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Post-game: Redskins fall to Packers in Playoffs

In a season where the majority of national football media analysts picked the Washington Redskins to finish last in the division and top five in the NFL draft, the fact that we are here doing a post-game analysis piece on January 10th signals a monumental upward trend for this team. Yet while the team is trending upwards, Sunday evenings game against the Green Bay Packers showed that there’s still a long way to go before the Redskins championship window begins to creak open.

The fact that the Redskins had their opportunities to win this game will only make the taste in fans mouths all the more sour as they wake up on Monday morning, but in the end the Packers looked the better team and walked out of FedEx Field 35-18 victors.

As we’ve done all year, we break down this playoffs game in a fun little format we call What worked, what didn’t and what sucked. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can go and re-read every single 2015 season Redskins post-game breakdown here.

Let’s get on with it.

What worked

  • Capping off a positive season, Quarterback Kirk Cousins started the game in excellent fashion with two scoring drives in the first 17 minutes of game time. Whilst the game seemed to get away from the Redskins in the second half, including Cousins, there was plenty of blame to go around. At the end of the day, Cousins stat sheet read 29/46, 329 yards, 1 pass touchdown, 1 rush touchdown, and a Quarterback rating of 91.7. A decent enough playoff game for a Quarterback making his first post-season start.
  • By throwing a touchdown pass in this game, Cousins ensured he finished the 2015 season with a touchdown pass in every single one of the Redskins 17 games this year.
  • It should be of no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the Redskins this year that Cousins sole touchdown pass found its way into the hands of Tight End Jordan Reed. At the start of the second quarter with the ball 24 yards out of the endzone, the Redskins found themselves on 3rd down and 10. Not content to look for a short completion and a new set of downs, Cousins connected with Reed on a 24 yard strike on a seam-route that was executed perfectly.
  • That touchdown pass wasn’t even the best play that Reed made today, however. This one-handed catch between two defenders looked like it could have been intercepted in real time, but watching the slow-mo replay revealed just how truly freakish a receiving weapon Reed can be. Wow.
  • Rookie Linebacker Preston Smith continued his strong finish to the 2015 season, sacking Aaron Rodgers in the endzone resulting in the opening points of this game coming from a Redskins safety. That represents the first defensive safety in franchise post-season history.
  • Quinton Dunbar, the famously converted Wide Receiver, once again shined brightly at Corner Back. He registered two passes defended, and on both it was due to solid tight man coverage. In a season filled with bright spots for this Redskins team, Dunbar and his development is right up there among the best of those stories.
  • Punter Tress Way was called to punt five times today, which obviously means that the offense stagnated on too many possessions. Regardless, Way did an absolutely superb job by foot, averaging 50.6 yards on 5 punts and pinning the Packers inside their own 20 three times. His 60 yard booming punt in the late second quarter was good enough for 3rd longest in Redskins post-season history.
  • The combination of Will Compton and Mason Foster once again delivered positive signs for the Redskins defense. Together, they combined for 20 total tackles, including two tackles for losses. The final stat sheet will show that the Packers Running Backs (including Randall Cobb who had 5 rush attempts today) combined for 141 yards and 4.4 yards per carry, however a majority of those yards came in the last quarter when Green Bay was trying to burn clock and maintain their lead. With the game in the balance, the Packers struggled to get any easy yards on the ground. Furthermore, Packers Tight End Richard Rodgers had 2 catches for only 11 yards across the middle, and was effectively negated by the Redskins Middle Linebacker duo affectionately known as Beavis and Butthead.

What didn’t

  • Although it took them a quarter of football to do so, once Aaron Rodgers and the Packers found their rhythm the game very quickly got out of hand for the Redskins.  The Packers first four possessions ended in punts or turnovers (safety), but after that their next five drives ended in scoring plays. What was most troubling was the apparent lack of preparation that the Redskins exhibited in terms of substitutions; they were flagged for 12 men on the field not once but twice.
  • DeSean Jackson can be both a monster and a myth, and today he was a myth. Although he saw the field on a lot of snaps, he could only find the football twice for two catches totaling 17 yards. Credit to the Packers and their depleted secondary for negating Jackson’s potential influence; although the Redskins dialed up several plays that hoped to see Jackson stretch the field, the Packers secondary never took the bait, shutting that route down time and time again.
  • For the record, whilst numerous observers commented on Jackson’s apparent inability to cross the plane and score a touchdown on his 14 yard redzone reception, if he had extended the ball out to his left over the pylon he risked having the Green Bay defender swat it loose, potentially resulting in a turnover via a touchdown. We have no problem with that play.
  • The same cannot be said for the subsequent goal-line play calling with the ball spotted at the half-yard line and a fresh set of downs in hand. The play calling in this situation was unimaginative and conservative; Alfred Morris up the middle, Alfred Morris up the middle, inexcusable delay of game penalty, then an attempted short pass into traffic over the middle to Pierre Garcon that was batted incomplete by Ha-ha Clinton Dix. We know that there exists more aggressive play calls in Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay’s bag of tricks; we saw them later in the game with the Cousins Quarterback draw touchdown. It would have been nice to see one of those plays in this situation with the game well and truly still up for grabs.
  • The previously discussed Preston Smith sack in the endzone that resulted in a safety was the only sack the Redskins defensive front could muster today. Considering that the Packers were starting a backup Center at Left Tackle, that is a poor showing from the unit that calls itself ‘Capital Punishment’. Rodgers had ample time in the pocket today, and rarely seemed pressured.
  • A big part of the reason for the lack of pressure on Rodgers was the defensive play calling. A large percentage of the defensive snaps in this game saw the Redskins only rushing four men; the two inside Defensive Linemen, and the two Outside Linebackers. It was clear early in the second quarter that this scheme wasn’t getting pressure on Rodgers, and yet Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry never adjusted away from it, only sending more than 4 men on the blitz packages which themselves were few and far between.

What sucked

  • It was mid-way through the third quarter, with the score reading 18-17 Redskins, that it became quickly apparent that the Redskins Defense was becoming gassed. The time of possession split was reasonably even between the teams today (Packers 29:33, Redskins 30:27), and yet for some reason the Packers quick-tempo Offense appeared to totally exhaust the Redskins defense, which resulted in missed tackles, missed assignments, and mental lapses resulting in penalties such as encroachment.
  • Cousins ended up getting sacked and fumbling the ball multiple times today, and in uncharacteristic fashion too; Pro Bowl Left Tackle Trent Williams gave up several sacks today which is rare for him, and was a strong sign that things were not going well for Washington. Cousins ended up turning the ball over on one of the sack-fumbles, and the Packers ended up kicking a field goal that closed the score gap to 11-10.
  • Although the officials were far from the reason the Redskins won today, it was infuriating for Redskins fans watching Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan be held time after time after time. Although Kerrigan was continually held throughout the game, he didn’t draw one single holding penalty. Kerrigan was, however, pinged for an encroachment penalty in the second quarter. (Kerrigan was also called for a second encroachment penalty in the third quarter, but it should have been appropriated to Chris Baker).
  • Given that this was the last game of the Redskins season, it means we’ve likely seen the last of numerous players in the Burgundy and Gold. None more significant than Robert Griffin III, who could be seen making what appeared to be emotional goodbyes to various Redskins game day staff.

  • The Redskins lost a home playoff game. That sucks.

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