Friday, September 25, 2009

1-1: Redskins 9, Rams 7 - Second Half Review

At long last, here are the second half highlights. I went over the first half back on Wednesady. Again, many plays are omitted - only plays that are interesting or significant (including all red zone plays) are included.

Read 2-10-S35 as 2nd down and 10 at the St. Louis 35 yard line.

Wrap up thoughts follow.

Rams First Possession

2-10-S37 – Redskins rush three with Griffin dropping into zone coverage. Donnie Avery runs a shallow cross with Orakpo somehow responsible for him. Orakpo is unsurprisingly two steps behind. But Haynesworth, who is hung up at the line on a double team, makes an impressive leap and nearly deflects it (he may have even gotten a small piece) and Griffin is waiting right when the pass arrives and drops what would be an easy interception for anyone but a defensive tackle. Bulger never saw him, so we can chalk this up to good play design and give Blache a point.

Rams go three and out and Lorenzo Alexander comes very, very close to blocking the punt.

Redskins First Possession

1-10-W21 – Sellers (who motions from his FB spot to TE) and Samuels clear a path downfield to let Portis gains 7. Shades of early 2008.

2-10-W47 – Will Montgomery gave up leverage to the defender and was soundly beaten, allowing Campbell to take a hit and forcing a throw high over Cooley’s head and out of bounds. We got a close-up as Jason was getting up off the turf and he was pissed. Heyer tried to help him up but Jason brushed him off and was clearly cussing loudly, which wouldn’t be remarkable unless our QB wasn’t usually so mild-mannered.

1-10-S35 – Portis run up the middle for 4 yards, but I think he was lucky to get that much. Stephon Heyer got carried all the way from his RT position nearly to the left-side numbers, and clogged up the lane Portis was supposed to run through (based on the fact that Heyer ran into a lead-blocking Sellers). Fortunately Portis was able to cut to the backside and took advantage of a hesitating LB to gain a few.

1-G-S7 – Portis runs to left end for no gain. Just no push at all by the line.

2-G-S7 – Portis inside for 2 yards. He was supposed to run behind Montgomery, but Montgomery lost his battle and allowed Portis to get hit in the backfield. But this is Portis, so he fought his way for a 2 yard gain anyway. This is the play where the booing started.

3-G-S5 – The notorious Portis pass. Cooley was the one and only read on this play and he was well covered. This play could only really work by making the DBs bite on the run (it was run out of a power formation). But at 3rd and goal at the 5 obviously Cooley was going to be a pass target. Of course it would have been called back anyway because Montgomery was called for holding on the play… it wasn’t the smoothest transition.

Rams Second Possession

2-6-S29 – This ended up being a Rams first down but I liked the defensive play. Orakpo was lined up at RDE and stunted inside, which forced the interior linemen to pick him up so that Albert Haynesworth was one-on-one against mediocre LT Alex Barron, who was promptly overwhelmed. It was to Bulger’s credit that he managed to get out a 13 yard pass for the first down, but Haynesworth pummeled him.

[Fourth Quarter]

2-4-W9 – Jackson tries to run up the gut from an I formation, but the Redskins win the physical battle at the line, led by Griffin. Griffin played a monster game.

3-4-W9 – The play that may have saved the game, and was mostly a lucky one. Bulger had a little pressure coming at him but was able to get the ball out cleanly. He hit Avery at the first down marker and the ball was knocked loose on Horton’s tackle and the Redskins recovered. For all the jarring hits Horton makes, this one was pretty routine and this break was mostly the result of Avery failing to secure the ball.

Redskins Second Possession

1-10-W7 – Rabach is pushed straight into the backfield, leading to a 1 yard loss by Portis. Centers are routinely the weakest blockers on most lines, but Rabach is getting man-handled way too regularly.

2-11-W6 – At this point the Redskins were so dangerously close to losing the game. Samuels showed his age here as he was thoroughly beat by a DE, and on the other side Heyer and Cooley together couldn’t stop Chris Long. Campbell gets a point for having the presence to lunge forward out of the endzone to avoid a safety by about 8 inches. According to the TV announcers this was the first sack of the season by the Rams.

Fortunately Hunter gets away a 52 yard punt from the back of the end zone.

Rams Third Possession

4-2-W41- Rams line up in punt formation, then the punter shifts out wide and the personal punt protector slides over into position to take the snap. But it was all just a ploy to draw the Redskins offside and gain a first down, and the Redskins seemed to sense this immediately and nobody was fooled.

Redskins Third Possession

3-1-W29 – Critical play. Rabach is once again shoved into the backfield and almost ends the drive. But Portis has just enough speed to beat that penetration and follows Sellers into the hole for a first down. At the end of the season I will probably post an offseason shopping list based on positional needs. Remind me to include center.

2-10-W35 – A screen to Betts with Rabach and Montgomery as the blockers out front. In 2008, even the second half of the year, the Redskins set up screens better than anyone in the league (in my opinion). Here was a little taste of that – the 25 yard gain to sustain a long 4th quarter drive just may have saved the game.

1-10-S40 – Redskins attempt an inside run, but as Campbell is turning to hand off to Portis he runs into Sellers, who I think was in the wrong place. Portis has the presence to fall on the resulting fumble. If the Rams had recovered this fumble late in the fourth quarter, 25 yards from field goal range, and only 2 points down, things could have turned out much worse than the Redskins supposedly not winning by enough to be satisfying.

4-1-S20 – The first of the 4th down calls. I’m conflicted on this. On the one hand, the defense is playing well and if we open the lead to 12-7 the Rams would need a touchdown to win. But a first down could allow us to maintain possession and either score ourselves or kill the clock. It’s an aggressive call, and I respect it even though I probably would have kicked. This is one of the plays that earned Zorn the admiration of Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats – over the weekend I intend to discuss his recent articles on 4th down decisions. After this play the announcers said Zorn went for it 16 times last season.

1-10-S11 – Betts picks up 4 on a power run to the left.

2-6-S7 – Betts around left end for 3. He was barely able to make the corner because Cooley was once again manhandled while trying to run block.

3-3-S4 – Portis up the middle for 2. The defenders converged on Portis pretty quickly – play action may have worked here.

{Two Minute Warning]

4-1-S2 – Portis stuffed trying to run off left tackle. On Sunday I was screaming at Zorn to kick, but now I’m conflicted. Other than one long drive the defense had dominated the Rams all day. So from the 2 yard line with 2 minutes left and no timeouts, what were the odds of them driving into field goal range? Of course a TD would have iced it, but if we got the first down and didn’t score the game would be over anyway as we could just kneel to kill the clock. It was a ballsy call, and with hindsight it looks like a good one, although it’s certainly debatable.

Rams Fourth Possession

The defense earns its money:

1-10-S4 – Orakpo rushes Bulger in the end zone, Rams TE McMichael drops the pass with Tryon closing in on him.

2-10-S4 – Bulger hits Avery at the 10, Carlos Rogers brings the lumber and pops the ball loose.

3-10-S4 – Orakpo gets pressure off the edge – again – and Haynesworth leaps up to deflect the pass in the end zone. Orakpo lays out Bulger for good measure.

4-10-S4 – Redskins generate some pressure, mostly from Kedric Golston, but Bulger is able to launch it deep to Avery. But Horton has him perfectly covered and defenses the pass – probably should have picked it, in fact, not that it would have mattered since after this the Redskins just went to Victory formation for three plays. If you were at the stadium and booing at this point, don't come back.
Final thoughts:
Will Montgomery struggled significantly. No surprise that Reinhart gets the start against Detroit.
Other than one long drive, the defense was dominant. There was only one sack, but Bulger was harassed all day.
The offense actually looked very good outside the red zone. As I mentioned in the first half review, the problems inside the 20 do not seem to be about play calling, with the exception fo the Portis half back pass.
Next season we need a new center.
The Redskins have one ridiculous tackle (Haynesworth) and two very good ones (Griffin and Goslton). Nobody knows who Kedric Golston is, but I can't understand why. The guy can play.
Malcolm Kelly appears to be an adequate, though as yet unspectacular, second receiver. I expext him to improve.
We know what Cooley can do as a receiver. If he could block even minimally he would be incredible.


  1. well done. I've been disappointed in Rabach for years. Thought it would be a good year to move Jansen to center. Supposedly he can play it, probably better than Rabach anyway. Let Rabach come in when he gets injured (inevitable). You're right about Haynesworth. He and Jenkins may be the best. So far, pretty disappointing that Ds can (sorta) double Moss, completely take him out of the game, and the Skins can't take advantage of the match-ups. And Betts has to go.

  2. I guess I understand those who booed. It looked, at the time, like incompetence. Incompetent playcalling, poor execution, and the buck stops at the head coach on all of the above.

    What you're really showing, however, is how much a relatively weak o-line means you have no margin for error, especially in the red zone. An o-line that blows people off the line cures a lot of ills in terms of individual assignments and playcalling.

    I understand those who booed at the time, they were directing it at the HC and owners. You make a compelling argument that those booing were wrong in retrospect. But I still understand why they did it, b/c it sure looked pretty lame in real time...

    Here's hoping the execution is stronger and the luck is better this week vs. Detroit. In this town, that would shut everyone up... for at least a day or two.

  3. This was an excellent review of the the St. Louis game. This must be very time consuming, so I really appreciate the effort. Our O-line does need to step up. I really think Zorn has an opportunity to become a very good HC, but not only does he have to be accountable for this, he must find a way to improve our team. I hope the younger fellas step up along the O-line otherwise we may be in for a long season.
    Go Skins!

  4. Very informative, thanks so much! Can't wait for the rest of the season if you can keep it up...