Likes, dislikes, and more from the brutal 34-31 OT loss to the Saints.
- Kirk Cousins. The Skins wouldn’t have had a chance without him today. To debate that is foolish. He was brilliant at times, especially against the blitz. He came into the game as one of the most productive QB’s in the league vs the blitz and he made New Orleans pay when they pressured with more than four. He went 22-32 for 322, 3 TDs, no INTs with at least 4-5 balls dropped including a huge Vernon Davis drop in OT. Not withstanding, many are blaming him for the loss. Comical. The intentional grounding was a true dagger at the end of regulation but according to Gruden, Crowder missed the audible which led to the penalty. More on this play below.
- Samaje Perine. 23 carries for 117 yards….he looked good.
- Vernon Davis. Despite the drop in OT and another one right before the Ryan Grant touchdown, Davis had 3 catches for 67 yards including the 4th and 6 in the first half on a perfect throw. His presence without Jordan Reed has given the pass offense a necessary legit option.
- Jamison Crowder. 7 catches for 72 yards with no drops after 4 to 5 last week. I thought he was interfered with on the late first-half near-interception that was overturned by replay. He was hit well in advance of the ball getting there. That was a big no-call…cost the Skins points.
- Pass rush until late. The Skins got pressure on Brees most of the day sacking him just twice but hurrying him 11 times on the day. Of course, that and the rest of the Skins D disappeared over the final minutes.
- Defense. The defense gave up 535 yards including 213 yards over the Saints’ final three drives. Talk all you want about the 3rd and 1 or the intentional grounding but the defense allowed 213 YARDS and 18 POINTS in 5 MIN and 22 SEC! Pathetic. I hated the conservative nature of Manusky’s plan on those final two drives of regulation but the coverage even if planned to be soft was too soft and the tackling wasn’t good enough. It was too easy for Brees.
- Run defense. As bad as the pass defense was late, the Skins got gashed all day long on the ground and they should thank Sean Payton for not calling more runs on the day. The Saints rushed for 160 yards on just 23 carries (7.0 per carry). Ingram got 134 on just 11 carries. The rush defense has become a major problem in 3 of the last 4 games.
- Coaching. Here’s the list. 1) Why didn’t Gruden kick the FG at the end of the first half? Rose kicked a 55-yd FG last week outdoors. Why not a 56-yarder this week indoors? 2) The playcalling before that non-FG attempt was too conservative. He ran the ball twice as if he was trying to make the Saints use timeouts. Why? Touchdown should’ve been the only thing on his mind in that game and Drew Brees doesn’t need timeouts. They scored touchdowns today throwing the ball. The play-calling in that spot was too conservative. 3) Why not QB sneak on the 3rd and less than 1 with 2:38 left?? The Saints had 9 in the box and the crowd was too loud meaning the Skins would be slow off the ball. It wasn’t even a whole yard….sneak it! 4) The grounding penalty meant a 10-sec runoff and the clock would roll on the spot. Jay and Kirk didn’t know it. It’s the head coach’s responsibility to know it and communicate it to the quarterback. 5) Why on earth did he challenge the catch by Fleener on the clear catch with 3:50 left? He could’ve used that timeout on the final drive of regulation. On a positive note, I loved the fake punt call. It was the call that gave them life in the 2nd half in a 17-13 game.
- Safety play. Swearinger was fine but Nicholson got hurt forcing D-Hall to play a bunch and he appeared to struggle. There were too many missed tackles and too many wide open receivers and tight ends. D-Hall looked lost on the touchdown pass to Hill late in the game.
- Dropped passes. A few big ones today. Josh Doctson should’ve caught the 1st quarter throw to the end zone even if he was interfered with/no call. The Davis drop in OT was big. That would’ve given the Skins a first down at the 36-yard line. Next play sack, game over for all intents and purposes.
- Penalties cost points. In the first half, Preston Smith’s roughing on Brees kept a Saints’ drive alive that ended in a touchdown. Stacey McGee’s false start on what would’ve been a FG attempt at the end of the first half resulted in the decision to punt instead. The Skins were the 2nd-least penalized team coming into the game….they had 9 for 67 yards today.
- Chris Thompson injury. He’s done for the year with a broken fibula. He’ll be missed. He was arguably their offensive MVP.
- The intentional grounding. According to Gruden, the play was an audible that Crowder missed. I’m not sure if the grounding call was correctly ruled because it was mix-up between QB and WR versus a QB trying to avoid an imminent sack. However, once it was ruled grounding, the Skins had time to run a play and get in FG range after a spike. But Gruden and Cousins didn’t know the rule and the clock rolled after the spot. That’s on the coach to communicate that to his team. Period.
- The fake punt was a brilliant call not because it worked but because it was a big reward opportunity against relatively low-risk down/distance (4th and 1). A punt would’ve given the Saints very good field position in a 17-13 game. Because of the field position, it was a play where the expectation of it happening had to be low. It came after the play that cost Chris Thompson his season and Gruden’s sense that they needed to keep the ball and re-capture momentum was spot on.
- Josh Doctson was targeted early but never in the 2nd He finished 4 for 81 and made a great contested catch for 32 yards at the end of the first quarter.
- Breeland was pretty good for much of the game. He had 2-3 pass breakups and 3-4 huge hits/tackles including a few on Kamara.
- Josh Holsey’s foot cost the Skins 19.5 yards of field position at the end of the first half. After Gruden passed on the 56-yd FG attempt at the end of the first half, Tress Way’s punt nearly pinned the Saints inside their own 1 yd line. The back of Holsey’s foot was touching the goal line after he fielded it.
- Saints’ delay-of-game penalty on a 4th and 4 early in the 3rd quarter was nice. More times than not, the Saints got stopped because they stopped themselves.
- Fuller’s penalty on his late interception was a good call.
- The offense was 3 for 3 in the red zone. The Skins are a top 10 red zone offense this year. On the flip side, they are one of the worst on defense this year.