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Look no further than the turnovers

Oct 13, 2008, 6:54 AM EST

You can talk about the focus and penalties and communication problems and the failure of the fourth cornerback to adjust to a pass in the air. And, yes, all of those were factors in the Washington Redskins’ loss to the Rams on Sunday.

But the simple fact of the matter is that the three turnovers, along with the failure to hold on to a couple of interceptions, are the reasons why the Redskins lost.

The focus is on Pete Kendall’s fumble after his inexplicable decision to haul in a batted pass. That one play represented at least a 10-point turnaround as the Redskins were well within field goal range and the Rams executed a scoop and score. According to Jason Campbell it was worse than that as the target of the pass, James Thrash, was wide open and would easily have scored a touchdown.

But at one of the previous two turnovers was extremely costly as well. On their third possession the Redskins were starting to get into rhythm offensively. Up 7-3 and starting from their own 18, Campbell threw a swing pass to Clinton Portis for 14 and a sideline pass to Santana Moss for 17. Portis ran for five, Chris Cooley went over the middle for four and then Ladell Betts powered for three yards to convert the third and one. From the St. Louis 39, the Redskins had another first down after Campbell found Cooley again at the 28. But the ball popped out as Cooley was going down and the Rams recovered Washington’s first offensive fumble of the year.

The way they were moving, it’s not too much to presume that the Redskins would have scored a touchdown to take a 14-3 lead. Even if the drive stalls at the point of the fumble the Redskins are well within field goal range.

On their next possession the Redskins were on the move again. A Betts run of 13 and an 18-yard catch and run by Antwaan Randle El got them from their own 20 into St. Louis territory. The Skins picked up more momentum when Portis fought for a yard to pick up a fourth and one by the nose of the football.

But then on third and five Campbell tried to scoop up a low shotgun snap but he couldn’t get the handle and Chris Long recovered for the Rams. A play for no gain in that situation leaves a 51-yard field goal attempt for Shaun Suisham. That’s not an automatic but a very makeable kick.

In spite of giving away a net of anywhere from 13 to 24 points, the Redskins were three and a half minutes away from stealing a win. They say that one of the marks of a great team is to be able to play poorly and still win.

One could extrapolate from that and say that the mark of a team that is pretty good but has not yet arrived is that it can play poorly and almost win.

  1. allen - Oct 13, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    The sad fact is that the Rams didn’t play well either. You often hear comments like “they’ll need to play flawlessly to have a chance” when describing teams like the Rams. The Rams, however, only mounted 200 yards of offense. They overcame a turnover on their own 3 yard line and a 15 yard penalty on the game winning drive, too. I would venture to say that a team that is “pretty good, but not having a good game”, playing a team that is “awful,and not playing well”, should still win the game.

  2. Skudge - Oct 13, 2008 at 11:35 AM

    It seemed to me like the Redskins came out feeling like they could take the week off. You didn’t see the concentration, the extra effort, or the urgency of the last four weeks.

    The Rams didn’t play particularly well, but they did play with all of those elements. And with luck on their side, it was enough.

    I was afraid of this exact thing.

    Hopefully, though, this game serves as a lesson for the Skins, that there’s no such thing as an easy win in the NFL.

  3. Joe in Raleigh - Oct 13, 2008 at 12:15 PM

    I thought the Rams looked like a team that didn’t know they were supposed to be the worst in the NFL. Maybe they didn’t get that message. They got good pressure on the QB, capitalized on the Redskins screw-ups and had solid special teams plays. They certainly weren’t the chumps everyone made them out to be.

    I feel like Norv Turner decrying all the Redskins mistakes. But everytime they’d get into an offensive rhythm, it seemed that a penalty or turnover would derail the effort. It was a disjointed, ugly performance and you have to take your hat off to the Rams for making it that way.

    I’d be interested to find out what happened to the passing game. The Rams were down 2 corners, I’m surprised we didn’t take more shots downfield to Moss. And I thought by now Thomas might be making more of an impact.

  4. Boss Hog - Oct 13, 2008 at 4:20 PM

    The fumbles were disappointing, and, as Rich says, decisive. I’m happy stipulate from here to eternity that the Redskins will lose every game in which an OL catches a batted ball, fumbles, and the opposition goes 75 yards for a TD.

    But the turnovers don’t bother me all that much because they were bound to come — you can’t get through an NFL season without some bad bounces. Even the Patriots had 15 offensive turnovers last season. And we should be partly glad that they game as semi-fluky fumbles (the Kendall play, the bad snap) rather than a bundle of regressive INTs from Campbell.

    What worries me more has to do with what the three commenters above have said. Sure, we had 3 brutal turnovers, but we got 1 back for a TD, and shouldn’t be good enough to thump the Rams anyway? I thought the new coach and the bye week would give them a boost, and it did somewhat, especially on defense. But still: it’s worrying that we weren’t able to move the ball consistently through the air, weren’t able to go deep often (or ever), and weren’t able to get any WRs besides Randle El into the game. Were the Rams furiously double teaming Santana like the Eagles? If so, where were the holes for the other guys — and if not — why wasn’t Santana getting more looks?

    Obviously the NFL season is long and even more Super Bowl winning teams suffer bad losses along the way (think the Giants getting creamed by the Vikings at home last year, or the Colts getting pounded by the Jags in ’06). I’m still hopeful. But this loss makes the Browns game next week about 3X as important, in shaping the trajectory of our season, as it would have been had we won the game.

  5. Rich Tandler - Oct 13, 2008 at 6:38 PM

    Players and coaches don’t like to admit that the team was flat. Portis, though, stood up and said that the guys had big smiles on their faces during practice. The mood was more self-congratulatory than intense.

    I thought that something like this would happen during the three-game “easy” string, but I didn’t think it would this week.

  6. Anonymous - Oct 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM

    I agree with most of the analysis I read. The turnovers on offense, the lack of consistency on offense, and the special teams play (punting in particular) hurt the team. As Rich stated, at least 10 points and perhaps more were left un-scored due to mistakes on offense. The play where Kendall failed to bat the ball down was particularly bad as offensive lineman are taught never to catch and always to bat. Go figure.

    The one thing I continue to notice week in and week out is that the Redskins have no pass rush. They can’t get it done with down lineman nor can they do it with the blitz. This is most troubling. The big play where Bulger tossed 53 yards to set up the go ahead score was an obvious example of the problems the Redskins have faced most of this season. Opposing QBs have too much time to throw. Thankfully, the Redskins have a good secondary and they often make up for this weakness. However, weeks like this one agains the Rams will come when the 4th or 5th DB on the field will eventually fall short and give up a big play.

    The Redskins need a pass rush. The pass rush will put the opposing offenses on their heels more and create opportunities for turnovers.

    It is such a shame to see the Redskins waste a 100+ yard game from Portis. They could have put the Rams away several times and didn’t. They even had a chance to win it in the end if the Rams kicker failed to hit the long field goal. Alas, the luck was not with them on Sunday. Let’s hope they regroup and play better next week.

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