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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 3:27 pm

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Following a long touchdown pass to Roy Helu–the first receiving score of his career–the Redskins were right back in the game.  However, if they want to stay in it for the fourth quarter, they have to eliminate the big 15-yard penalties that are consistently pushing them backward.  So far, they have three of them on the afternoon.

The first was a penalty on Santana Moss for taking his helmet off after a play. He was understandably frustrated, but that’s a long-standing rule–on the field, helmets stay on.

The second penalty was on Donte’ Stallworth on the Roy Helu touchdown catch and run.  It’s unclear what exactly was going on, but Stallworth took a knee in the end zone and was flagged for excessive celebration, going to the ground in the end zone.

The third penalty was for a hit on a defenseless receiver, on the defense.

You can say what you want about the legitimacy of the rules, the interpretation of said rules, and whether or not the Redskins players violated those rules.  I certainly have my own thoughts on all three facets.  But no amount of angst or debate on the topic will change the fact that the Redskins put themselves in a position to be flagged for three flagrant fouls in a game that they’re losing.

This is a game for pride alone, and this isn’t the type of focused football that’s going to win this afternoon.

On a very positive note, running back Evan Royster is over 100 yards from scrimmage again this week, piling up 73 on the ground and 37 through the air.  It’s hard to project how Royster and Helu will pan out to a 16-game season, but the experience that they’ve gained in their respective rookie campaigns have laid the groundwork for an informed, focused offseason.

Although the Redskins haven’t found their top guy in the passing game today, Grossman has spread the ball around, finding nine different receivers, including Brandon Banks for the time this season.  Receiver Jabar Gaffney was a non-factor in the third quarter and still needs 53 yards to reach 1,000 on the season.

After three quarters in Philadelphia, it’s still in reach for the Burgundy and Gold: Redskins 7, Eagles 13.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 24, 2011 – 3:24 pm

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At the time of Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder’s respective exits from the game, the Vikings lost their team’s top passer and the team’s top two rushers.

The Vikings responded by finding the next two top rushers in quarterback Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart.  Webb was the beneficiary of Gerhart’s relaxed approach to the end zone, which ended in a fumble inside the 10-yard line.  I sang his praises after the first quarter, but Josh Wilson has exploded for the Redskins in recent weeks, and he was the one defender who was able to make a play on Gerhart, chasing him down from behind.

Knowing that Gerhart wasn’t aware of him and wasn’t protecting the ball, he went for the fumble and got it.  Teammates DeAngelo Hall and DeJon Gomes made a heads-up effort to recover the fumble, but it just barely went out of bounds.  Good awareness, good communication, and fantastic effort, refusing to give up on what would otherwise be a runaway touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Banks followed his blocks to the tune of 43 yards, very nearly breaking it to paydirt.  Credit his blockers for springing him, especially Niles Paul who has the speed to stay in front of Banks, and the ferocity to be a lead blocker.

Paul has been a little bit of everything for the Redskins in his first season, performing ably as a receiver, returner, running back, goal line tight end, and special teams beast.  He has the talent to one day blossom into a purely offensive player, but he has the selfless approach to the game that this team needs now.

Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell had a career rate of 600-for-608 on extra points and 74 percent on kicks of 40-49 yards, coming into today.  He’s missed one of each today, proving that history is not an indicator of future success.  He is a dome kicker now, but he kicked for most of his career in the frozen tundra of Green Bay, so he should be capable of anything.

However, his four missing points have kept this game at a three-point Vikings advantage.

With one quarter to go, running back Evan Royster is on the cusp of his first career 100-yard game in his first-career start.

Redskins need to answer back in the final frame: Washington 20, Minnesota 23.

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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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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 11, 2011 – 3:34 pm

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Through the first three quarters, Helu has 21 rushes for 105 yards.  By cracking the century mark, Helu is the new standard of consistency among rookie running backs, becoming the first in his 2011 draft class to rush for three consecutive 100-yard games.

He is also the first Redskins rookie running back in franchise history to pull off this feat.

Running for this many consecutive 100-yard games hasn’t been accomplished by a Redskins running back since Clinton Portis reeled off five-straight between Week 4-8 in 2008.

Are there really 104 rookies in the league that scouted out better than this young man?  If so, he could be one of the best-kept secrets of the 2011 NFL Draft.

In other news, welcome to Washington, receiver David Anderson.  Anderson was brought in as a slot receiver insurance policy when Santana Moss went down, but has quietly contributed in almost every game that he’s been active.  This week, he finally got to show off his touchdown strut, and elected not to do his patented No-Strings-Conan-O’Brien Dance.  Instead, he followed teammate Jabar Gaffney’s lead, and pulled off the “Landover Leap” into the crowd.

Anderson was wise enough to find some Redskins fans that were willing to catch him though.

This game is turning into one of the most unlikely shootouts of the year, with both offenses beating the respective defenses.  The Redskins need only a single point to match their season-high in points, dating back to Week 1 against the Giants.

New England on top with the ball and 15 minutes to play: Redskins 27, Patriots 34.

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Redskins-Patriots Halftime Report

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 11, 2011 – 2:40 pm

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It’s said that playmakers make plays, no matter where you put them.  It’s said that Brandon Banks is a playmaker.  But no one said that Banks could throw the ball.

The Redskins lined up with Roy Helu in the backfield, who took the handoff from Rex Grossman, and pitched it to Banks, who had snuck into the backfield.

The Patriots defense doesn’t view Banks as a viable pro passer, and they shouldn’t.  He’s a speed demon by trade, and this was clearly a play where the Redskins were looking to seal off the edge and rush the ball with Banks.  The linebacker was closing in, the safeties were charging in, and the cornerbacks were cheating off of their receivers.

That is until Banks slowed his roll-out, looked up field, and threw the football across his body to a wide-open Santana Moss, about 35 yards downfield.  Moss had to come back for the reception, but had his man beat, and danced his way to the end zone.

That gimmick play looks like a keeper.

The receiver-to-receiver pass was the first since Antwaan Randle El hit Chris Cooley for an 18-yard touchdown on Oct. 5, 2008 against Philly.  The 49-yard completion was the longest by a non-quarterback in Redskins history, and the longest of Brandon Banks’ life.

He never threw for a longer pass in college or high school–Pee Wee stats were unavailable.

The play was also Moss’s third touchdown this season, 55th for his career and 35th as a Redskins player, tying him with Ricky Sanders for seventh all-time.

The kickers tacked on the additional four and six points to bring the game to a 20-20 tie at the half.  This is six points more than the Redskins have put up all season in the first half.

Brand new ball game in Washington, with the Redskins and Patriots knotted at 20.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on December 4, 2011 – 3:34 pm

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If you’re a fan of defense, the third quarter was a joyous time for you.

If you like offense, well…sorry.

In the third quarter, the two teams combined for 50 total yards and two (2) first downs in the third quarter.  The fans got back in the game, rocking the stadium hard enough that it could be felt in the press box.

The Roy Helu fumble at the end of the third quarter was the first of his career, and came on his 128th professional touch.  There’s never a good time to turn the ball over, but thanks to a stellar defensive stand, the turnover didn’t cost the Redskins any points.  Helu responded by gashing the Jets for an eight-yard run on the very next play.

The biggest play of the entire game so far, came on a Kevin Barnes nickel blitz from the slot.  On the play, Barnes kept his head high for as long as possible, before lowering it to make the play.  He was flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact, which is a simple penalty: either it happened or it didn’t.  Regardless of whether Mark Sachez ducked or recoiled into the hit doesn’t matter, because replay showed that it was clearly, unfortunately a penalty.

It was a negative play for the Redskins, but it was a net positive, because it re-awakened the Redskins faithful at FedExField, and it fired up the defenders around him.  That drive ended with a fourth-and-23 punt.  That hit might set the tone for the rest of the game.  One more big play can win it.

This game is all knotted up at 13 entering the final quarter of play.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 27, 2011 – 6:35 pm

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After a first half full of offensive utility, it was a third quarter of offensive futility, with both sides failing to capitalize on opportunities.

They may not have been golden, but they were there.

First Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka missed a field goal in one of the worst end zones in football.  If you look at the goalpost ribbons in the south end zone, they barely move.  The ribbons in the north end zone will gust in any and all directions in any given minute of time.  The flags atop the “Hawks Nest” end zone seating have officially shifted from blowing steadily northwest, to blowing northeast.  This likely explains the Hauschka kick, which was pushed wide right with the wind.

The ensuing prime field position was squandered immediately by a downfield interception at the 20-yard line, which essentially amounted to a Redskins punt.  This was followed by a Seattle punt and a Washington punt, before the Seahawks were finally able to piece something together in the form of a field goal.

The Redskins’ personnel decision to keep two fullbacks and three tight ends on the active roster is continuing to pay dividends, as fullback Darrel Young went back into the locker room to have a possible head injury examined.  His return is questionable.  In his place, the Redskins have turned to old reliable Mike Sellers, as well as tight end Logan Paulsen, who has been involved in a lot of two tight end sets this afternoon.

The Redskins need a spark going into the fourth quarter.  Can we have another honorary coin flip?  Redskins trail by three: Washington 7, Seattle 10.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 20, 2011 – 4:22 pm

What if the Redskins threw a sack party and everyone was invited?

In the last thirty minutes of football, the Redskins have managed to fell Tony Romo four times, by a quartet of defenders.  Rookie Chris Neild and Ryan Kerrigan began the trend in the first half, with veterans Stephen Bowen and London Fletcher followed suit.  Like the first two, Bowen’s was a coverage sack, chasing Romo down after a long game of cat and mouse in the Cowboys backfield.

Fletcher made quick work of Romo’s protection, and followed his sack up with the best sack dance of the day.  That’s the veteran presence at work.

On the day, there are six different Redskins that have rushed the football, with only five receivers of passes.  The Redskins trail in time of possession.  They are losing the turnover battle at minus-one.

But they lead in the one category that matters, and that’s on the score board.  It may be unorthodox, but it’s working so far.

Washington ahead going into the final frame: Redskins 17, Cowboys 10.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 4:18 pm

When it comes to former Florida football players, just add sun and watcht them bloom.

Redskins kicker and former Florida State Seminole, Graham Gano, has provided the Redskins with each of the team’s nine points.  If not for the deceptive gusts in the stadium’s home plate endzone, the Redskins would actually be ahead midway through the third quarter, 12-10.

Then again, they might still be behind, 12-13.

Receiver Leonard Hankerson has already matched and exceeded his previous career numbers, with six receptions 75 yards through three quarters of play.  If he can keep up the pace, he’ll be the second Redskins rookie in as many weeks to eclipse 100 yards.

Speaking of amazing rookie performances, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has become twins with Brian Orakpo on defense.  Here are the numbers:

Orakpo: 5.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, 6 tackles for a loss.

Kerrigan: 5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 8 tackles for a loss

This is exactly what the Redskins were looking for when they traded down the board and snagged the Boilermaker at No. 16 overall.

Through 45 minutes, this game sports a startling lack of momentum, with neither team seemingly able to execute consistently on offense.  Everything is half a step away from being a big play, but both defenses seem capable of doing just enough to keep both offenses at bay.  This is the type of game that will turn on a sustained drive or big play.

It’s a one-point game with 15 to go: Dolphins 10, Redskins 9.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 6, 2011 – 4:22 pm

The headline for this post might be a little misleading, as there isn’t much to think about after the third quarter.

At this point, it’s a battle against the clock, as much as it is against the 49ers.  The Redskins need a spark on offense, and they need to stop Frank Gore on defense.

The Redskins defense did a good job at keeping the 49ers at bay, and have done so for the entire game.  The only touchdown that they have allowed came on an offensive turnover near the red zone.  Other than that, they’ve held the 49ers to three field goals of 34, 45, and 52 yards.  Unfortunately, kicker David Akers has delivered.

No matter how many times the Redskins offense appears to be on the verge of building some momentum, a key drop, penalty, or turnover seems to derail them.  It’s difficult to say what the problem is, but the 49ers defense is stifling the Redskins offense in the second half, and it’s come from all directions.  There is a sense of frustration that’s visible on the field, and the Redskins need big plays to shake the funk.

The Redskins need a turnover on defense or huge play on offense to get back, in this in the final frame.  This game isn’t over yet, but it’s a race against time for the Burgundy and Gold.

San Francisco adds three to go up 16-3 with the final quarter to play.

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