Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts on Redskins vs. Vikings

Disappointing. Infuriating.

The Washington Redskins are a mess. A total mess. It was Denver 2.0, but it was against the Minnesota Vikings who entered the game 1-7, although arguably a better 1-7 than they really were. But they were missing 4 key offensive starters--the scene was set for the Redskins to have a good day and walk away with a win. It was time for the offense to prove they could play two good games in a row, and for the defense to prove they could hang with an offense that didn't feature major weapons at WR.

The big concern was Adrian Peterson, who had the bulk of the Vikings' success in the first half, but didn't really manage to do much. The Redskins' offense was rolling with Alfred Morris getting major chunks of yards. Robert Griffin III was hitting Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, and Leonard Hankerson for good gains. He tried to hit Logan Paulsen once early for a dropped TD, and hit Paulsen for another TD. His TD pass to Reed was all brilliance, as he pump faked to draw the defender away and buy Reed space, and the communication between the two to hit the middle of the field at the goal line was spectacular as Rob made an unbelievable throw while getting drilled. The TD to Garcon was a thing of beauty; Garcon sold a crosser, stepped back when he recognized zone and Rob hit him for a "screen" and Garcon had a clear path to the endzone with blockers out in front. The Redskins had 3 big drives for TD's of 78, 79, and 80 yards. They also had a field goal to enter the half with a 27-14 lead. This was the offense everyone has been waiting to see.

Coming out of the half, and the team completely unraveled. You can see some honest critique from the Comcast SportsNet post-game crew here. Charley Casserly had some interesting thoughts, and Trevor Matich broke down the Vikings scheme with something I want to drive home here.

The Redskins had run Robert Griffin to the outside in the first half a number of times. The Vikings accepted those runs as they were keying in on Alfred Morris in the Read Option. Alfred Morris was getting big gains with huge blocks from Darrel Young and Trent Williams creating a crease for Alfred to cut back into as the Vikings DE's were playing aggressively up the field to keep RGIII in the pocket. In the second half, the Vikings were every bit as willing to let Alfred beat them through the middle and play the pass, hoping to take away the post route RGIII was hitting Garcon on the entire first half. The problem? The Redskins weren't dialing up runs. Especially not up the middle. The few runs I remember before the final drive were stretch zones to the outside where the aggressiveness of the ends caused the interior O-Line to collapse to the powerful Kevin Williams and Alf had to pick up 1 or 2 yards into the arms of the backside end or a linebacker. These weren't 1-on-1's that Alf was going to win with consistency as his focus was on the one-cut and getting upfield with patience. Instead of attacking with quickness and power into the crease the defense was willing to give up. But those were only a few plays. Kyle Shanahan opted to pass, pass, and pass. The problem was, he was dropping RGIII back into the pocket against two aggressive ends powering 8 or 9 yards into the backfield to keep Robert in that pocket, forcing him to step up. Only problem for the Redskins was, time and again, Robert was stepping up into the body of Kevin Williams, who was beating double teams by Will Montgomery and either guard (usually Chris Chester) right through them. There was a play where three men met Robert in the pocket at the same time for a sack. One of those men was an unblocked rusher. Another? Kevin Williams beating that Montgomery/Chester double team. Yes... a defensive tackle beat a double team and reached the QB at the same exact time as an unblocked rusher. Inexcusable.

Kyle was obviously trying to counter punch the Vikings. The only problem is, the Vikings didn't change anything about their scheme from the first to second half. They were doing the same thing trying to pin Rob inside and challenging the Redskins to beat them in that crease with Alf. Kyle didn't accept that challenge, he took the bait and bit. The Vikings got the Redskins offense off the field because Kyle Shanahan wasn't willing to stick with what he had working for him and taking what the defense gave him.

That led to the Vikings attacking through the air on playaction passes when 8 in the box were fighting Peterson. Ponder dropped some passes in over the backers and right into the hands of a WR or TE who was running in front of the secondary who was playing deep in a sort of prevent-style defense. It wasn't that it was horrible scheming by Haslett. It was working... but the pressure wasn't hitting the QB and the secondary wasn't able to bite up and pick off a poorly thrown pass as happened by Meriweather in the first half. The defense surrendered points, and the offense couldn't get anything going because Kyle Shanahan was outcoached.

I told people on Twitter after Kyle "accepted the blame" for the Denver loss, that I didn't buy it and he would go right back to the same old BS. He gave us a game against the Chargers where he did... okay. But he came right back here against the Vikings with a 13-point lead at halftime and he crumbled. He went right back to who he is. One man last night stopped Alfred Morris, and it was Kyle Shanahan. If the only way to get Kyle out of here is to get rid of Mike Shanahan, I am all for it--but I am more keen on keeping Mike Shanahan here on an extension with HIS team and no cap penalty for a couple seasons. The kid will not get a head coaching job going forward off of this year unless he miraculously turns us around in these last seven games like he did in 2012, so there's no reason to believe he deserves to call plays for us. His mystique is gone.

Yes, the players lost battles last night. The players made dumb mistakes on penalties. Niles Paul cost us one huge delay of game because he spent 8 seconds waiting for the snap and not focusing on the QB and going into the hand-signal motion that his teammates were even trying to cue him to (a mistake I don't think Fred Davis would have made). Perry Riley's personal foul was one of the most disappointing moments of the night. I won't even go into how bad the officiating was, but it was.

There is no reason to believe this team can rattle off 7 wins. Robert Griffin III, over the last 2 games, is playing his best football of the season. He looks like he is on form. It helps that receivers seem willing to put it all on the line for him right now. The offense is/was rolling when they're playing to their strengths.

As Kyle Shanahan put it after the Denver game: "You don't want to be over-obsessed with tendencies and not put best players in the best position to succeed." I said it then, and I will say it now - coming from him? BULLSHIT!

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