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Need to Know: Special teams gaffes were costly for the Redskins

Dec 9, 2015, 5:52 AM EDT

Hopkins-FG-try-vs-Dallas

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 9, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Bears in Chicago.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—The more I look at Jackson’s punt return fiasco and think about the game situation the worse it gets. There are just under 2 minutes to play in a tie game. If Jackson fields the punt and runs forward he makes it to the 30, maybe even the 35 if he can dodge a tackle attempt or two. That would have left Kirk Cousins, who was playing pretty well, needing to gain about 35 yards to get into makable field goal range for Dustin Hopkins. They didn’t need a big chunk of yardage and that is what Jackson was trying to get. Maybe he wanted to make a big splash on Monday night. Maybe he felt an obligation to make a big play to justify Gruden putting him back there. In any case, it was just horrible situational football.

—It’s insane how many were on my Twitter timeline bashing Kirk Cousins after the game and yesterday. Look, folks, it’s not all about the quarterback. Cousins didn’t commit key penalties that killed drive after drive and make it difficult for the team to capitalize on three takeaways. He didn’t call 26 rushing plays despite the fact that the team was averaging just 2.8 yards per attempt. Cousins did make some bad throws and perhaps he checked down in some situations where he could have gone deeper. But he completed 71 percent of his passes, averaged a respectable 7.1 yards per attempt, didn’t turn the ball over and posted a 101.4 pass rating. I can’t look at that game, look at those numbers, and put Cousins’ performance anywhere on the list of top reasons the Redskins didn’t win.

—I was dead serious here yesterday when I said that the Redskins should abandon the run and put the last four games in Cousins’ hands. I’m old school and I think that being able to run the ball will be a vital part of this team’s long-term success. But the long term can wait. They are in a four-game sprint here to win the NFC East, which I presume they want to do. They aren’t going to get there pounding their heads against the wall running the ball. I mean, when you have second and one in the red zone and you line up with seven offensive linemen (two tackles as tight ends) and get stuffed for no gain and then in a more conventional set you run again on third and one and get his for a loss of two, what’s the point?

—Almost as galling as taking a loss despite winning the turnover battle three to one was losing while holding the opponent to just one of nine third down. Since the start of the 2012 seasons teams have converted zero or one third down conversions in a game 83 times and those teams are 14-69 (.169 winning percentage). If you add three turnovers into the criteria you get 26 games and a 2-24 record (.077).

—I gave the Redskins special teams some props here last week after they moved into the top five in the NFL in special teams DVOA. But they were as responsible for the loss as the offense or defense (saying that while recognizing that Jackson really isn’t part of the unit, just a very occasional part-time contributor). Dustin Hopkins’ missed 43-yard field goal changed the dynamic of the end of the game and the Redskins were unable to take their chances in overtime due to the kickoff return after their tying touchdown with 44 seconds left. Yes, it’s reasonable to expect Hopkins to pound the ball through the end zone but the coverage has to do a better job if he doesn’t.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Closed walkthrough; Open locker room 3:45, Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins new conferences starting at 4:10

Days until: Redskins @ Bears 4; Bills @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Eagles 17

In case you missed it

  1. sidepull - Dec 9, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    The lack of a run game is not what upsets me. Its the predictability on first down. At this point I dont care hoow they win. Throw it all day if that will do it.
    ST needs to take he loss and move on. Haskins should have booted it through the uprights, and should have not allowed Lucky Whitehead to be emblazoned in Redskins/Cowboys infamy. What irks me is didnt anybody tell Djax they didint need a long return? All they need was for him to move the ball forward and time on the clock. Cousins could have taken it from there. I guess the message from Gruden by putting Djax back there was to try and do what Djax wanted to do , something special in front of all the fans and have an epic Redskins finish. It was epic. Live and learn. I bet Djax, Gruden, Haskins the whoe lot of them learned something that night. They could have won that game with fair field position, time enough to get in filed goal range. On to Chicago.

  2. bangkokben - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Yes. Jackson’s gaffe was a 180 degree momentum shift.

    Yes, the Cousins bashing is INSANE, without merit, and entirely based on those fans not having their choice start at quarterback. These fans hold onto a grudge as well as or better than Mike Shanahan. Even if the Redskins would somehow win out, become 9-7, as well as host and win a home playoff game; this would not be good enough for these fans.

    Yes, I agree and have been suggesting abandoning the run for weeks! Glad you’re on board Rich. This blog is full of folks busting out the “definition of insanity” for whenever they want change irregardless of the inconsistencies of their argument. In this instance, the shoe fits. The 3rd down conversion rate has been slipping the last three games and that is entirely on the horrible 2nd down situations. This is why the number of three and outs is too high and why the lack of points off turnovers is at an historic level of suckatude. How many times have the Redskins had 2nd and 6 or less?

    Defense bringing it on 3rd down and the Cowboys offense is horrible – still has three 2014 1st team All-Pros on it and a QB that won 10 games with Bill Belichick and then won 10 games and made it to the pro-bowl with the KC Chiefs in 2010; so they suck worse than they should missing they’re starting QB. He’s also been in Dallas since the end of September. I got more to say about defense and especially Joe Berry later.

    Yes, Hopkins wasn’t as perfect as he has been. How does he respond? Now is the time that it gets tougher to kick at FedEx – just two more games there this year though. (Hosting the 5th seed in the wild card game is the second. Seattle again?)

    • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:04 AM

      Add to the cause for three and outs the amount of offensive penalties we’ve been racking up lately.

      • bangkokben - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Yep. Nothing like holding in the run game to negate the few positive runs.

  3. bangkokben - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    Joe Berry is doing a fine job at working with what he’s got. He is obviously held back by the lack of a dominant pass rusher. All respect to Kerrigan, but he is a step below (and a step too slow) to be in the class of a dominant pass rusher. Ideally, the Redskins were going to use a 3-4 under scheme rushing four or five from multiple and varied spots. Instead, we have four down linemen rushing from nickle most of the time. These four rarely get there against good o-lines. They have even struggled against the Giants makeshift line. What has held it together the last couple of weeks is the secondary. Crazy when you think about it. Most impressively, Joe Berry has preached and delivered on the next man up – starters in waiting – mentality. Here below are both the pre-season starting 11 and Monday’s starting defense.

    Pre Season Monday
    DE Jason Hatcher DE Jason Hatcher
    NT Terrance Knighton NT Terrance Knighton
    DE Stephen Paea DE Chris Baker
    LB Junior Gallette LB Trent Murphy
    LB Perry Riley LB Mason Foster
    LB Keenan Robinson LB Will Compton
    LB Ryan Kerrigan LB Ryan Kerrigan
    CB Chris Culliver CB Will Blackmon
    FS Dashon Goldson FS Dashon Goldson
    SS Duke Ihenacho SS DeAngelo Hall
    CB DeAngelo Hall CB Bashaud Breeland

    Also of note: Richy Jean Francois, Preston Smith, Kyshoen Jarrett and Quinton Dunbar
    There are four guys playing the position that they were slated to play.

    Good job by the Defensive coaches for getting the guys ready and adjusting their schemes to accommodate the lack of experience.

    • brucefan1 - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:32 PM

      Nice match up of the starting defensive lineup at the end of camp and today, ben!!

      (Now please do that for all the other teams so we can compare which squad has been the most debilitated by injuries! Ya don’t mind, do ya? Thanks! LOL)

      That list reminds me that I have this fantasy that the Redskins would get thru an entire season without any devastating injuries!! (Hey … I’m old … so I can have what many would consider weird fantasies.) I’d wager that even a very mediocre team (like the B&G?) would make a lot of hay during a season in which they had outstanding health! But with this injury scourge that plagues the NFL (just ahead of rotten officiating on the “negatives” list, imho), we shall never know.

    • ET - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:38 PM

      The “next man up” has been impressive in both the secondary and the linebacking crew. Mason Foster and Compton are playing very well, perhaps well enough that they get more snaps once the presumptive starters come back. And the secondary? Hoo boy. I love it when a Blackmon or Dunbar show up out of nowhere to light it up. The secondary has been a welcome if unexpected bright spot.

  4. Mr.moneylover - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    The O-line not creating holes for the running back josh lebrius is struggling at center and that’s what’s hurting the run game…we seen Monday that kirk cousins is still struggling to read defense…the three ppl calling plays are not on the same page…csnrobcarlin ask jay gruden why he ain’t run a no huddle or a hurry up offense like he did in the giants game and jay gruden reply that he wanted to give the run game a chance to work but that might have to change and we might have to abandon it for the year and run more no huddle and hurry up offense…let’s see if jay gruden stick to his words this time because they did the complete opposite against the cowbitches

    • sidepull - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:08 PM

      You figure when none of them had the plays on their tablets they shoulda,coulda went right to their hurry up. They know that pretty good. I think Gruden is making a concerted effort to run the ball given history of doing the opposite. The problem is that it seems he is a guy who may not be very good at making adjustments to either his players or his teams strengths. He gets a plan and he sticks to it even when its needing to be tweaked. Gibbs and Pettibone were famous for their adjustments. This team has maybe made adjustments but I just dont see them.

  5. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:05 AM

    I don’t think we should abandon the run, and I don’t blame Kirk Cousins for that game.

    I do think Jay Gruden’s playcalling is far too predictable.

    And yes, center is a hugely important position that is also a huge part of the problem.
    ~

    • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:37 AM

      The offense is too predictable but I believe it’s because of the injuries to the line and TEs. Defenses can dictate our offense with quick pressure and overloads. My fear is now were going to see a lot more of double A gap blitzes and 3 safety sets. Instead of going big on the line with jumbo packages, we should run more spread. If the D wants to plug the middle, let them and hurt them on the edges. That will open up the run game.

    • ET - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:50 PM

      “And yes, center is a hugely important position that is also a huge part of the problem.”

      Kory L. is often maligned for being too small for the direction this team is moving, but he’s a savvy MF. Kory ain’t the biggest or strongest out there, but he plays smart. The difference since he’s been sidelined has been significant. LeRib? I am not a fan. Hopefully the personnel people put a higher priority on finding a new center next year.

  6. Stephfan - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Regardless with who is at fault, the games falls into desean’s cousins, and gruden period. Cousin could have played better. Just because he threw 71 percent for the game means nothing at all. Cousins and the entire offense didn’t do enough but the sole blame goes to the three I mentioned. Cousins missed a few open throws and took one to many sacks. Also the only reason his percentage was that high was because he kept throwing to check downs.. Hell I could do that. Gruden and cousins has got to go, this loss was by far the last straw for me! I love the skins but this mediocre qb play is pathetic. When cousins beats a good team and I mean top teams than come say he needs to stay. When gruden can out coach someone then he deserves to stay..

    • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      We haven’t had a QB who could beat top teams since Brad Johnson left. There is no better option in FA or the draft and cousins is playing well and improving. Makes no sense to let him go and start over with some unproven rookie who may or may not be as good. Cousins didn’t miss the receivers because he played bad but rather because the pressure was in his face and he had to get rid of the ball.

      • bangkokben - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:59 AM

        Don’t waste your breath. The Giants, Eagles, and Buccaneers have legitimate chances to make the playoffs. There is always an excuse to why Cousins’ effort wasn’t good enough from this guy. If the Redskins win out, win the division, and beat the Seahawks at home, there will be reasons – other than Cousins for that kind of success.

        • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 11:26 AM

          Funny how he is mentioning the same things that were said of RG3. The only difference is that Cousins is suppose to be experienced at running a Pro style offense but RG3 wasn’t and Cousins is playing behind a better Oline.

        • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:12 PM

          Funny how people keep saying cousins is playing behind a better online. Can’t run block, period and Lerib shouldn’t be on a roster let alone starting at C. Cousins makes them better pass protectors and all one has to do is look at his numbers last year compared to the other qbs on the team with the exact same line.

        • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:19 PM

          Rob 35 games 101 sacks. Kirk 21 games 36 sacks(20 of which are from this year with supposed better line)

        • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:34 PM

          So you are saying that Chester is better than Sherff and Polumbus is Vetter than Moses?

          The QB obviously has more time to throw this year compared to last year.

        • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:40 PM

          I’m saying that a rookie, 2 second year players and a third string G playing C are not as good as the line we had last year that included Chester and polumbus. If the line is better why can’t we run? Cousins has no more time, he just makes quicker decisions. Everyone knows that rob would wait for receiver to sit on his route before throwing the ball, or are you denying that?

        • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:21 PM

          Gruden was calling mostly 5&7 step drops for RG3 the Olin was getting crushed off of the snap. The Pass Blocking is far better this year. There were times RG3 held the ball but that comes with first year in an offense. Most of the time the Oline was getting crushed. I’ve already put forth the stats that showed this

        • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:40 PM

          Please post those stats, hopefully they are better than your dropped int “stats”. Cousins had a higher yard per pass than rob last year and far fewer sacks. They played in the same offense with the same line. Again, do you not agree that rob would wait for the receiver to finish his route? Yes or no.

        • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:54 PM

          The Washington Post has Olinemen individual sack stats. The NFL and Football Outsiders had them Ranked 31st in Pass Blocking. The GM even saw the issue and Drafted Oline with our #1 pick plus twice more in the draft. The GM released Chester and Polumbus.

          Look in my previous comment I already answered that question comes with first year in the system not being confident in exactly where the WR is going to break on the route.

        • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 1:56 PM

          I will repost the stats when It get off of work tonight or you can look through Rich’s previous articles and find them if you don’t feel like waiting. I posted links.

        • hail74 - Dec 9, 2015 at 2:39 PM

          So how can you hold the line accountable if you admit the QB held the ball longer than he should because he didn’t know where the receiver was going to be? Let me just say I’m not trying to be argumentative, last year I was defending Rob as much as anyone, same in preseason but Kirk clearly has a better handle on the offense and clearly the quick pass game is why sacks are down. Of course the new gm spent resources on the oline, everyone knew that needed to be done, but new players don’t just equate to better execution. Scherf is good but a rookie. Moses is good but clearly has issues in pass protection as he has been beaten clean off the snap lately. Lerib is getting absolutely embarrassed out there and Long is maybe as OK as Lavou was last year.

      • timwillhide - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:38 PM

        If you look on Washington Post’s individual Olinemen stats and add them up all but 17 Sacks were attributed to the Oline those 17 are split among the RBs, TEs, FBs, and QBs. Chester and Polumbus were getting ran over verually every play. Sherff and Moses are playing a lot better in Pass Protection than those guys were.and if you look up the stats Lavou was one of our better Pass Blockers last year.

  7. kenlinkins - Dec 9, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    “My thanks to all of you, and now it is on to Chicago and lets win there!” Rich, from one old school guy to another.

    • Rich Tandler - Dec 9, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Oooh, Ken, but what happened right after those words were uttered was disastrous, to say the least.

      • kenlinkins - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:42 PM

        Yes it was! Just a reminder to all my Redskins fans that there are worst things then not beating Dallas on Monday night as these are the last public words spoken by R.F.K.

  8. John - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM

    Once again, plenty of folks are whining about Cousins, when there is plenty of blame to go around. Drive killing penalties. The pass interference calls helping the Cowboys get into scoring position. Not getting to Cassel. DJax’s boneheaded punt return. Not kicking the ball out of the endzone after the game tying touchdown. Letting the Cowboys return guy get to the 40.

    I guess Kirk should stop playing defense and special teams and yes, they need to leave the running game on the shelf until next year. Go to a 1 back, 1 tight end, 3 receiver spread and let it fly. Kirk has been given the go ahead to have a multiple pick game, to get past the media/fan boogeyman. There are enough problems with the team, so stop piling on the one guy.

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