Sunday, October 24, 2010

Skins beat Bears despite offensive struggles

First, the good news: The Redskins beat the Bears today, 17-14, and moved to 4-3 on the season. If the Giants lose tomorrow, then the Skins will be on top of the NFC East again, via tiebreaker. Also, DeAngelo Hall had the game of his life, intercepting a whopping four Jay Cutler passes and returning one for a 92-yard touchdown in the third quarter. That touchdown accounted for the only second half scoring in the game and ended up being the deciding play.

On offense, Ryan Torain rushed 21 times for 125 yards and broke numerous tackles, just like he did on Sunday night last week against the Colts. Unfortunately, he did lose a fumble deep in Bears territory on a potential scoring drive that could have put the game away for good, but it ended up not mattering because of Hall and the Skins defense. Donovan McNabb finished 17-32 for 200 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He didn't play particularly well, but he was also under siege all day by the Bears defense, and his receivers didn't help him out much, especially early in the game when Anthony Armstrong and Chris Cooley dropped consecutive passes in Bears territory. McNabb's lone touchdown was to Santana Moss, who had five catches for 63 yards. Cooley caught seven passes for 52 yards, but he also had at least one drop and also fumbled (though he did smack the ball out of bounds to keep the ball away from the Bears, but that play did draw a flag). Armstrong also had two catches for 42 yards.

On defense, players were flying all around the field, making big hits and forcing numerous fumbles. Rocky McIntosh led the team with eight tackles (tied with London Fletcher) and had a sack. Albert Haynesworth returned and played a phenomenal game. He blew up several plays by himself and also recorded a sack. Brian Orakpo was awesome as well and had two sacks, increasing his season total to seven. Overall, the defense only allowed seven points and was very opportunistic.

And now, the bad: The offense had a very difficult time both scoring points and holding onto the ball. As mentioned above, McNabb threw two interceptions -- one was returned for a touchdown -- and the Redskins also fumbled the ball six times(!), though they only lost one of them. So that was weird.

But back to the lack of scoring. In the first quarter, the Bears could barely gain any yards, which repeatedly set the Redskins offense up with great field position. In the quarter, the Redskins had four possessions that ended up at least entering Chicago's side of the field, yet at the end of the quarter, the score was 7-7. Let's take a look at each series:

1) 1st and 10 at WSH 23 D.McNabb pass short middle to A.Armstrong to WAS 43 for 20 yards (D.Manning) [I.Idonije].
1st and 15 at WSH 38 R.Torain right end to WAS 49 for 11 yards (A.Adams).
2nd and 4 at WSH 49 R.Torain right tackle to CHI 49 for 2 yards (T.Jennings).
3rd and 2 at CHI 49 D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to S.Moss.
4th and 2 at CHI 49 H.Smith punts 49 yards to end zone, Center-N.Sundberg, Touchback.

Nothing too out of the ordinary here. The Redskins get the ball on the opening kickoff and open up with a 20-yard completion to Armstrong. Torain gains 13 yards on two rushes after a false-start penalty, but McNabb and Moss can't connect on third down. Result: Punt

2) 1st and 10 at 50 D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to R.Torain [J.Peppers].
2nd and 10 at 50 D.McNabb pass incomplete deep left to A.Armstrong.
3rd and 10 at 50 (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to C.Cooley.
4th and 10 at 50 H.Smith punts 20 yards to CHI 30, Center-N.Sundberg, out of bounds.

After the Skins defense forces a three-and-out, Brandon Banks returns the punt nine yards to the 50-yard line. McNabb drops back to pass three times in a row and fails to complete a pass. But it's hard to blame him since Armstrong and Cooley each botch potential big plays by dropping passes that hit them in the hands. Result: Punt

3) 1st and 10 at WSH 39 R.Torain left tackle to WAS 41 for 2 yards (H.Melton, M.Toeaina).
2nd and 8 at WSH 41 D.McNabb pass short middle to F.Davis to CHI 42 for 17 yards (B.Urlacher; C.Harris).
1st and 10 at CHI 42 D.McNabb pass short right to C.Cooley to CHI 37 for 5 yards (M.Toeaina).
2nd and 5 at CHI 37 D.McNabb pass short left to M.Sellers to CHI 22 for 15 yards (C.Tillman).
1st and 10 at CHI 22 R.Torain right end to CHI 26 for -4 yards (P.Tinoisamoa). PENALTY on WAS-J.Brown, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at CHI 22 - No Play.
1st and 20 at CHI 32 D.McNabb pass short left INTERCEPTED by D.Moore (I.Idonije) at CHI 46. D.Moore for 54 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

After another forced three-and-out, the Skins earn decent field position at their own 39. The drive starts out with some promise as McNabb starts to get in a rhythm and completes a few passes to move the ball down the field. But disaster strikes on a 1st and 20 play on the Chicago 32: McNabb drops back to pass but doesn't see an unblocked Bears defender running straight for him. Instead of taking the sack, McNabb tries to make a play and attempts a difficult throw to the left side of the field. But that doesn't work, and the ball is tipped up in the air, intercepted, and returned for a 54-yard touchdown. Result: Interception, TD Chicago. 7-0 Bears

4) 1st and 10 at WSH 28 R.Torain right guard to WAS 33 for 5 yards (M.Toeaina).
2nd and 5 at WSH 33 D.McNabb scrambles right end to WAS 35 for 2 yards (B.Turner).
3rd and 3 at WSH 35 (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short middle to S.Moss to CHI 49 for 16 yards (C.Harris).
1st and 10 at CHI 49 D.McNabb pass incomplete short left to M.Sellers.
2nd and 10 at CHI 49 D.McNabb pass short right to C.Cooley to CHI 41 for 8 yards (B.Urlacher).
3rd and 2 at CHI 41 D.McNabb pass short right to C.Cooley to CHI 35 for 6 yards (T.Jennings).
1st and 10 at CHI 35 R.Torain right guard to CHI 25 for 10 yards (C.Harris).
1st and 10 at CHI 25 R.Torain left end to CHI 24 for 1 yard (P.Tinoisamoa).
2nd and 9 at CHI 24 D.McNabb pass deep left to S.Moss for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

After that horrible play and resulting touchdown, the Redskins start at their own 28. What resulted was their only touchdown-scoring drive of the day. Looking determined, the offense marches down the field, utilizing both McNabb's arm and Torain's legs (but mostly McNabb's arm). After getting to the Chicago 24, McNabb fires a 24-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Moss. Result: TD Washington. 7-7

The Redskins defense again forces the Bears into a three-and-out, which ends the first quarter. For what it's worth, the Redskins did score on a field goal on the ensuing drive, though they didn't have to go very far considering they started at midfield. But after that field goal, the offense failed to score again, and the only Redskins points came on Hall's interception return.

For the game, the Bears offense slightly outgained the Redskins 322-308, though neither offense would likely take much pride in such an ugly game. However, it's still notable because despite being 4-3, the Redskins offense has been outgained (in yardage) in all seven games. Yes, the scoreboard is what's most important, obviously, but the yardage stat is still worth noting.

So what does all this mean? Well, the offense failed to take advantage of outstanding field position early in the game and also allowed the Bears to score a defensive touchdown, both of which nearly cost the Redskins the game. At this point, Redskins offensive players know that they need to put more points on the board -- especially touchdowns. The offensive line didn't pass block well at all, but Torain did have a strong game on the ground, averaging six yards per rush. Last week Torain had 100 yards, so moving the ball on the ground is starting to become a strength instead of a weakness like it had been early in the season.

The Redskins just aren't a very good offensive team at this point. There's tons of room for improvement, but it may take a while before positive changes are made (if at all). With the team playing so many close games and still managing a 4-3 record, it would be a huge lift if the offense could just score another touchdown here or there. But it would be even better to not have any more plays like that Bears interception return, though that type of thing really hadn't happened to the Redskins this season until today anyway. It's also awesome that the defense forced six turnovers, but that kind of thing probably won't continue to happen, especially since the Skins schedule after the bye week is rather difficult.

No matter who's to blame -- McNabb, offensive line, receivers, coordinators -- the offense has to be more efficient if this team is going to reach the playoffs. Jay Cutler won't be there every week to throw the game away.

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