Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 14 vs. Baltimore Ravens

Ravens 24, Redskins 10

Well, that was that. I can't see a way that Redskins look likely to make the playoffs at this point, barring some big time collapses on the part of other teams. I'll put together a little examination of the possibilities as an article later this week, but for the time being, just accept that they're virtually eliminated.

Offense: D

I could just copy and paste last week's description, but I'll give you at least fresh language. The running game was pitiful, maybe even worse than it was against the Giants. Most notably, Clinton Portis, no longer the NFL's leading rusher, has combined for 22 carries and 54 yards between the past two games. Those are bad numbers for a single game; as two-game totals for the most important player on the Skins' team, they're fatal.

The passing game was anemic, accumulating just 192 net yards, with Jason Campbell tossing two interceptions. Turnovers were once again the death knell for this team; two early giveaways essentially ended the game. And this has been the story all season. When Washington has been able to limit (or eliminate) turnovers, they've been a good team, and a winning team. But ever since Campbell's first interception, the Redskins have gotten worse and worse on offense, looking less composed with every snap.

The blame for this problem goes all over. Campbell should be able to keep his cool better, he's been in the league for several years now. Additionally, Jim Zorn needs to see the way his quarterback is reacting and adjust his game plan to include more motion, screens, end-arounds, and swing passes, to keep Campbell's confidence up and keep the Ravens' defense off balance. When your running game isn't working (and against Baltimore, you have to expect it might not), you've got to find different ways to pull the defensive backs towards the line.

Speaking of the running game again, some of Campbell's problems have to be put on Portis' shoulders. Not just because the running game needs to be more effective, but because Portis is the face of the Washington offense. If the quarterback is getting jittery, it's Portis' job to say, "I got this, just relax," and then to blow up the next guy who comes in on a blitz, or to take one of those swing passes and blast his way to the sticks. He's got to be as much of a leader as Campbell; while obviously you want Campbell to be poised at all times, the goal is to win games. So if it means Campbell has to take a back seat to Portis in the huddle for a moment, then that's how it goes. They're in the midst of a 1-4 stretch that's sliding them out of the playoffs; long-term cultivation has to be nudged aside for now.

I'd like to re-iterate my comment from last week that Mike Sellers needs to be more involved in the offense. In a situation like Sunday when your #1 guy goes down, you have to use a committee to try to get the job done, and Sellers has to be part of that committee. He's simply too explosive to resign him to special teams and an occasional 3rd down. And it's not like this offense is clicking on all cylinders and could be disrupted by a shake up. Let's see what Sellers can do with 10-12 touches; I have no doubt that if we don't, whatever team signs him next will, and will reap the benefits.

Defense: B

I decided that, at least for this game, I'm not going to penalize the defense's score for the ineptitude of the offense. The defense actually played very well, save for a crucial fourth quarter drive that essentially ended the game. They held Baltimore to fewer first downs than the Redskins, and got two turnovers while holding Joe Flacco to a paltry 134 yards. They did enough to put the Redskins in a position to win the game, but the offense piddled away every opportunity the defense provided.

An extra piece of information that I think we can take away from this game is that Willis McGahee is no longer the Ravens' long-term #1 running back. Le'Ron McClain seems to have a real knack for rushing the football, and in the NFL, you go with whoever is getting it done. The whole concept of playing someone because their contract is greater, or they were traded for a lot, pretty much goes out the window when you're in the playoff hunt.

Special Teams: C-

You can look back at what I've said in any Special Teams segment all year to know what I thought about their special teams against Baltimore: Randle El stinks, Plackemeier is okay, Rock Cartwright is solid, and Shaun Suisham isn't as bad as you think he is. And as for people who say that the Redskins should get rid of Suisham, explain it to me. If you get rid of him now, you'd be signing a kicker who nobody thought enough of to have on their team. If you get rid of him in the offseason and invest in a big name kicker, you're stupid. You have to look at kickers the same way you look at closers in baseball: you don't invest in a good one until everything else is in place. Suisham is fine for now. Let the offense give him some 30- to 40-yard field goals to try before you hang him out to dry.

Overall: D+

The game was excruciating to watch, unless you're a Ravens fan like Chip, in which case I imagine it felt like you were kicking a retarded kid. Way to go, you bullied the kid with MS, dick.

Look for an article detailing the wild scenarios that would put the Redskins in the playoffs later this week.

1 comment:

Chip said...

it wasn't as easy to watch as you might think. While the Ravens got off to an excellent 14-0 start after the two turnovers, the Ravens offense completely stalled. The Redskins secondary played/covered extremely well and the consistent zone defenses threw Flacco for a loop. The only drive that the Ravens put together worth noting was when McClain (who should be the #1 RB), ran for 10 consecutive runs. It killed the clock and allowed Flacco to throw an ugly lob to Mason for the final TD.

Let's just say... when the Redskins came within a TD, I was very nervous. You only really needed to watch the first 7-8 minutes of the game and the last 10 minutes of the 4th quarter of the game to catch the highlights.

Either way, a great game for the Ravens, who will be having the Steelers over this Sunday for a shot at the AFC North division. Its going to be a stressful Sunday.

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