Monday, September 20, 2010

Texans complete comeback, stun Redskins in OT

Leading 27-10 in the third quarter after a 22-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Chris Cooley, the Redskins allowed 20 unanswered points to the Texans, who went on to win 30-27 on a game-winning 35-yard field goal in overtime by Neil Rackers. The Redskins fought valiantly against the Texans, but they had a few opportunities to shut the door on a potential comeback, yet failed to do so. So despite the fact that McNabb threw for 426 yards, is this progress or more of the same?

I don't believe in a team "deserving to win" a game, but the Redskins had no business losing that game. They held a 17-point lead in the third quarter, and going into the fourth quarter were still winning by 10. But the Texans have a lot of weapons on offense, and they went to work in the second half. After the Redskins scored to go up 17 with about four minutes left in the third quarter, one big play seemed to give the Texans momentum back: a 50-yard screen pass to Arian Foster. It really was a fantastic play call; the Redskins had been blitzing a lot, and on 3rd and 15 from the Houston 44, they called a simple screen pass to Foster, who slipped past several blitzing defenders and followed a few blockers down the field for a huge gain. Matt Schaub then completed a short TD pass to Kevin Walter to cut the lead to 10.

That touchdown ended the third quarter, and the Redskins got the ball back with a chance to tack on some more points. Unfortunately, Larry Johnson entered the game and figured that that would be a good time to take a toss that seemed doomed from the start and, instead of losing maybe three or four yards by trying to get back to the line of scrimmage, make a U-turn and turn a bad play into a horrible one with a 10-yard loss. Thanks to that play, the Redskins went three and out and barely took any time off the clock. The Texans got the ball back and almost immediately answered with a field goal. With about 11 minutes to go, the Redskins' lead had been cut to seven.

So here's where the only-the-Redskins-do-this-kind-of-stuff part comes in. The Redskins start off at the 37 after a solid return and drive into Houston territory on passes to Anthony Armstrong (16 yards) and Joey Galloway (19 yards). The Redskins then run four straight times, and for the first time all game actually move the ball efficiently on the ground, getting the ball to the Houston 5. A false-start penalty gives the Redskins a 3rd and 6 opportunity, but McNabb throws an incomplete pass. Graham Gano comes on to try a 29-yard field goal, but the Texans block the kick. So instead of leading by 10 with about seven minutes left, the Redskins still lead by seven.

But there's still hope! On Houston's ensuing possession, London Fletcher gets a huge sack on Schaub, and the Texans punt the ball away after a three and out. After an awful Matt Turk punt, the Redskins have the ball on their own 49 -- fantastic field position -- with five minutes to go. On first down, McNabb hits Mike Sellers for a five-yard gain. And then, another confusing play: the Redskins attempt an end-around to Santana Moss, which loses eight yards. McNabb and the Redskins can't convert the 3rd and 13, so instead of icing the game by driving down the field, the Redskins have to punt the ball away.

With just over three minutes to go, the Texans drive down the field. And even though the defense made the Texans work, Schaub still hits Andre Johnson on a 34-yard touchdown on 4th and 10 to tie the game. The lead is gone, Trent Williams sprains his knee on the next possession, and the game goes to overtime.

In OT, the Redskins have a (another) chance to win with a 52-yard field goal, but Texans coach Gary Kubiak calls a timeout right before Gano nails his the kick, nullifying the play. On his next chance, Gano misses the kick wide right. So with great field position, the Texans drive down the field and get their own field goal chance, and Rackers makes his kick to win the game and give the Texans an amazing comeback victory.

So, to summarize, the Redskins had their moments but still did several Redskins-type things to lose the game. McNabb had a huge passing game, but he was overshadowed by Schaub, who threw for 497 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins also did a decent job of stopping Foster (19 carries, 69 yards), but that's mostly because the Texans got behind and had to start passing (which still worked). Foster also caught three passes for 69 yards, including that huge screen pass.

The Redskins, though, had an awful game running the ball. Portis had 13 carries for 33 yards (and two touchdowns), and Larry Johnson had two carries for -7 yards. If that 10-yard loss play wasn't enough to move Johnson down the depth chart, I don't know what is.

Moss caught 10 passes for 89 yards, but besides that McNabb spread the ball around. Galloway (88 yards) and Cooley (64 yards) each caught three passes, and Fred Davis had a 62-yard catch.

I'll admit this: The Redskins do seem like a better team than last year. And while they could very easily be 2-0, they also could be 0-2. So 1-1 still feels pretty good. And if that seems negative, well, it's not. Consider this: A 3-8 Redskins team nearly beat an 11-0 Saints team last year in a game very similar to this one.

In that game, the Redskins led by 10 in the fourth quarter before allowing a late touchdown drive that sent the game into overtime. The Redskins got the ball first in OT, but Sellers fumbled the ball away, giving the Saints great field position. They easily moved the ball into field goal range and won, moving to 12-0.

If you'll remember, the Redskins had a chance to ice that game with a kick as well. But Shaun Suisham missed a seemingly routine 23-yard attempt to give the Saints new life. And they took advantage by driving the ball down the field for a touchdown and sending the game into OT. Another missed opportunity -- sound familiar?

Even if McNabb revitalizes the passing attack, which he did yesterday, the Redskins will be in big trouble if they can't 1) improve their rushing attack and 2) fix the defense. It's fun to play an opportunistic, bend-but-don't-break defense, but it's tough to ask a defense to do that all game while continuing to call blitzes that just don't get to the quarterback often enough. The Redskins did have five sacks -- that's pretty good. But they were also allowing big chunks of yardage in the passing game.

By the way, the Trent Williams injury is a big deal. If he's forced to miss more than a game or two, that'll spell big trouble not just for McNabb, but for the entire offense.

With the Rams on the schedule next week, the Redskins should be able to move to 2-1. Let's see how the team responds when they're actually favored in a game.

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