Sunday, October 26, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 8 vs. Detroit Lions

Redskins 25, Lions 17

Offense: B

In this game, the Redskins looked outstanding right up until the Lions' 35-yard-line. They made three of four field goals, sure, and they were necessary in order to pick up the victory, but you've got to finish off drives. The opening drive that Washington took inside the five should've absolutely been one they could punch in for seven. They were gashing the Lions for big yardage on every play, and you've got to find a way to finish the job and get a touchdown. By settling for a field goal, not only did they deprive themselves of 4 more points, they also gave Detroit something to feel good about. Their only offensive touchdown was on a play that started at midfield, a 50-yard pass to Santana Moss.

Speaking of Moss, I'm really liking Washington's trio of skill players with Moss, Clinton Portis, and Jason Campbell. But perhaps the most important cog to this team is Chris Cooley. Cooley caught six passes for 74 yards, and was often the target on crucial third-and-medium plays. Moving up to draft him in 2004 is maybe the best thing we've seen in the Dan Snyer era in D.C.

Generally I don't care for Brian Billick, who commentated this game for FOX, so I want to relate a nice little moment for me (on top of the Redskins winning the game). Late in the fourth quarter, Billick commented that Portis was well shy of reaching 120 yards for the fifth straight week and was unlikely to reach that plateau again. Almost instantaneously, Portis ran off a 31-yard gain to hit 126 yards on the day. So nya nya, Billick.

One last comment: how clear is it that this team can't handle turnovers? This game shouldn't have been nearly this close, but a fumble by Campbell put the Lions in a position to score.

Defense: B

Statistically, the Redskins played as well as some of the games I rated more highly in this young season. They didn't force a turnover, but they haven't done much as far as forcing turnovers this season. So why did I rank them so low?

It's the Lions. A quarterback in his third career start, the running back duties split between a rookie (Kevin Smith) and a castoff (Rudi Johnson), and a wide receiving corps that just lost its 1a via trade (Roy Williams). They have an unimpressive offensive line, and outside of Calvin Johnson, no playmakers to speak of. While the Redskins did well to generally keep the Lions' offense in check, they didn't make big plays to give their offense a jolt (just one QB sack).

How about that hit London Fletcher put on Calvin Johnson at the end of the game, though? Man, that's why that guy is the Redskins' defensive MVP.

Special Teams: A-

A missed field goal and four crummy punt returns by Antwaan Randle-El pull down this rating, but they gave Santana Moss another shot at returning punts, and the result was a return touchdown that put the Redskins up two scores. I'd like to remind all of you that I've been crying for Moss to be put into the punt return role for weeks now. If Moss has to take off the first play in an offensive series to catch his breath, so be it. With this defense, field position is huge. Give the opposition bad field position, and this defense will stifle any offense.

I like this Plackemeier fella they've got punting for them now, too. Mostly because he doesn't make huge errors. I'm okay with a lack of booming punts, as long as every punt is solid.

Overall: B

The grade stays low despite the special teams work because there's just no reason the Lions should've been able to hang with the 'Skins. I remind people as much as anyone that these are all professional teams, and the whole "any given Sunday" business. But if Washington is a legitimate high-level team, they can't let teams like the Lions hang around. You've got to knock them out early.

Next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town, and this 'Skins team is a lot like the Steelers teams a few years ago: strong defense, powerful running attack, passing game that minimizes mistakes. Now, with Willie Parker missing extended time and Roethlisberger the third most frequently sacked quarterback in football, the Steelers work more on using big passing plays to Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes to move the football. Most importantly, this will be the Redskins' first game against a team with a winning record since the Eagles game in week 5. I'm a little bit scared of how they'll fare against a ball-hawking defense like Pittsburgh, but hopefully the Rams game taught these guys how to hold on to the football.

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