Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the loss at the Saints
Week 11: Redskins fell to 4-6 with a 34-31 overtime loss at New Orleans on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 19, 2017)
Passing Game: B-
This was a sickening loss for the Redskins, as they blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead with less than three minutes left. A lot went into the choke job. Among the reasons is Kirk Cousins, who overall was very good but who also came up small towards the end of the fourth quarter. Kirk, off three consecutive shotgun completions to Jamison Crowder that totaled 41 yards, committed a first-and-10 10-yard intentional grounding penalty due to either Crowder missing a signal or the play being changed from a run to a pass or both. The penalty, by the way, shouldn’t have even been called, and USA Today’s Mike Jones reported that Bruce Allen was told by the NFL after the game that the officials made a mistake. Ok. But Kirk apparently didn’t realize that the clock would start after a 10-second runoff. The next play ended up being the final play of regulation: a second-and-20 sack-strip by safety Vonn Bell, who came in unblocked thanks to Samaje Perine missing a blitz pickup. Kirk, had he been looking to his left, could have thrown to an open Ryan Grant for a potential walk-off touchdown.
There were other bad moments for Kirk:
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in a third-quarter punt…Kirk committed a second-and-seven 10-yard intentional-grounding penalty…the next play: Kirk, on a third-and-17 five-yard shotgun completion to Jamison Crowder, should have run a little longer and let things develop downfield; ended up throwing way short of the first-down mark.
- Kirk had two near-picks in this game. He had a second-and-six shotgun near-pick to corner Ken Crawley on an end-zone pass intended for Josh Doctson on the drive that resulted in Kirk’s first-quarter third-and-six 16-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Chris Thompson. And Kirk had a third-and-seven shotgun near-pick to corner De’Vante Harris on a drive that resulted in a late-second-quarter punt on a choice route intended for Crowder.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s first-quarter 38-yard field goal…Kirk overthrew an open Vernon Davis on a skinny post on a second-and-seven shotgun incompletion.
Additionally, Redskins’ pass catchers and the pass protection had issues, especially late in the game.
- The Redskins’ lone drive in overtime resulted in a three-and-out and consisted of a first-and-10 drop by Vernon Davis, a second-and-10 sack for a 10-yard loss thanks to Cameron Jordan annihilating Brandon Scherff and a third-and-20 drop by Samaje Perine.
- The last two snaps of the Redskins’ 10th offensive drive, which resulted in the end of the fourth quarter, were disasters. Jamison Crowder was nowhere to be thrown to on the Kirk first-and-10 10-yard intentional grounding penalty due to either Crowder missing a signal or the play being changed from a run to a pass or both. The next play was safety Vonn Bell coming in unblocked thanks to Perine blowing a protection on a second-and-20 sack strip recovered by Morgan Moses.
- Redskins’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s late-third-quarter third-and-seven 40-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant…Josh Doctson slowed up on his route, which he didn’t win, on a Kirk first-and-10 play-action incompletion…three plays later: Davis had a drop on a Kirk second-and-seven drop on a Kirk under-center play-action-boot incompletion.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s first-quarter 38-yard field goal…Josh Doctson may have been interfered with by corner Marshon Lattimore, but Doctson dropped the ball on a Kirk third-and-seven shotgun incompletion.
But the thing is that Kirk went 22-of-32 for 322 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. He was sacked just twice and hit just four times. He averaged 10.06 yards per pass attempt and registered a Raw QBR of 79.1.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s fourth-quarter second-and-goal seven-yard offset-I play-action touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle…also on this drive was Kirk making a tremendous throw on a second-and-six 36-yard shotgun completion to Vernon Davis.
- Redskins’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s late-third-quarter third-and-seven 40-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant…Kirk got shaken up on a third-and-three two-yard shotgun scramble, the same play on which Chris Thompson got injured. But the offense then exploded after Niles Paul’s fourth-and-one five-yard run on a fake punt. Kirk on the next play had a first-and-10 16-yard completion to Jamison Crowder on an under-center play-action boot and then four plays later delivered a second-and-10 10-yard shotgun completion to Paul in addition to the touchdown pass.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s first-quarter third-and-six 16-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Chris Thompson on a wheel route…the second play of the drive was a Kirk second-and-six 14-yard under-center play-action completion to Josh Doctson on a drift route.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in Samaje Perine’s second-quarter second-and-goal one-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run…the final play of the first quarter was Doctson making a great catch over P.J. Williams on a Kirk first-and-10 32-yard under-center completion….four plays later: a Kirk fourth-and-six 26-yard shotgun completion to Davis on a huge play on a corner route.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s first-quarter 38-yard field goal…second play of the drive: Doctson beat corner Marshon Lattimore on a 21-yard reception on a Kirk second-and-seven offset-I play-action receiver screen.
- Kirk did a great job of using his legs on the Redskins’ fourth offensive drive, which did result in a late-second-quarter punt. The third play of the drive saw him climb the pocket on a big third-and-two six-yard shotgun scramble that led to a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on corner P.J. Williams. And later in the drive was Kirk sliding in the pocket before firing a third-and-three 14-yard shotgun completion to Doctson.
Josh Doctson had four receptions for 81 yards on seven targets.
Jamison Crowder had seven receptions for 72 yards on eight targets.
Ryan Grant had three receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown on three targets.
Vernon Davis had three receptions for 67 yards on six targets.
Running Game: B
The Redskins’ running game had what was easily its best game since the Week 2 win at the Rams. Things were going so well. And then came the play that changed everything.
All the Redskins needed was one yard. One yard! They held a 31-23 lead with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter. The Saints were out of timeouts. All that was needed was a run for a yard or more on which the ball carrier stayed in-bounds, and the game would essentially be over. And what happened? Samaje Perine, off a timeout due to the team not lining up properly, got stuffed by linebacker Manti Te’o, who maneuvered through a hole and, along with safety Vonn Bell, tackle Perine on a third-and-one I-formation-handoff run for minus-one yard. Jay Gruden the day after the game pointed out Chase Roullier and Niles Paul as having been at fault on the blocking. The Redskins went three-and-out, and the ensuing Saints drive resulted in Drew Brees’ 18-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara and then Kamara’s under-center-toss run for the two-point conversion that tied the game at 31.
The killer aspect of this is that Perine was so good for so much of this game. He was the Redskins’ undisputed no. 1 ball carrier with Rob Kelley now on injured reserve and then Chris Thompson being carted off the field in the third quarter with a fractured fibula, and Perine responded with 23 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown. He kept the negative-yardage carries to minimum despite some bad blocking at times and overall looked like a player more than worthy of the team having spent a 2017 fourth-round pick on him.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk Cousins’ fourth-quarter second-and-goal seven-yard offset-I play-action touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle…the third play of the drive was a Perine first-and-10 nine-yard under-center-handoff run despite Trent Williams losing at the point of attack…the next play: a Perine second-and-one 17-yard under-center-handoff run.
- Redskins’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s late-third-quarter third-and-seven 40-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant…Perine had a second-and-six seven-yard under-center-handoff run.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s first-quarter third-and-six 16-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Thompson…third play of the drive: a Perine first-and-10 seven-yard under-center-handoff run…the next play: a Perine second-and-three 30-yard under-center-handoff run despite defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson being offside.
The other killer item from this game was Chris Thompson being carted off the field in the third quarter with a fractured fibula. Thompson was in the midst of the season of his career. He had a terrific first-and-20 16-yard shotgun draw-play-handoff run on the Redskins’ fourth offensive drive, which resulted in a late-second-quarter punt. His other three carries in this game, though, totaled just one yard.
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson (25) is helped onto a cart after being injured in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
The narrative for the Redskins’ defense in this game changed over the final 5:58 of the fourth quarter and then an overtime that included just two offensive plays for the Saints. The Redskins had manned up and done such an impressive job on the road against a quality offense for a second time in three weeks. But then came the blowing of a 31-16 fourth-quarter lead. The Redskins were guilty of numerous missed assignments and missed tackles.
- The Saints’ lone drive in overtime consisted of two Mark Ingram runs before Wil Lutz’s game-winning 28-yard field goal. The runs were a first-and-10 20-yard I-formation-handoff run and a first-and-10 31-yard I-formation-toss run. DeAngelo Hall had a missed tackle on each run.
- The Saints’ 10th offensive drive resulted in Drew Brees’ 18-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara and then Kamara’s under-center-toss run for the two-point conversion that tied the game at 31. J. Swearinger missed horribly on a tackle on Kamara on the touchdown reception, during which Zach Brown inexplicably just stood right by Kamara as he was going into the end zone. The drive began with a Kendall Fuller first-and-10 five-yard illegal-use-of-hands penalty on a snap that had resulted in a pick by Fuller. And then Brees went to work: a first-and-five 17-yard shotgun completion to Michael Thomas, a first-and-10 18-yard shotgun completion to Ted Ginn Jr. (who made Josh Norman miss on a tackle) and a first-and-10 29-yard shotgun completion to Coby Fleener on which Ryan Kerrigan got abused by Fleener and then missed on a tackle. The Saints went 87 yards in just four plays on this drive.
- The Saints’ ninth offensive drive resulted in Brees’ second-and-goal three-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Josh Hill. The second play of this drive was a Brees second-and-five 25-yard shotgun completion to Fleener. Later in the drive was a Brees third-and-two seven-yard shotgun completion to Ginn.
There were other bad moments for the defense prior to the fourth-quarter and overtime collapse, particularly when it came to stopping the run.
- Saints’ third offensive drive…resulted in Mark Ingram’s late-first-quarter first-and-10 36-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run on which DeAngelo Hall had a terrible missed tackle…the drive was extended by a horrendous Preston Smith third-and-four 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.
- Saints’ second offensive drive…resulted in Wil Lutz’s first-quarter 52-yard field goal…the drive began with an Alvin Kamara first-and-10 10-yard under-center-handoff run…two plays later: a Mark Ingram second-and-two nine-yard under-center-handoff run on which Martrell Spaight missed on a tackle…four plays after that: an Ingram first-and-10 11-yard under-center-handoff run.
- Saints’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Wil Lutz’s fourth-quarter 42-yard field goal…the first play of the drive featured Smith and Hall missing on tackles on a Kamara first-and-10 24-yard under-center-handoff run.
D.J. Swearinger ended the Saints’ first offensive drive with a terrific Swearinger’s first-quarter third-and-16 pick on which he slowed played it as a safety over the top, almost baiting Drew Brees to make the throw. The Redskins actually held the Saints to 4-of-12 on third downs and totaled five tackles for loss (including two sacks), seven quarterback hits and six pass defenses. But most of the final numbers were not pretty.
- The Redskins gave up 535 total net yards of offense.
- The Redskins allowed Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to combine for 19 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins were lucky that carries total was just 19.
- The Redskins allowed Drew Brees to go 29-of-41 for 385 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He averaged 9.39 yards per pass attempt and registered a Raw QBR of 74.7. Brees went 11-for-11 for 164 yards and two touchdowns on the Saints’ final two drives in the fourth quarter.
DeAngelo Hall had a woeful game per Pro Football Focus: missed three of his eight tackle attempts and allowed all four of his targets to be completed for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Special Teams: C
The Redskins did not have a single punt return or kickoff return in this game. But special teams were responsible for four major errors.
- Redskins’ fourth offensive drive…resulted in a late-second-quarter punt…Stacy McGee committed a fourth-and-seven five-yard false-start penalty as Nick Rose was set for a 51-yard field-goal attempt. Jay Gruden then called a timeout and elected to punt. Tress Way launched a 37-yard beauty to the Saints’ 1, but Joshua Holsey’s heels came in contact with the goal line as he was attempting to down the ball, resulting in a touchback.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in a third-quarter punt…Holsey committed a fourth-and-12 five-yard false-start penalty as Way was set to punt.
- A fourth-quarter 51-yard punt by Way was returned 24 yards by Tommylee Lewis. The ensuing Saints drive resulted in Wil Lutz’s 42-yard field goal.
Redskins special teams did provide a huge play in this game. The play that followed Chris Thompson being carted off the field was a fake punt, and it worked to perfection: a Niles Paul fourth-and-one direct-snap five-yard run. The drive resulted in Kirk Cousins’ late-third-quarter third-and-seven 40-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant.
Nick Rose made his only field-goal attempt in the game, a first-quarter 38-yarder.
You can not overstate how much of a choke-job loss this was for the Redskins.
- This was the biggest fourth-quarter come-from-behind win in Saints history.
- According to ESPN’s win-probability model, the Saints had a 0.2% chance of winning at their lowest point (first-and-10 at their own 45 with 4:42 left in the 4th quarter). This was the biggest comeback since last season’s Super Bowl.
- The Saints became the first NFL team to win a game after trailing by 15 or more points with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter since Denver in an overtime win over Miami in Oct. 2011.
Jay Gruden had a very mixed game when it came to strategy.
- I loved Jay going for it on a fourth-and-six at the Saints’ 39 early in the second quarter, and not just because the play resulted in Kirk Cousins’ 26-yard shotgun completion to Vernon Davis. Head coaches have been guilty of not going for it on fourth downs enough for years. Perhaps this has something to do with Nick Rose being the kicker, but Jay has been very aggressive on fourth downs the last two games now. The drive resulted in Samaje Perine’s second-quarter second-and-goal one-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run.
- I loved Jay going with a fake punt on the play that followed Chris Thompson being carted off the field with a fractured fibula. The call worked to perfection: a Niles Paul fourth-and-one direct-snap five-yard run. The drive resulted in Kirk Cousins’ late-third-quarter third-and-seven 40-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Grant.
- Jay made a mistake in not having Rose attempt a 56-yard field goal on the second-quarter drive that resulted in a punt after a Stacy McGee fourth-and-seven five-yard false-start penalty as Rose was set for a 51-yard field-goal attempt. Rose has a very strong leg. He made a late-fourth-quarter 55-yard field goal in the loss to Minnesota at FedEx Field last Sunday. Why couldn’t he make a 56-yarder indoors at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
- Jay wasted a second-half timeout on a terrible challenge that he predictably lost. He lost his challenge of a Drew Brees fourth-quarter first-and-10 24-yard shotgun completion to Coby Fleener on the drive that resulted in Brees’ second-and-goal three-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Josh Hill. Unless the Redskins’ defense was in dire need of a rest, this was a dumb challenge, and the timeout that was sacrificed would have come in handy as the fourth quarter expired with the Redskins still with the ball.
- Making this loss even worse was Chris Thompson suffering a season-ending fractured fibula in the third quarter. The guy who has arguably been the Redskins’ best player this season now is done with six games left. He played on just 26 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in this game, which really was all about Samaje Perine from a running-back standpoint. He played on 70 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. The Redskins placed Thompson on injured reserve on Tuesday.
- Josh Doctson led all Redskins receivers in playing time for a second straight game, playing on 87 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. Ryan Grant was in on 77 percent. Jamison Crowder was in on 59 percent. And Maurice Harris, despite his sensational one-armed touchdown catch in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota, played on just nine offensive snaps the entire game.
- Shawn Lauvao started at left guard but aggravated his stinger and played on just 43 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. The Redskins placed him on injured reserve on Tuesday. We then actually got a lot of Ty Nsekhe at left guard, as he played on 52 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses and Chase Roullier all played on every Redskins offensive snap.
- Vernon Davis played on 90 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. Where would this team be at tight end this season with Jordan Reed having missed so much time? Niles Paul played on 49 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps off having been inactive for the previous two games due to a concussion suffered in the Week 8 loss to Dallas.
- Matt Ioannidis was back off having been inactive for the previous two games due to a fractured hand suffered in the Week 8 loss to Dallas. He didn’t start but led all Redskins defensive linemen in playing time, being in on 77 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Ziggy Hood’s playing time was back down to 51 percent off having been at 80 percent in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota, 70 percent in the Week 9 win at Seattle and 71 percent in the Week 8 loss to Dallas. Terrell McClain suffered a toe injury and played on just 11 Redskins defensive snaps. Stacy McGee played on just 46 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Anthony Lanier II was in on 42 percent.
- The Redskins’ two starting insider linebackers, Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight, played on every defensive snap for the team. Same for Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger.
- Montae Nicholson started in his return from a two-game absence caused by a shoulder injury but suffered a concussion and played on just 25 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. DeAngelo Hall played on 75 percent.
- Ex-Saint Junior Galette played on 48 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Preston Smith was in on 56 percent. Ryan Kerrigan was at 77 percent.
Jay Gruden the day after the game announced that Terrelle Pryor Sr. would be undergoing ankle surgery and would be placed on injured reserve. And so ends one of the more disappointing free-agent signings in recent Redskins history. Perhaps no Redskins move last offseason was as lauded as the signing of Pryor to a one-year contract with just $6 million guaranteed. He is young. He is big (listed as being 6-4). He was coming off a good season with the Browns (77 receptions for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns) made even more impressive by a) the Browns’ bad quarterback play and b) his newness to receiver. And yet Pryor was a complete flop with the Redskins this season: 20 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown on 37 targets over nine games. He had a major problem with drops. He led all Redskins receivers in offensive snaps in each of the first five games but saw his playing time plummet over the next four. The signing was worth a shot, as there really is no such thing as a bad one-year deal in sports. But today the idea that Pryor would adequately replace Pierre Garcon is laughable.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Tight end Jordan Reed (inactive for a third consecutive game due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 8 loss to Dallas)
- Center Spencer Long (inactive for a third time in four games due to two knee injuries that emerged in the Week 7 loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football; he was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday)
- Receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. (inactive due to an ankle injury; he was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday)
- Receiver Brian Quick (inactive for a second consecutive game due to a concussion suffered in the Week 9 win at Seattle)
- Guard Arie Kouandjio (inactive for a second consecutive game)
- Running back Rob Kelley (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota and ailing ankle)
- Tackle T.J. Clemmings (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 16 due to an ailing ankle)
- 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)
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
- Corner Quinton Dunbar (inactive off not practicing on Friday due to illness)
- Defensive lineman Caraun Reid (inactive)
- Linebacker Mason Foster (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 28 due to a torn labrum suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams; he missed the Week 3 win over Oakland but then played the next three games with the injury before going on IR)
- Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 19 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 6 win over San Francisco)
- Linebacker Will Compton (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota)
- Defensive lineman Arthur Jones (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11 due to a shoulder dislocation suffered in the Week 9 win at Seattle; the Redskins signed him on Nov. 1)
- 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
Redskins special teams remained without Dustin Hopkins, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 18 due to a right-hip injury.