What is crueler; to never have hope, or to be given a glimpse of belief only to have it taken away literally at the last second?
For Redskins fans, that was a question they were left pondering after Washington lost in overtime to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, going down 25-19 in heartbreaking fashion. To rub salt in to the wounds of defeat, this was a winnable game for the Redskins who simply failed to capitalize on repeated opportunities.
As we do every week following the games, lets break down the action in this week’s edition of What worked. What Didn’t. What sucked.
- In the first four games of the 2015 season, the Atlanta Falcons averaged 31.25 points scored per game. Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry held them to 19 through 4 quarters of football in an impressive effort that implemented an effective scheme designed to show Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan a multitude of differing looks. Oh, and he did it without Chris Culliver or DeAngelo Hall, to boot. Whilst the defense wasn’t perfect today, they did their jobs about as well as anybody could have asked, and they put the Redskins in winnable positions time and time again.
- A huge part of the efficacy of the defense today was due to the stellar efforts of Bashaud Breeland, Will Blackmon and Kyshoen Jarrett. None of those three players were expected to be starters in 2015, and yet they played with tenacity and maturity today that spoke volumes of the way Joe Barry and Defensive Backs Coach Perry Fewell have developed the young and new players on the defense.
- Entering the week 5 game today, the Redskins were one of three teams in the NFL yet to record an interception for the year. They ended the game with two; one each to Breeland and Trenton Robinson. Both picks came on passes where Matt Ryan was forced to either throw it earlier than he wanted, or into coverage that he didn’t recognize.
- The defense held Matt Ryan to arguably his worst performance of the year: 24/42 for 254 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks. His Quarterback Rating of 55.1 for the game was easily his lowest of the year, and you have to go back to week 2 of the 2014 season for Ryan’s last game with a rating under 55.
- Although he clearly was not fully fit, the Redskins accounted for superstar Wide Receiver Julio Jones nicely, completely shutting him out in the first half, and only allowing him 5 catches on the day for a total of 67 yards.
- Late in the fourth quarter with only 0:24 seconds on the clock, Quarterback Kirk Cousins took possession and moved the chains nicely on a 4 play, 46 yard drive that ended in a Dustin Hopkins 52 yard field goal. That game-tying field goal was the Redskins first in the final minute of regulation since John Hall vs. the New York Giants on Sept. 21, 2003.
- Defensive End Chris Baker continues his run of good form, recording another sack and two forced fumbles today. Baker became the first Washington Redskins to record two fumbles in a game since Ryan Kerrigan in November 2011.
- Speaking of Ryan Kerrigan, he recorded two sacks himself today, and moved to outright 5th on the Redskins all-time sack leaders.
- Prior to this game the Redskins were first in the NFL with an average 139.5 rushing yards per game. The Atlanta Falcons held them to a combined 51 yards on the ground. For whatever reason, the combination of Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson were unable to find any consistent yards today, and it stymied the Redskins offense visibly.
- The play calling did the Redskins no favors today. Running the ball on 1st down on 4 out of their first 5 possessions, the Falcons defense consistently stacked the box and dared Cousins to beat them in the air. Without Jordan Reed suited up, the Redskins 3rd down offense was no less predictable either, with screen passes easily sniffed out and stuffed multiple times.
- Whilst the Redskins weren’t able to get their ground game going, the Falcons had no such troubles. Devonta Freeman racked up 153 yards on 27 carries, becoming the first Running Back to get 150 yards against the Redskins since Jamaal Charles in December 2013.
- It’s rare for the Redskins to win the turnover battle in recent years, and even rarer still to win the turnover battle and lose the game. But that’s what happened today; the Redskins had 3 takeaways compared to Atlanta’s 2.
- Kirk Cousins had a poor game. Ignoring the obvious interception in overtime (we’ll get to that below), a big number of his throws today were behind Receivers, leaving them unable to get to the ball. Cousins first interception of the day was a classic example of this, missing Pierre Garcon who had created separation from his man across the middle. Unfortunately the low pass went to Garcon’s back shoulder, and he had to stop, turn, and twist in an effort to make a play on the ball, which popped out of his hands and into Robert Alford’s.
- This has been a consistent theme for Kirk Cousins this year; inability to accurately hit Wide Receivers in motion. When so much of the offense is built upon routes that create separation with quick cuts, often across the middle, Cousins needs to do a better job of leading his receivers and hitting them in stride. When he is unable to do so, it creates situations where defenders are better placed to catch the ball compared to the intended receivers.
- You know things aren’t breaking in your favor when the Redskins defense forced the fumble from Devonta Freeman in the redzone, only for Julio Jones to recover it in the endzone for a touchdown. Really, the Redskins didn’t do anything wrong on that play. They were just purely unlucky; sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.
- Not including Jamison Crowder’s 8 catches from 8 targets, the Redskins Wide Receivers combined for a grand total of 4 catches today. This is directly symptomatic of the aforementioned accuracy problems of Kirk Cousins, with Pierre Garcon being targeted 8 times for only 3 catches due to multiple poor throws.
- For the first time in 2015, the Redskins were beaten at their own game. The Falcons eclipsed the Redskins in Time of Possession, holding the ball for 34:56 compared to 27:49 for Washington.
- For all of Kirk Cousins problems with accuracy today, the Redskins defense continued to give him and the offense opportunities to ice the game. Unfortunately, they were unable to do any better than a game-tying field goal. The offense simply stagnated and failed today.
- Obviously the biggest failure of the day came in overtime, when Kirk Cousins threw a horrible pick 6 that ended the game.
- That pass was fundamentally terrible. It was a backfoot, off-balance pass under pressure to the wide side of the field, and what’s worse it seems to have been thrown completely inaccurately anyway. Some seem to be speculating that receiver Ryan Grant may have run the wrong route, however numerous observers seem to think otherwise, including former Redskins receiver Donte Stallworth:
For all asking if Grant ran wrong route, doesn't look so. Inside guy ran a stop at the sticks and so did Grant. That's a common route combo.
— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) October 11, 2015
- Even if Ryan Grant did run the wrong route, it was still a bad pass from Cousins. If you note in the above film, Cousins never once looks off of Grant, and if he had he would have noticed Pierre Garcon open underneath and well within range of getting the first down. Locking on to receivers has been an all too common concern for Cousins, and opposition defenses have even commented in the past that his passes are easy to intercept because of how he telegraphs them. It cost the Redskins dearly today.
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