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Second Quarter Super Salutations

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 20, 2011 – 3:47 pm

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Tony Romo, meet our rookie super heroes.  The one with the beard is called “The Pocono Punisher,” and No. 91 is “Captain America.”

The Redskins defense is sending pressure from all directions on Tony Romo, but credit the secondary for allowing the defense to get two coverage sacks in the second quarter.  The first one came from the interior, as Neild mauled Cowboys center Phil Costa en route to his first sack since his breakout two-sack performance against the Giants in Week 1.

Neild now has six-times as many sacks against division opponents as outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.  He also has 10-times the facial hair.

Meanwhile, Kerrigan’s front side sack of Romo came against rookie sensation Tyron Smith.  This was a match-up to watch coming to the game, and it’s a match-up that Kerrigan got the best of.   He has taken over the team-lead in sacks with six, surpassing Orakpo’s 5.5.

Redskins punter Sav Rocca is blowing Cowboys Mat McBriar away in the battle of “Thunder Down Under.”  So far McBriar has  he’s rattled off four punts with a 50-yard average, including a a 64-yard belter inside the 20.  Crikey!  As I type this, both he and Tampa Bay’s Michael Koenen also has one punt inside the 20, meaning that the two remained deadlocked for the league lead with 19.

Redskins newbie David Anderson had another big catch this week to set up the Rex Grossman rushing touchdown, and “served” the ball back to the officials like a waiter with a bottle of wine.  This man is the master of subtle celebrations.

The Grossman rushing touchdown was only the fourth of his career, and the first since he did it as a member of the Bears, against the Titans on Nov. 9, 2008.  This was the first Redskins touchdown in five quarters of football, and the first first-half touchdown since St. Louis in Week 4.

The roar from the crowd was actually a huge sigh of relief.

The follow-up Grossman-Gaffney touchdown was the icing on the first-half cake.  Yes, football games are 60 minutes long, but this is the first lead by a Redskins team since Week 4.  It’s been a long time since Redskins fans could cheer for their team coming off the field, and the boys in Burgundy and Gold got a standing ovation at halftime.

Redskins are ahead at the half: Washington 14, Dallas 10.

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Second Quarter Situation Room

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 3:31 pm

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Welcome to Washington, wide receiver David Anderson.  The newbie Washingtonian caught his first pass as a Redskin–a 14-yard reception to convert on third down–in only his fifth day in the Burgundy and Gold.

As he explained it on Wednesday, he knew the Kyle Shanahan scheme except for about “three words that were different.”  But he knows the three words that matter most to Redskins fans right now: “Catch. The. Ball.”

Nothing sensational, but one of the better things that happened for the Redskins in the second quarter.  The Redskins should also reserve a shoutout to the swirling wind in the north end zone, which was no kinder to the Dolphins than it was the Redskins.

So far, the score is: Redskins 6, Dolphins 10, Mother Nature 6.

Rookie receiver has blossomed from a training camp goat into a full-on midseason delight.  Yes, he still has his flaws and room for improvement, but he’s one of the few Redskins that’s been able to get open in recent weeks.  With no Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, or Niles Paul for the foreseeable future, Hankerson has his chance to shine.  Coming into the game, he had five career receptions for 57 yards.  In the first half, he already has three grabs for 38 yards.

In the first half, the Redskins are doing the things that they need to do to win: creating turnover opportunities, limiting penalties, and keeping a balanced offense:

  • So far, the Redskins have run the ball 11 times and thrown 12 times.
  • Both quarterbacks have been intercepted once, but Grossman’s was a product of miscommunication rather than a bad throw.
  • Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan added his fourth career sack and third forced fumble, one that was recovered by the Dolphins.
  • The Redskins have only been penalized three times for 21 yards.

This is the gameplan that the team needs to replicate in the second half in order to break out of this slump.  The difference will be capitalizing on opportunity and being patient on offense.  A lot went wrong to lose four-straight games; one or two big plays can turn it all around this afternoon.

Lots of football left in the Sunshine State: Dolphins 10, Redskins 6.

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Second Quarter Shake Down

Posted by Brian Tinsman on October 30, 2011 – 5:24 pm

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This hasn’t been the best 30 minutes for international relations, at least not on the Washington side.

But as with every story worth telling, there are two sides to this one.

The Bills defense had four sacks on the season coming into this game.  In the first half, they had four on Redskins quarterback John Beck.  Some of these have been overload blitzes and trouble in the blocking scheme, but some of these have been coverage sacks.  This is a total-team issue that needs to be addressed in the second half.

On the other hand, John Beck has weathered the storm and has protected the football very well.  He’s dealing with three offensive linemen out of position due to injuries, his best pass-blocking running back on injured reserve, his best all-around tight end on injured reserve, and his No. 1 receiver out with a broken hand.

The Redskins need to find other ways to win, but it’s not going to be easy, by any stretch.

Things are a little brighter on the defensive side of the ball, with the Redskins defense doing a serviceable job at dictating the pace to the offense.  Yes, the Bills are taking what the Redskins give them, but the Redskins aren’t giving them a whole lot.  The Bills were ranked fourth in the league with 31.3 points per game, and the Redskins have limited them to 13 in the first half, including two goal line stands that kept them out of the end zone.

In short, it could be a lot worse.

The inside linebacker play has been a highlight of the first half, with London Fletcher, and his replacement Keyaron Fox, flying around near the line of scrimmage.  Fletcher’s hamstring was a concern all week, but he’s been spelled as needed by Fox, who is proving to be productive on both defense and special teams.

The Fletcher-Fitzpatrick-Orakpo sandwich at the end of the first half was disappointed only by the play-making ability of Fred Jackson with the ball in his hands.

In other news, this is a unique football venue, with only one jumbotron, a series of hotel rooms overlooking the field, and strange seating all over the lower level of the stadium.

They should really consider playing baseball here.

Redskins still looking to get on the board north of the border, trailing 0-13.

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Second Quarter Sequiturs

Posted by Brian Tinsman on October 23, 2011 – 2:47 pm

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Whatever Adam Carriker eats before games (and we now know) is clearly working, as he has a career-high 1.5 sacks for the game, in only one half of football.  The Redskins are dialing up some tremendous pressure on Newton, and the Panthers have yet to find consistent protection.

When they keep their tight ends in to block Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins get pressure up the middle.  When they made the mistake of giving Orakpo a running start at Newton…ouch.

As a product of the pressure, the Panthers have been able to complete screen passes to the flats, but the defense has limited the damage.  The Panthers still look primarily downfield to Steve Smith and the tight ends, and the Redskins have done a good job at covering these receivers.

On offense, the running game provided the necessary shot in the arm.  Over the first four games, there has been growing consternation about sticking with the run.  So far, the Redskins have run the ball 18 times, compared to just 12 passing attempts.

That’s dedication to the run.

Hightower’s 75 first half yards are second best in the NFL so far, only to Chicago’s Matt Forte (108).

The line is protecting the quarterback and opening holes in the running game, so it’s *theoretically* only a matter of time until the opportunities present themselves.

Redskins trail in a barn-burner at the half: Washington 6, Carolina 9.

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Second Quarter Summary

Posted by Brian Tinsman on October 16, 2011 – 2:47 pm

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The first half left much to be desired, as the Redskins came out a little flat after last week’s bye.  Even though the Redskins fixed their early penalty predicament, the important numbers speak for themselves:

Time of possession: 8:22 vs. 21:38

Penalties: 6-for-55

Turnovers: -2

On top of that, the Redskins offense is missing key players with Trent Williams, Chris Cooley, and Kory Lichtensteiger–all questionable to return.  Williams was seen coming out of the tunnel at the end of the first half, returning to the sidelines.  Cooley was seen standing on the sidelines without his pads or helmet.

Fred Davis, Erik Cook and Sean Locklear have all played well in their respective absences, but this is clearly venturing outside of the ideal.

The Cook to Rex Grossman exchange has gone reasonably well, save for one high snap out of the shotgun near the Redskins goal line.  Credit Grossman for not trying to do something with nothing, and getting rid of the ball out of bounds.

Other good performances in the first half:

  • Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has consistently been in the face and eyes of Michael Vick, getting a tackle and a pass defensed.
  • Kicker Graham Gano tied a career-long with a 50-yard field goal at the end of the half for the Redskins only points.
  • After Will Allen’s interception, he weaved his way upfield and had a chance for a much bigger play, if not for the saving tackle of running back Ryan Torain.  Tim Hightower has made some huge plays in this regard previously this year, and it’s good to see Torain continue the trend.
  • Cornerback Josh Wilson has four tackles, three unassisted, saving several big plays.

There is understandable frustration in Redskins Nation right now, but there are very important reasons to stay tuned in the second half.  The halftime score is 20-3, the exact same lead that the Eagles had over the 49er’s at halftime, two weeks ago.  They went on to lose that game 23-24, unable to stop the bleeding in the second half.  The Eagles have coughed up three fourth quarter leads this season, and that will remain in the back of their minds today.

Don’t despair, Redskins fans, this one isn’t over yet.  The Redskins have been a solid second half team, and the Eagles have disappeared late.  Redskins trail at the half, 3-20.

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Second Quarter Synthesis

Posted by Brian Tinsman on October 2, 2011 – 2:44 pm

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The second quarter began with another strong defensive effort by the Redskins, forcing a fourth punt of the day.  Linebacker Rocky McIntosh brought pressure on third down, blitzing from the blind side after dropping back in coverage.  Although his efforts didn’t lead to his second sack on the season, it was enough to force the errant pass.

The Redskins secondary has benefited from Rams receivers beating themselves with a lot of drops.  Free agent acquisition Mike Sims-Walker has been targeted four times in the first half in big spots, and has yet to come down with any of them.  The boo-birds have come out for the frustrated fans, and the Redskins fans in attendance are starting to out-cheer the home crowd.

As the half wound down, pressure finally started to hit home for the Redskins defense.  Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan recorded the team’s first sack, with a fumble, and big man Barry Cofield grabbed the recovery.  Remember that Ryan Kerrigan tied the NCAA record with 14 career forced fumbles at Purdue, and with his second on the season, it appears that that skill has translated to the pros.  This was his third turnover of the season, in just his fourth career game.

Wow.  Just wow.

Redskins fans had their first glimpse of cult hero running back Ryan Torain, who had a modest seven yard burst on his first carry.  Casting modesty aside, he rumbled 20 yards for a second Redskins touchdown.  This is his first touchdown in 17 quarters of Redskins football, making the plunge for the first time since Jacksonville in Week 16 last year.

Add the All-Torain vehicle back to the three-car running garage in Washington.  From the looks of it, the Redskins now have a sports car with Roy Helu, a bulldozer with Tim Hightower, and an off-road vehicle with Torain.

And a truck on the defensive line.

As far as the Redskins special teams penalties are concerned, they are the appropriate calls by the officials, because within the letter of the law, they qualify as unnecessary roughness.  Yes, Perry Riley and Niles Paul need to make a better effort to lower a shoulder and avoid contact to the helmet.  But I would suspect that Rams returner Austin Pettis will learn to wave for a fair catch, or he won’t be back out on the field in the second half.

After the tremendous hits that he took in the first half, he may not be back anyway.

This is the Redskins first, first-half shutout since last year’s season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.  This is total-team domination, but the Redskins need to keep it going in the second half.  The loudest noise made by the 12th Ram today, was the boos showered on the Rams coming off the field.

Redskins up at the half, 14-0.

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Second Quarter Pontifications

Posted by Brian Tinsman on September 26, 2011 – 10:21 pm

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This game has certainly lived up to the billing of a defensive struggle so far, with both team’s defenses digging trenches outside of their respective endzone.  Despite both offenses turning the ball over with terrific field position, the score has been limited to only a trio of field goals a piece.

The much-anticipated fire and ice safety combination of LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe is yielding exciting results already.  With the skill set and measured-aggression that both players have, it allows either to play close to the line of scrimmage and run-stop or blitz the quarterback, while the other drops into coverage.  During the first quarter when Landry was shutting down Felix Jones in the running game, Atogwe was back in center field.  On the play where Landry crushed unsuspecting receiver Laurent Robinson, Atogwe was blitzing.

Versatility allows more creativity in the defensive play call.  Watch these two in the second half.  And for the rest of their time in Washington.

After combining for 172 yards on the ground last week, the Redskins have gotten both running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu involved in the game early this week.  Through 30 minutes, Hightower has 10 touches for 35 yards, while  Helu has four-for-fouteen.  Look for the Redskins to continue to get these playmakers involved in the offense.

Blocked field goal aside, the Redskins special teams have performed very well, individually and as a whole.  Here are some notes:

  • They account for all nine of the Redskins points
  • Sav Rocca’s first quarter punt, fair caught inside the 20, was his seventh such punt of the season, tying him for the league lead.
  • Graham Gano’s 50-yard field goal to finish out the first half was a career-long for him.  For his career, he is five-for-six against Dallas, including the blocked kick.
  • Brandon Banks has put the offense in reasonably good starting field position, with four returned for 54 yards.  The Cowboys will receive first in the second half.

Once again, the Redskins lead their opponent in every meaningful category.  Total net yards, 162 vs. 119.  Total plays, 35 vs. 26.  Penalties against, one vs. three.  Time of possession, 16:09 vs. 13:51.

The Redskins certainly missed some opportunities on offense and defense in the first half, but the various units have consistently bailed each other out.  This is another team effort for the Redskins, and we’ll see if they can capitalize better in the second half.

Redskins and Cowboys all knotted up at the midway point, 9-9.

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Second Quarter Cogitations

Posted by Brian Tinsman on September 18, 2011 – 2:29 pm

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The Redskins offense runs on double-H batteries–a steady diet of Hightower and Helu.

So far in the first half, the Redskins have established the running game, with 19 attempts for 115 yards.  Roy Helu’s first reception came complete with a cut upfield, a hurdle, a stiff-arm and and burst for 33 yards.  With that catch, he became the game’s leading receiver for the Redskins.

Hightower has already rushed for more yards than last week, going 15 rushes for 83 yards, good for a 5.5 yards per carry average.  He has also broken off his first 20-yard run as a Redskin.  His much-maligned 2.9 yards per carry average from last week is in the rear-view mirror, and he’s showing that he’s more than a preseason sensation.

One particularly telling sign of the effectiveness of the Redskins offense through the first six quarters of football has been their ability to sustain long scoring drives.  This not only puts points on the board, but it also wears out the opposing defense and rests the Redskins defenders.  Late in the half, the Redskins had a six-play, 80-yard drive that took three minutes off the clock, and culminated with a Fred Davis touchdown in the back corner of the endzone.

The young guns are keying the Redskins success on both sides of the ball.  Hightower, Helu, and Davis have been consistent playmakers in the first half.  Kerrigan has continued to key on the ball, with one tackle, chasing the running back down from behind on the opposite side of the line, before finishing the half off with his first NFL sack.

The first half “Class Act Awards” go to Hightower and receiver Donte Stallworth.  Stallworth, who was inactive last week, broke up a fight that was about to start following Brandon Banks’s return.  After linebacker Paris Lenon was injured on a play, Hightower went over to where he was laying and offered his sympathy and encouragement.

That kind of stuff doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but it matters in the end.

Redskins on top, 10-7.

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Second Quarter Musings

Posted by Brian Tinsman on September 1, 2011 – 9:12 pm

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The Redskins started the second quarter with a bang.

In an effort to get on with his touchdown celebration, Brandon Banks very nearly overlooked the most important part of the play: the touchdown.  Other than that, every other facet of his 95-yard punt return was perfect, especially the blocking that set up the play.  Banks was able to scamper right through a crease in the middle of the coverage and juke two players on his way to pay-dirt.

He also managed to hold possession of the ball for exactly 95 yards.

I can only imagine what special teams coordinator Danny Smith said to his underestimated returner after the play (although I imagine it was unbloggable).

Washington newcomer, cornerback Josh Wilson had his ‘Welcome to the Redskins’ moment tonight after a preseason riddled with injury.  Climbing the ladder on an overthrown pass,he picked it off and was one or two blocks away from running it back for another quick score.

Does anyone remember Ryan Torain?  The All-Torain Vehicle was out of the shop for the first time this preseason, and had some good vision,especially on draw plays when the blocking opened up some holes for him.  It’s hard to gauge his runs against any of the other backs considering who was blocking for him, but he looked to be running hard.

The fourth preseason game isn’t all for the rookies, and some reserve veteran players improved their stock in the first half as well:

  • Rob Jackson: 2 tackles, sack, forced fumble, pass defensed.
  • Logan Paulsen: 1 reception, 22 yards.
  • Kedric Golston: tackle, sack, 2 QB hits.
  • Keyaron Fox: 6 tackles, pass defensed.

If not for a 42-yard field goal at the end of the half, the Redskins would have completely throttled the Bucs in the first half.  Redskins are up, 17-3.

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