Sunday, December 6, 2009

Skins play well enough to win -- but still lose

For as bad as they've looked this season, the Redskins had a golden opportunity to make up for some of their disappointing performances and embarrassing miscues by beating an undefeated Saints team.

Leading 30-23 with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter, Jason Campbell and the Redskins took over on their own 41 yard line. The offense then proceeded to do something they had done so few times this season: They drove the ball down the field (to the four yard line), forced New Orleans to use their final two timeouts, and were in perfect position to take a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

And then it happened. Shaun Suisham lined up for a 23-year field goal, and he missed it to the right. The snap was good, the hold was good -- and yet he still missed. So instead of putting the game away with an extra-point-like kick, Suisham (and the Redskins) gave Drew Brees and the Saints another chance. Big mistake.

If you've watched enough Redskins games, you knew the defense simply wasn't going to stop the Saints on that final drive. The Redskins' defense is pretty good -- they're especially strong in the red zone -- but in crucial situations, they've routinely underperformed this season. It also doesn't help when LaRon Landry keeps jumping routes on double moves and letting receivers get behind him.

But this post isn't about defensive shortcomings. Brees got his, and the pass rush wasn't particularly effective (one sack), but the Saints only gained 55 rushing yards and the Redskins did pick off a pass (though it didn't end well -- more on that later). The point is that the defense played fine and gave the Redskins a chance to win. You can't ask for much more than that against the league's best offense.

No, this game was about a familiar topic: finding ways to lose. The Redskins have found ways to lose three extremely winnable games in a row. The Redskins held Dallas to seven points -- in Dallas! -- and still lost. Last week, the Redskins were leading the Eagles late in the fourth quarter and didn't put them away. And today, Washington let a great moment in an otherwise awful season slip away. It's great to be competitive -- fans don't want to see their teams get blown out -- but there is still (obviously) plenty wrong with this team. It's not just coaching, or the offensive line, or overrated and overpaid talent on both sides of the ball. It's all of the above, and hopefully a few close losses don't discourage an already misguided front office into thinking that only a few minor changes need to be made to fix this franchise.

Anyway, now I'm rambling. Here are some other notes/thoughts from today's game:

- The offensive line was sensational today. The line didn't open up huge holes for running backs to run through -- the Redskins ran for 88 yards -- but Jason Campbell wasn't sacked and usually had enough time to throw. That was a big reason why Campbell threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

- Campbell was solid. He didn't have to run much, if at all, today, but he showed a solid pocket presence and was able to move around enough to find receivers streaking across the field for big chunks of yardage. Granted, the Saints were dealing with some defensive injuries, but it would be interesting to see how Campbell could play if the line blocked that well every week.

- Nice game for the receiving corps. Campbell spread the ball around to nine different receivers. Devin Thomas had seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Antwaan Randle El had four catches for 73 yards, and Santana Moss and Fred Davis each had five catches for 68 yards and 53 yards, respectively. It was nice to see receivers getting open, and it was even better to see the Redskins attacking the Saints' secondary down the field. More of this, please.

- Normally I'd say the Redskins are unlucky, but embarrassing and ill-timed plays seemingly happen to them every week. Two examples: Kareem Moore's interception and fumble for a touchdown and the punt that hit Kevin Barnes. The Moore was really, really weird. He made a great interception, and then all of a sudden he just had the ball taken from him. Stuff like that just doesn't happen to good football teams. You could say the same for the Barnes play, but that seemed a little more random.

- I really don't understand Landry. OK, I get it, he's out of position at the free safety; he's really a strong safety. Sometimes he looks great and it's easy to see he possesses a lot of talent, but other times he just looks completely lost. He recorded 12 tackles, a great sack on a safety blitz, and had three passes defensed. How exactly do the Redskins keep letting receivers get behind them for easy touchdowns?

Do you have anything to add? Feel free to chime in.

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