three-and-out…Kirk was way off on a throw to Niles Paul on a first-and-10 shotgun screen…Terrelle Pryor Sr. short-armed the ball for a drop on a third-and-three incompletion off shotgun read-option play-action.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a second-quarter punt…T.J. Clemmings, who had to come in for Trent Williams due to him dealing with a knee injury, got pushed back big time by Frank Zombo on a Kirk third-and-two shotgun incompletion intended for Jordan Reed. Clemmings had been inactive for each of the Redskins’ first three games.
But Kirk made a number of big plays in this game and was poised to cap a game-winning touchdown drive on the road on Monday Night Football at a 3-0 Chiefs team in not for the Doctson drop.
- Redskins’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 40-yard field goal that tied the game at 20…Kirk began the drive with a first-and-10 16-yard completion to Terrelle Pryor Sr. off under-center play-action and had three big scrambles: a third-and-eight 10-yard shotgun scramble while running to his right and pumping the football; a second-and-eight 15-yard shotgun scramble through the A-gap; and a first-and-10 eight-yard scramble off an under-center play-action boot.
- Kirk threw a beautiful pass to Terrelle Pryor Sr. for a first-quarter first-and-10 44-yard touchdown bomb off offset-I play-action. Give major credit also to Pryor, who ran right by All-Pro corner Marcus Peters.
- The Redskins’ seventh offensive drive featured a terrific pass from Kirk on a first-and-10 69-yard shotgun completion to Vernon Davis, who blew by Justin Houston and then generated massive YAC. Two plays later was Ryan Grant making a great catch with his arms extended in beating All-Pro corner Marcus Peters on a Kirk third-quarter second-and-goal three-yard under-center play-action touchdown pass.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ first-quarter 19-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead…Terrelle Pryor Sr. abused Terrance Mitchell on a Kirk third-and-seven 10-yard shotgun completion…Jordan Reed abused Eric Murray on a Kirk third-and-seven 14-yard shotgun completion, though that was the play on which Reed was initially ruled to have fumbled the ball.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a second-quarter punt…Kirk began the drive with a first-and-10 20-yard shotgun play-action completion to Vernon Davis.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…resulted in a late-second-quarter punt…Kirk began the drive with a great throw to Ryan Grant in the pocket of Cover-2 coverage on a first-and-10 13-yard shotgun completion.
Vernon Davis continues to be such a weapon. He had two receptions for 89 yards on three targets.
But the lack of offensive snaps for the Redskins led to way too few touches for some of the Redskins’ best pass catchers.
- Chris Thompson had just one reception for four yards on two targets.
- Jamison Crowder, who was questionable for this game due to a hamstring injury, was targeted just once, and that was on a reception for minus-seven yards that began a series of laterals that led to a fumble-six on the final play of the game (the fumble was on Thompson). Crowder getting just one target came despite him playing on 72 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps.
Additionally, Jordan Reed still does not seem like himself. He returned from a one-game absence caused by rib and sternum injuries suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams and had just three receptions for 21 yards on five targets. Reed is averaging just 7.5 yards per catch on 14 receptions this season. Vernon Davis is averaging 20 yards per catch on eight receptions.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson (18) can’t hold on to a pass in the end zone against Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Phillip Gaines (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The Chiefs won 29-20. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Running Game: C-
Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson combined for just 19 carries for just 73 yards. Again, the Redskins just barely had the ball after the first quarter. It was a real shame, because the Chiefs entered Week 4 just 26th in the NFL in run defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric and were without starting linebacker Dee Ford for this game.
Kelley, who returned from a one-game absence caused by a rib injury suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams, suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return.
Perine became the primary ball carrier after Kelley’s injury. Perine had his moments, including back-to-back first-and-10 five-yard under-center-handoff runs on a drive that resulted in a second-quarter punt. But what likely will stick from this game regarding Perine more than anything is his fumbling problem popping up again. The Redskins’ eighth offensive drive, which resulted in an early-fourth-quarter punt, included Perine being unable to handle a toss out of the I-formation on what was officially a second-and-five fumble on Kirk. The ball, thankfully, went out of bounds, but the play resulted in a seven-yard loss. And that was it for Perine the rest of the game.
The Redskins’ running game came up particularly small on the two drives that resulted in Dustin Hopkins field goals:
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in Hopkins’ first-quarter 19-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead…the drive began with a Rob Kelley first-and-10 shotgun-handoff run for minus-four yards…late in the drive was a Fat Rob second-and-goal-at-the-2 under-center-handoff run for no gain…the play after that: a Kirk third-and-goal-at-the-two shotgun read-option run for one yard, though Kirk did display a nice spin move on that play.
- Redskins’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 40-yard field goal that tied the game at 20…Chris Thompson had a first-and-10 two-yard under-center-handoff run, a first-and-10 two-yard shotgun-handoff run and a second-and-two shotgun-handoff run for no gain.
The bright spots for the Redskins’ running game:
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s first-quarter first-and-10 44-yard touchdown bomb to Terrelle Pryor Sr. off offset-I play-action…Rob Kelley had a third-and-one 12-yard I-formation-handoff run.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ first-quarter 19-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead…Chris Thompson had a second-and-14 seven-yard shotgun-handoff run and a second-and-10 five-yard shotgun-handoff run…Kirk had a fourth-and-one five-yard I-formation play-action-boot run…Rob Kelley had a first-and-goal-at-the-7 five-yard under-center-handoff run.
- Redskins’ fourth offensive drive…resulted in a second-quarter three-and-out…Thompson had a second-and-10 seven-yard shotgun-handoff run.
The Redskins in this game had a constant parade of players going on and off the field due to injuries. No injury was bigger than Josh Norman’s, as he suffered a rib fracture in the second quarter and did not return.
The Redskins’ defense got off to such a great start, forcing punts on the Chiefs’ first three drives and stifling Kareem Hunt. But then came the rest of the game. Five of the Chiefs’ final six possessions ended in a touchdown or field goal. The one possession that did not end in a score ended with a missed field goal.
The Chiefs thrashed the Redskins in the time-of-possession battle over the final three quarters, and the Redskins’ defense had a lot to do with that. The Chiefs’ first three drives in the second half went for 10, 13 and 14 plays. The Chiefs won the time-of-possession battle over the second and third quarters, 24:03 to 5:57.
Kareem Hunt finished the game with 21 carries for 101 yards. He had 16 carries for 77 yards in the second half. Hunt forced nine missed tackles per Pro Football Focus.
Travis Kelce had seven receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. He continued a time-honored tradition of Redskins linebackers struggling to cover tight ends, registering four receptions for 52 yards on four targets on which he was covered by Redskins linebackers per Pro Football Focus.
The Redskins sacked Alex Smith four times but allowed him to go 27-of-37 for 293 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. He went 6-for-7 for 91 yards against the blitz per Pro Football Focus. Also, Smith seven carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. His Raw QBR was 78.2.
The play of the game in many ways was Alex Smith’s second-and-six 37-yard shotgun completion to Albert Wilson with less than a minute left on the drive that resulted in Harrison Butker’s 43-yard field goal for a 23-20 Chiefs lead with four seconds left. Ryan Kerrigan, in bull-rushing Mitchell Schwartz, got turned around and totally lost contain on Smith, who scrambled to his right before making the throw on the run.
A way-too-familiar problem was back for the Redskins, as they allowed the Chiefs to go 8-for-13 on third downs.
- The Chiefs’ sixth offensive drive resulted in Alex Smith’s third-quarter third-and-goal one-yard shotgun read-option touchdown run that completely fooled Preston Smith…also on that drive was an Alex Smith third-and-one two-yard I-formation quarterback sneak.
- Chiefs’ fourth offensive drive…resulted in Alex Smith’s second-quarter first-and-10 17-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Travis Kelce, who just big-body’d Bashaud Breeland…Smith had a third-and-three nine-yard shotgun completion to Charcandrick West.
- Chiefs’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Harrison Butker’s fourth-quarter 32-yard field goal…Travis Kelce, operating as the quarterback in a wildcat-like pistol formation, had a third-and-two three-yard run on a direct snap.
- Chiefs’ seventh offensive drive…resulted in Harrison Butker’s third-quarter 26-yard field goal that tied the game at 17…Albert Wilson was wide open in the middle of the field on an Alex Smith third-and-six 14-yard shotgun completion.
- Chiefs’ fifth offensive drive…resulted in Harrison Butker’s missed late-second-quarter 46-yard field-goal try…Alex Smith, off what was officially a fumble on Zach Fullton for a low shotgun snap, ran for 37 yards thanks to Ryan Kerrigan losing all vision of Smith and Martrell Spaight letting up, thinking that Smith would run out of bounds.
- Chiefs’ second offensive drive…resulted in an early-second-quarter punt…Kendall Fuller got burned by Travis Kelce and Alex Smith beat the blitz on a third-and-14 32-yard shotgun completion on the penultimate play of the first quarter.
Another huge problem for the Redskins’ defense in this game: penalties. All seven of the Redskins’ penalties were on defense. Bashaud Breeland had three accepted penalties. Preston Smith had three penalties, two of which were accepted.
- The Chiefs’ sixth offensive drive resulted in Alex Smith’s third-quarter third-and-goal one-yard shotgun read-option touchdown run that completely fooled Preston Smith…also on this drive was Bashaud Breeland committing a first-and-10 15-yard horse-collar-tackle penalty…next snap: Junior Galette committed a nine-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on an Alex Smith first-and-10 20-yard shotgun completion to Travis Kelce that also included a holding penalty on Martrell Spaight that was declined…the snap before the touchdown run: Preston Smith committed a third-and-goal-at-the-1 offside penalty.
- Preston Smith committed a third-and-eight five-yard neutral-zone-infraction penalty on the drive that resulted in Alex Smith’s second-quarter first-and-10 17-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Travis Kelce.
- Chiefs’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Harrison Butker’s fourth-quarter 32-yard field goal…Bashaud Breeland committed a third-and-four five-yard illegal-use-of-hands penalty grabbing Tyreek Hill’s facemask.
- Chiefs’ seventh offensive drive…resulted in Harrison Butker’s third-quarter 26-yard field goal that tied the game at 17…Preston Smith had an offside penalty that was declined on a third-and-nine Alex Smith 10-yard shotgun completion to Travis Kelce…Ziggy Hood committed a second-and-one five-yard encroachment penalty.
- Chiefs’ third offensive drive…resulted in a second-quarter punt…Bashaud Breeland committed a third-and-four five-yard illegal-contact penalty.
Special Teams: B-
Dustin Hopkins went 2-for-2 on field goals of 19 yards in the first quarter and 40 yards in the fourth quarter.
Tress Way averaged just 42.3 yards and just 37.3 net yards on four punts. He had a second-quarter 52-yard punt but also a mere 28-yard punt to the Chiefs’ 14 in the second quarter, a mere 38-yard punt to the Chiefs’ 17 in the second quarter and a 51-yard punt for a touchback early in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins didn’t have a single punt or kickoff return, but Jamison Crowder did a great of blocking Akeem Hunt on a Dustin Colquitt punt that bounced right in front of the Redskins’ 5 before going into the end zone for a touchback early in the second quarter.
The Redskins fell to 7-22 in primetime games since the start of the 2008 season.
The Redskins fell to 1-9 all-time against the Chiefs.
When it came to strategy, Jay Gruden had one big hit and one big miss.
- The hit was going for it on a fourth-and-one at the Chiefs’ 29 with a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. This is precisely the kind of thing that head coaches should do more often. The result was a Kirk fourth-and-one five-yard I-formation play-action-boot run on a drive the resulted in a Dustin Hopkins first-quarter 19-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
- The miss, though, was a big one. Jay called a timeout too quickly after a Chris Thompson second-and-two shotgun-handoff run for no gain at the Chiefs’ 22. The timeout came with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter but should have come about 25 seconds later so as to leave the Chiefs with as little time as possible. The drive resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 20, and the Chiefs got the ball back with 47 seconds left. Jay presumably felt that getting a first down would have necessitated wanting more time in order to score a go-ahead touchdown, but the gain for that luxury wasn’t worth anywhere near the risk of giving the potent Chiefs offense (which was having its way with your defense) the ball back with close to 50 seconds left. The Chiefs ended up putting together a six-play 50-yard drive that resulted in Harrison Butker’s 43-yard field goal for a 23-20 Chiefs lead with four seconds left.
This game was a battle at the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL this season. There is no shame in the way that the Redskins lost. At the same time, there are no moral victories, and the idea that the Redskins being competitive was a victory in and of itself is wrong. I am thankful that we didn’t have anything pop up like we did in Oct. 2014. The Redskins fell to 1-4 with a 27-17 loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football in Week 5 of that season. Here is part of what I wrote after that game: Multiple reporters, including our own John Keim of ESPN.com, noted a surprisingly loud and-or upbeat mood in the Redskins’ locker room after the game. Wrote Keim: “The Redskins’ locker room was a lively place, even in defeat. There was loud chatter emanating from the shower area. There were players joking. Whether this is good or bad usually will be determined by how they respond throughout the week and in the following game. But, yes, they felt good that they weren’t embarrassed for a second straight prime-time game. ‘We’re 1-4 and disappointed, but it was the defending Super Bowl champions and we went toe-to-toe with those guys,’ linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “That’s something to hang our heads high on.”…Safety Ryan Clark sounded off to reporters on Wednesday (Oct. 8), poking fun at the fact that they didn’t play in the NFL and also saying, “Guys were excited that they fought.”…Judging whether the Redskins’ locker room was too loud or happy after a loss is pointless for a number of reasons. But the comments from Orakpo and Clark suggesting that just competing with the Seahawks was a positive come across as loser talk. The goal is to win. As Pat Riley famously said, “There is winning, and there is misery.” That’s obviously an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
Kirk Cousins becoming one of just five quarterbacks in NFL history to be 0-5 or worse on Monday Night Football with this loss is worth expounding on. There is a reason that people who know what they’re talking about regarding baseball no longer bring up pitcher’s won-loss records. If you actually look at the specifics of Kirk’s five losses on Monday Night Football, you find that he has played well in two of the games (this one and the loss to Seattle in Oct. 2014) and was so-so in another (the loss to Carolina in Dec. 2016). The two games in which Kirk just wasn’t good were the Dec. 2015 loss to Dallas and the season-opening loss to Pittsburgh last season.
- Terrelle Pryor Sr. led all Redskins receivers in snaps for a fourth straight game to begin the season (86 percent).
- Josh Doctson’s playing time went down for the first time this season. He played on just 34 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in this game off playing on 53 percent in the Week 3 win over Oakland, 41 percent in the Week 2 win at the Rams and 32 percent in the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia.
- Chris Thompson needs to play more. I understand and am sympathetic toward the dilemma that involves not wanting Thompson to get hurt. But the guy played on just 52 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in this game. This off 41 percent in the Week 3 win over Oakland, 41 percent in the Week 2 win at the Rams and 48 percent in the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia.
- As discussed earlier, Jordan Reed, who returned from a one-game absence caused by rib and sternum injuries suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams, still is not himself. He played on just 26 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps versus Vernon Davis’ 70 percent.
- D.J. Swearinger was listed as questionable for this game due to a hamstring injury and yet played on every Redskins defensive snap.
- Matt Ioannidis, who had a sack, led all Redskins defensive ends in snaps for a second straight game at 53 percent. The 2016 fifth-round pick out of Temple played on three more snaps than Jonathan Allen did (40 versus 37). Leading all Redskins defensive linemen in snaps in this game actually was Ziggy Hood (58 percent).
- Linebacker Mason Foster returned from a one-game absence caused by a shoulder injury suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams but did not start and played on 42 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. The Redskins starting linebackers included Zach Brown (97 percent) and Martrell Spaight (57 percent), though the Redskins did start in nickel. Will Compton played on just two defensive snaps.
- Montae Nicholson was back to being the Redskins’ starting strong safety in this game, playing on 61 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. He and Deshazor Everett have alternated games as the starting strong safety so far this season, though Nicholson has been playing much more than Everett (18 percent in this game off playing on just eight defensive snaps in the Week 3 win over Oakland).
- Preston Smith, despite having three penalties (two accepted), led all Redskins outside linebackers in defensive snaps (80 percent). He played on four more snaps than ironman Ryan Kerrigan (61 versus 57).
The Redskins suffered a number of injuries in this game. Those on offense included losing Rob Kelley to an ankle sprain in the first quarter…Trent Williams aggravated a right-knee injury that dates back to training camp. He returned to the game, missing just four offensive snaps…Josh Doctson suffered a shoulder injury on his third-and-two touchdown catch-that-wasn’t in the final minute.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Tackle Ty Nsekhe (inactive off undergoing core-muscle surgery due to an injury suffered in the Week 3 win over Oakland)
- Receiver Brian Quick (inactive)
- Running back Mack Brown (inactive for a third time in four games)
- Guard Tyler Catalina (inactive for a fourth straight game)
- Running back Keith Marshall (placed on injured reserve due to a torn right patellar tendon suffered in practice on July 29; the 2016 seventh-round pick out of Georgia spent all of last season on injured reserve due to an elbow injury suffered in the preseason)
- Tackle Kevin Bowen (placed on injured reserve due to a labrum injury suffered during training camp)
Josh Norman suffered a rib fracture while tackling Chris Conley on his second-and-three 21-yard reception late in the second quarter and did not return. It is worth noting just how much changed when Norman left the game. The Redskins allowed 5.4 yards per dropback over the first 28 minutes of the game versus 8.0 yards per dropback over the final 32 minutes. The Redskins had a pressure percentage of 44 over the first 28 minutes of the game versus a pressure percentage of just 22 over the final 32 minutes.
A number of other Redskins defensive players got hurt but came back into this game, including Montae Nicholson (AC joint), Deshazor Everett (hamstring), Kendall Fuller (kicked in the eye), Quinton Dunbar (muscle cramps), Zach Brown, Martrell Spaight and Mason Foster.
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
- Safety Su’a Cravens (placed on the reserve/left-squad list on Sept. 18; this off being placed on the exempt/left-squad list on Sept. 3 due to contemplating retirement; he also suffered a meniscus injury in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore and underwent surgery on Aug. 15)
- Linebacker Trent Murphy (placed on injured reserve on Aug. 12 due to a torn left ACL and MCL suffered in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore)
- Defensive lineman Phil Taylor Sr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 2 due to a torn left quadriceps tendon suffered in the preseason win over Cincinnati on Aug.27
- Defensive back DeAngelo Hall (placed on the regular-season physically-unable-to-perform list on Sept. 2 off spending all of training camp and the preseason on the preseason PUP list due to a torn right ACL suffered in the Week 3 win at the Giants last season)
- Defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II (inactive for a fourth straight game)
- Corner Joshua Holsey (inactive for a fourth straight game)
- Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (inactive for a third time in four games)