Monday, October 13, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 6 vs. St. Louis Rams

Rams 19, Redskins 17

Offense: C-

When it rains, it pours. The offense that had been so stingy with the football, that had run such a smart and efficient game, coughed up the ball three different times in three different ways in the first half of the game. This isn't the kind of offense that can overcome those sorts of mistakes, which is why it was so important that the Redskins maintain their streak of no-turnover games.

The ground game was strong once again, with Clinton Portis running roughshod over the Rams' line. Portis is looking more and more like the guy we were hoping to acquire when we traded Champ Bailey and a 2nd round pick for him a few years ago (a trade that I have lamented since day one). Ladell Betts got into the mix as well, posting a few key runs while spelling Portis.

The passing game was alright, but had some issues. Campbell was still fairly efficient at 18-26 for 208 yards, but didn't get into the end zone. More importantly, the Skins lost two fumbles after completed passes (and the one that got tipped to Kendall was just stupid), and another on a botched snap. Interceptions are tough breaks, but often a result of miscommunication or a bad read. Fumbles are a result of not holding on to the football. They're generally avoidable, and frustrating as hell to fans. Hence, low grade.

Defense: B+

You probably didn't notice it if you watched the game, but the Washington defense actually had another really good game. They gave up a paltry 200 yards to the Rams offense. The most impressive (and, to me, more surprising) part was that they were able to hold Steven Jackson to 79 yards on 22 carries. I've told you over and over that I was worried about how this team would respond when they get run on 20+ times by a premier running back, and they were up to the challenge against Jackson.

Want more information on why the defense wasn't to blame for this loss? They weren't on the field when the only Rams touchdown was scored. They forced five three-and-outs. They allowed only two drives of more than 30 yards. They held fast at every turn, despite being hung out to dry by their offense's sudden inability to hold onto the football. I still feel good about the defense, maybe even better than I have in the past. It's just a shame they proved their merit in a loss.

Special Teams: C-

The Redskins once again had nothing in the punt return game, and it's looking more and more like they need to pull Antwaan Randle El from that role. Even if you have to put Santana Moss back there, you've got to find some way to add that dimension to your team. Rock Cartwright was fine in returning kicks, but he still seems to lack the burst that scares coverage teams. The Skins' own coverage team was fine, but not impressive.

Shaun Suisham still seems like a pretty good kicker, and I'm definitely happy we've got him. But Durant Brooks, the rookie punter, seems to shrink from the spotlight. When Washington needs a big punt from him, he shanks it out of bounds and gives up great field position. That's how you lose games. If you're suspicious of how important a good punting game can be, check out this past Super Bowl. Feagles had four good punts, including one at the 20 and two inside the 20. When your offense isn't great and your defense doesn't score, your game is made or broken on field position. Punting is absolutely crucial for this Redskins team, and looking at a change is not a bad idea for this team.

Overall: C

I'm happy that the defense looked good. I'm happy that Portis is putting together a very nice year. But if we learned anything from this game, it's this: for the Washington Redskins to be successful, they really are going to have to avoid turnovers like the plague. That's a scary situation, because it means that you're asking your offense to play mistake-free football every single game. Obviously you want that regardless, but the ability to overcome mistakes is something I'm not sure this team has. We'll find out, especially in these next two games.

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