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Alma Mater Bowl Battle Continues Tonight

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 29, 2011 – 5:00 pm

It must be college football bowl season in the Redskins locker room, as intra-team smack talk has risen to a new level.  Last night saw the resolution to the Holiday Bowl between Lorenzo Alexander’s Golden Bears and Brian Orakpo’s Longhorns.

Tonight’s matchup between Graham Gano’s Seminoles and Eric Olsen’s Fighting Irish in the Champs Sports Bowl has also yielded some wardrobe wagers: Read more »

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Minnesota Vikings In The Rear View Mirror

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 26, 2011 – 10:05 am

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It’s safe to say that too many of the storylines in the NFL are predicated on pregame predictions.  Going into the Redskins-Giants game two weeks ago, no one gave the Redskins a chance to win.  Going into the Redskins-Vikings game on Saturday, no one gave the Vikings a chance to win.

We know what happened in both cases.

The fact is that the Redskins had a good chance to win on Saturday, and did what they needed to do to ensure that, at least against the Vikings’ starters.

On defense, running back Adrian Peterson gained only 38 yards in the game before he was helped off the field early in the third quarter.  Ponder was similarly limited to 58 yards through the air and 5.2 yards per completion, and no touchdowns.

Problems occurred once the replacements to those players came in, due to injury.  Unlike many teams, the Vikings not only have talented backups, they also have backups with wildly different skill sets.  The Redskins defense had the Vikings’ starters pegged, but the backups were wild cards that they couldn’t account for.

With that being said, there were still outstanding performances on the field for the Burgundy and Gold.

London Fletcher had 17 tackles and a half-sack, extending his NFL-lead in total tackles.  Cornerback Josh Wilson had another outstanding game, managing six tackles and a forced fumble on a long, would-be touchdown run.

On offense, the Redskins were wise to get Evan Royster started early.  He gained a career-high for yards in a game, with 48 in the first half.  He finished up with steady diet of 19 rushes for 132 yards, with an additional two receptions for 15 yards.  He was the workhorse for the offense, finding gaps and running lanes against the 11th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL.

Receiver Jabar Gaffney also provided production that the Redskins have been accustomed to from No. 10, hauling in six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.  He has already met his career-high in touchdowns, and surpassed his career high in receiving yards for a season this week.

We like to gauge our team in terms of plays, quarters, games, and seasons, but to do so with the 2011 Washington Redskins would be, quite frankly, irresponsible.  This is a team in transition, a team in progress.  On offense, there are five starters that played even one snap together last season, and only three that played the whole season.  On defense, there are six starters that played together last season, and only four that played the whole season.  In a game where success is built on consistency and cohesion, this team is only starting to achieve that.

For some of the veterans, this is their second year in the system, but for all of the free agents and rookies, this is new.  That’s not an excuse–it’s a fact.  This roster is bedazzled with gems that project to much higher levels.  This group of Redskins has one more week to prove their muster, and I would expect them to rise to the occasion in Philadelphia.

Here are some other notable stats from Saturday’s game: Read more »

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Fourth Quarter Frustrations

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 24, 2011 – 5:44 pm

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The Redskins found out the hard way that sometimes knocking out the starter isn’t the answer to beating a team.  Where Adrian Peterson is an athletic stud who can slash and dash, Toby Gerhart is more of the ground and pound bowling ball.

For the second consecutive year, Gerhart was the Vikings’ leading rusher against the Redskins, going over 100 yards in the second half alone.

Where quarterback Christian Ponder was a passer with some elusiveness and the ability to run, Joe Webb was a runner who attempted only five second half passes.

Unfortunately, half of them were for touchdowns, and he finished with a perfect 158.3 quarterback passer rating.

When a team loses their top playmakers on offense, it’s usually a disadvantage.  But in this case, it cast the Redskins defense into the unknown of facing players they didn’t prepare for.  The Redskins’ defense contained Peterson and Ponder in the first half, having good anticipation of the Vikings’ game plan.  Once their replacements entered the game, it was a different ball of wax.

“It was disappointing because that wasn’t us out there,” said linebacker Ryan Kerrigan after the game.  “We feel like we have the capability to be one of the top defenses in the league, and to allow 240 rushing yards is disappointing.”

After last week’s win in New York, the Redskins looked to be pushing for a late-season surge.  Even today, there were plenty of things to be proud of.

Roy Helu was out for today’s game, but Evan Royster rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries, good for second in the NFL after the 1 p.m. games.  This was also the first time in Redskins history that two rookies running backs managed 100-yard games in the same season.

Jabar Gaffney eclipsed 900 yards receiving on the season for the first time in his career, and added another touchdown and “Landover Leap.”  He needs only 81 yards to crack 1,000 yards this season, and his next touchdown will be his career-high sixth in a season.

Kicker Graham Gano, who was on the toastiest of hot seats only a month ago, has put the kicking game on ice with his fourth-consecutive perfect game of placekicking.  Despite his leg strength, his lack of touchbacks this season looks to be a product of kicking the ball higher for added hang time.  All-in-all, this has been quite a rebound for the young kicker.

Because of the Saturday game, the players will now have three days off for the first time since the bye week, with which to rest and recuperate before getting ready for Philadelphia.  Despite a disappointing record, the Redskins have played each of their division opponents well this season, and beat the Eagles on the road last year.  Given their record on the road and their level of play against division opponents, I wouldn’t discount their ability to play some of their best football next week.

For the last time this season, so long from FedExField, as the Redskins lose a tough one: Minnesota 33, Washington 26.

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Atogwe Duels His Father-In-Law Today

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 24, 2011 – 11:40 am

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The holidays are traditionally a time of family, faith and football.  For Redskins free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, today’s game will features two-out-of-three: family and football.

Atogwe is the son-in-law of Hall Of Fame linebacker and Vikings linebacker coach Mike Singletary.  Atogwe sat down with the folks at Women Of the Washington Redskins (WOWRedskins.com) to discuss his anticipation of today’s game and how he’ll interact with his in-laws:

“He’s gonna be in the booth, so you won’t see anything,” he said.  “But it is going to be a heated competition.” Read more »

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Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 19, 2011 – 2:56 pm

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When the Redskins beat the Giants in Week 1, the result was a share of first place in the division.  The team was healthy, the rookies were contributing in a limited role, and there was a lot of reason for what-if speculation.

When the rematch occurred three months later, the Redskins were eliminated from playoff contention and playing for respect–something that no one wanted to give to them.  Of the starting 11 on offense from Week 1, only five took the field on the starting drive.  Those rookies that had contributed sparingly in round one were now starters, and some of the third string and practice squad players were seeing quality minutes.

In the end, the difference yesterday was not in the players’ resolve, or the preparation and game plan of the team.  The difference was actually in the results.

In the hostile environment of a division-leading team, the Redskins played their best all-around football game of the season, jumping out to a 17-0 lead and never looking back.

The offense registered the team’s largest lead of the season at 20 points, when the score was 23-3.  They were able to run the ball when they wanted to, throw the ball when they needed to, and control the clock for 35 minutes, nearly two and one-half minutes longer than Week 1.

On defense, they held Eli Manning without a completion in the first quarter for the first time in his career.  He was intercepted three times by the Redskins for the first time in 15 career games.

Given the length of time between the two games this season, the Giants are the ideal measuring stick for the Redskins’ progress.  As nose tackle Barry Cofield told his teammates after the game, that is the way that this team is capable of playing every week.

With two games left, the Redskins need to prove that to themselves, and find ways to win in the last two weeks of the season.  At 2-12, the Vikings represent the first team that the Redskins have played with an inferior record since the Miami Dolphins in Week 10.  With three weeks left in the 2011 season, it’s not too late for statements, and it’s the perfect time to put together a winning streak.

Here are the statistical highlights from yesterday’s win: Read more »

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 18, 2011 – 3:14 pm

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Halftime is the enemy of any team with momentum, because they risk cooling off in the locker room.

But the Redskins are sizzling like fajitas in the second half, with DeAngelo Hall picking off Eli Manning on the second play from scrimmage.  The interception was a one-handed beauty, good for Hall’s third pick of the year and 35th of his career.

This is only the second time all season that the Redskins have had two interceptions in a game, and the first time since Week 6 against the Eagles.

With the play, both opening drives of the respective halves ended quickly in turnovers.  The difference is that the Redskins capitalized with points, as Graham Gano booted it through from 43 yards out.  Washington back on top by 17: 20-3.

There’s a surreal sense of disappointment in the stadium right now.  When the Giants are on defense, there’s no emotion, even on third down plays.  Giants players are walking on and off the field, seemingly in a daze.  The only thing anyone has shown excitment to do for the last 30 minutes of football, is boo, as they did half-heartedly at the end of the quarter.

The Redskins have assumed control through the first 45 minutes, and can begin transitioning into a clock-control offense.  Through three quarters, the Redskins have leaned on the ground game, with 30-of-51 offensive plays coming via the rush.

After being punished with two deep interceptions in the first quarter, the Redskins aerial attack has embraced a short and mid-range game of safe passes and check-downs.  With each catch and run, the Redskins move the chains and roll the clock.

Special kudos to kicker Graham Gano, who battled through a mid-season slump to establish a new career high with 25 field goals on the season.  Nice work Graham, and his 11 points today have been another day of steady production for the once maligned Scotsman.

Redskins on top going into the final frame: 20-3.

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First Quarter Fundamentals

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 18, 2011 – 1:43 pm

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Shortly before kickoff, the Redskins won the toss and elected to receive.  They did not, however, elect to drive the ball first.

On the first play from scrimmage at the 18-yard line, quarterback Rex Grossman hit cornerback Corey Webster way down the field on a failed flea flicker.  Because of the subsequent Giants’ field position, it essentially amounted to a punt.  After the defense held the Giants to zero yards, Giants actually did punt the ball, giving the Redskins the ball around the 25-yard line.

In a round about sort of way, the Redskins gained seven yards on that sequence.  I don’t recommend putting that in the playbook though.

From there, the Redskins marched 52 yards down the field and Graham Gano banged one through from 36 yards.  After another suffocating defensive effort, the Redskins had an early shot at momentum, but gave it back with another deep pick.

I can appreciate the aggression and creativity in the play call, but the results certainly weren’t what they were looking for.

If there’s anything fortuitous to be said about the interceptions, it’s that they were both deep down the field.  The Redskins defense has smothered the Giants’ offense so far, but they need to get off the field.

One matchup to keep an eye on for the rest of the afternoon is undrafted left tackle Willie Smith vs. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.  Smith hasn’t gotten beaten since Andre Carter in the first quarter of last week, and he looks good against the Giants 4-3 front.  It’s difficult for some players to adjust to the 4-3 look after going against the 3-4 everyday in practice and most Sundays.

The Patriots aided in this preparation, as they run a base 4-3, but run plenty of packaged with only three down linemen.  Smith, left guard Maurice Hurt, and right tackle Tyler Polumbus will look to continue their success week against one of the best front sevens in the NFC.

For the record, when Pierre-Paul sacked Grossman in the first quarter, it was a botched communication in protection.  Not sure whose fault it was, but it wasn’t because Smith got beat.

Redskins looking physical and aggressive after the first quarter.  Manning has zero completions in the first quarter (zero-for-six).

Washington on top early: Redskins 3, Giants 0.

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First Quarter First Impressions

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 11, 2011 – 1:59 pm

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For better and for worse, this is not how the Redskins expected to start.  This has been a weird first quarter for both teams.

After their respective first scoring drives, the Redskins had 60 passing yards and the Patriots had 24.  The Redskins were able to drive the length of the field–albeit for a field goal–and the Patriots got their touchdown on defense.

In the first three minutes, Redskins returner Brandon Banks had three opportunities and two returns for a total of 38 yards. Donte Stallworth had his longest reception as a Redskins player at 51 yards, which happened to be Grossman’s longest pass of the year, and the Redskins’ longest offensive play of the season.

Kicker Graham Gano put the only Redskins points on the board so far, but he’s also responsible for a 20-yard penalty for kicking the ball off out of bounds.

In the stands in front of the press box there was a fight between fans–two Patriots fans, that is.

Somewhere, Vince Lombardi is politely inquiring what’s going on out there.

With the Patriots jumping out to a quick lead and the Redskins responding, this game has all of the makings of a track meet.  Stallworth–who is tied with Gronkowski for most yards in the league this Sunday–has seen a lot of playing time alongside Anthony Armstrong.

Following two consecutive 100-yard games on the ground, Roy Helu is churning and burning his way, to the tune of 51 yards, good for third in the league today.

Defensive end Stephen Bowen–who has had an emotional week with the funeral of his mother-in-law–burst through the line to end the first quarter with a sack.  He’s playing with a heavy heart this week, but was all heart on that play as he dragged No. 12 to the turf.  Well done, Stephen.

My picture-perfect moment of the first quarter was watching Jabar Gaffney do a FedEx leap onto Patriots fans who were not interested in catching him.  But the second row of Redskins fans hauled him up and celebrated his touchdown properly.

Redskins marching, down by four after the first quarter: Washington 10, New England 14.

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Redskins Halftime Report

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 4, 2011 – 2:39 pm

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For much of the season, the Redskins defense has bailed out the offense, clinching wins and keeping games close.  For the last two weeks, the offense has returned the favor, piling up 183 total yards in the first half.

After yielding a 17-play touchdown drive to the Jets to close out the first quarter, the offense took the momentum back and marched down the short field and set up a 33-yard chip shot for kicker Graham Gano.

The defense cordially returned their kindness, by forcing a three-and-out.  On the following drive, London Fletcher chased Jets speedster Santonio Holmes down from behind after a swing pass out of the backfield.  That Jets drive stalled and ended in a long field goal to tie it up.

Such intra-team harmony.

The top play on offense right now is tight end Fred Davis, who is playing absolutely lights-out football with four receptions for 82 yards.  As of now, he’s on pace for a season-high (105 yards, Week 1) and career-high in yardage.  His 82 yards at the half are tops in the league for Sunday, and second in the NFL for the week, behind a 90-yard performance by Riley Cooper on Thursday.

The Redskins haven’t won at home since Sept. 18, when they beat the Arizona Cardinals.  With the Redskins currently leading by three, this is the first home halftime lead for the Redskins since Week 2, and only their second of the season.

After last week’s win over the Seahawks on the road, the home fans are pumped up today, producing some of the best FedExField noise of the season.  When a sprinkling of the famous “J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets” has been chanted in the stands, Redskins fans have responded with “H-O-M-E, Go Go Home!”

Points for creativity, Redskins Nation.

The top unit of the first half was the special teams coverage and return teams, which were indirectly responsible for six points.  In the first quarter, it was the Armstrong’s 28-yard return off the Banks flip that set up the Redskins go-ahead field goal.  In the second quarter, it was a body-rock by Niles Paul that jarred the ball loose from the Jets returner, setting up the Perry Riley fumble recovery.  Even though the Jets red zone defense held, the coverage unit set them up in easy field goal range, which once again gave the Redskins the lead.

Those are the plays that the team would love to see end in touchdowns, but field goals are the difference in the first half of play.

At halftime, the Redskins are leading at home: Washington 13, New York 10.

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Fourth Quarter Turn Of Fortunes

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 27, 2011 – 8:07 pm

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For a team that previously lost six straight, nothing comes easy, as was the case this afternoon in Seattle.  The important thing is that the Redskins were good when it counted, and it was a total team victory.  Here’s the breakdown:

On Offense:

On the one hand, the Redskins put up 416 yards of total offense, their highest showing since Week 2, and the second highest of the season.  The offensive line opened up holes for running back Roy Helu, and kept Rex Grossman upright for most of the game.  Helu showed that his 146-yard game against the 49ers wasn’t a fluke, going over 100 yards for the first time today, with 162 total yards and his first NFL touchdown.  The Redskins receivers managed to get open when it really mattered, and Santana Moss returned to his clutch ways.  Anthony Armstrong, who had five receptions for 47 yards all season, finally came down with a game-changing catch for 50 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.  He was this week’s incarnation of Donte Stallworth, and proved that the storyline of this season is “the next man up.”  The offense clicked in the first and fourth quarters, and that was the difference in this game.

On Defense:

This wasn’t the defense’s best game, but they limited the damage and settled down in the second half.  They yielded only 250 yards of total offense for the Seahawks, including just 144 yards through the air.  They may not have had the sacks or turnovers that they were looking for, but they didn’t give up the big play either, and they played well in all facets of the game.

On Special Teams:

Clearly, this was a tough day for kickers, and that’s not just limited to Graham Gano.  Sav Rocca was charged with his first touchback of the season, the second-to-last punter in the league to put one in the end zone.  On a happy note, he also added to his punts inside the 20 and averaged 44.5 yards on the day.

As for Gano, he made things interesting (1 blocked FG, 1 blocked PAT, kickoff out of bounds), but he iced the game when it counted (fourth quarter FG).  His two blocked kicks nearly came home to roost, but his last kick put the Redskins up by six and forced the Seahawks to aim for the end zone.  This has been a tough eight days for Gano, and it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff gauges his performance.  Head coach Mike Shanahan said this week that the pressure was on for Gano, and his performance today was important.  Which matters more: conditions or performance?


At the end of the day, the Redskins managed to escape their first seven-game losing streak in more than a decade, and they did it in the worst possible conditions.  It shows great resolve to fly six hours into one of the most hostile environments in the NFL, play a team with a better record and momentum, play in the rain and wind and cold, play from behind–and come out on top.  From the opening kickoff, it was clear that this was a game that the Redskins should win.  Regardless of whether they’re a better team every week, they won on this given Sunday, and it was important that they come away from this colossal road trip with a win.

Now the monkey is off their backs, and the questions of leadership and character can settle back to a dull roar.  The plane ride back to Washington will be a long one, but a good one, as players can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  As easy as it is to settle into a slump, this team needs to look to build on the positive momentum this week.  This was a good team win, but there are enough issues to resolve before the Jets next week.

Hopefully, today is the start of a new streak.

So long from Seattle, with Washington in the win column: Redskins 23, Seahawks 17.

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