Monday, December 7, 2009

Some Redskins-Saints recommended reading

The 2nd quarter review went up earlier tonight. When you're done with that, here's some reading material for you to aid in digesting yesterday's experience.

I think Tom Boswell tends to be hit or miss when he strays from his home turf of baseball, but his column on the Redskins this morning did a good job of expressing the sheer bewilderment that must be felt after this loss:

At some point, the Redskins had to play one game
that absolutely epitomized everything both right and wrong with them. And, of
course, that meant they had to lose in a brutal and bizarre manner, yet not know
quite how it happened, what it meant, how to feel about it or what to do next.

For now, however, the Redskins' self-inflicted curse is in full
and spectacular force, producing breathtaking blunders:

-- If, in order to lose, the Redskins need to intercept a pass yet somehow let the other team
score a touchdown on the same play, they can do it. For years, we'll see replays
of Robert Meachem stealing the ball from interceptor Kareem Moore and returning
it untouched for a 44-yard touchdown with 22 seconds left in the half.

-- If the Redskins have to miss a 23-yard field goal for a 33-23 lead to
virtually ice the game with 1 minute 52 seconds to play, then they can miss it
wide to the right, true Masters of Disaster style. The kick was not blocked,
mind you. It wasn't a fumbled snap. The Redskins can top that: They missed the
equivalent of a high school extra point on a dry day on their own field to blow
perhaps the biggest NFL upset of the year.

Given the exotic nature of the game, it was featured rather prominently in this week's Audibles column from Football Outsiders (scroll down to get to our game). It's worth reading in its entirety, but here's some extended excerpts:

Tim Gerheim: The Redskins' defensive linemen are playing volleyball with Brees' "I'm a six-foot
quarterback" passes. They've knocked two or three back down through about the
middle of the second quarter. It looks like it's part of the game plan. Albert
Haynesworth and the rest of the tackles aren't pushing upfield that hard. Once
they read "pass" they seem to be trying to keep their hands free and their eyes
up on Brees. I think the offense has started figuring that out -- mostly the
fact that the rush isn't coming that hard up the middle unless it's a blitz.

Vince Verhei: From what I've seen (admittedly not much), Saints have been playing a lot of soft zone coverages and Campbell has had plenty of time to find the open man. He hasn't been beating blitzes or making great throws into coverage. And a lot of these receivers are wide-open, too. Not to knock Washington, because they are playing well, but this feels more like a New Orleans loss than a Washington win, at least on that side of the ball.

Tim Gerheim: The Redskins are running really
well-designed plays, mixing up where they're throwing and how the receivers are
getting open. Devin Thomas's first touchdown was a second-and-goal from around
the 9 right after an incompletion, in a tight formation, and Thomas motioned
left across the formation and set up right behind the left side tight end. In
other words, everything screamed run. Mike McKenzie ran with him in man
coverage. Thomas crossed back behind the line to the right out into the flat,
McKenzie couldn't get across fast enough, and there was nobody close enough to
stop him once he made the easy catch.

I think their route combinations
have been more creative than New England's last week, they've had more receivers
who can do damage (Thomas, who's had a great game, Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle
El, and Fred Davis). Even though both Moss and Welker are probably better than
anything Washington has, the greater variety of targets is putting more pressure
on the depleted secondary. I think the Redskins are also benefiting from the
sloppy field conditions after the above-freezing snowstorm yesterday. Then, the
week of tape on McKenzie and Chris McAlister may have helped. It's always hard
to defend against a quarterback in his first game in forever, even if he's not
that good; the same may apply to corners.

Aaron Schatz: OK, folks watching Skins-Saints. Do you think the Sellers
down-by-contact play was properly overturned by the officials on the replay?

Bill Barnwell: No. Absolutely not indisputable whatsoever.

Doug Farrar: No way. Of course, the NFL can hide behind the "infinite levels of indisputable" defense, but that was a bang-bang call either way.

In Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King discusses Skins-Saints under the heading of "Crazy game of the day. Or the year."

Meachem, a second-year man, hears defensive coordinator Gregg Williams every day in practice preaching "Strip, strip, strip.'' As Meachem said, "It's burned in my head. So I managed to get through the two blockers and I went for the ball.'' It's crazy how easy it was. Meachem grabbed it, and ran it 44 yards for the tying touchdown. Then, given life by my Goat of the Week [Suisham, obviously], the Saints got the tying touchdown, a 53-yard bomb from Brees to Meachem, to send this one into overtime. There's no way it should have gotten to OT, of course. "Maybe it's our turn,'' Brees said after the game. No maybes about it, particularly after the overtime replay.

The replay of the day -- and the timeout of the day: On the third play of overtime, Jason Campbell completed a ball to fullback Mike Sellers in the flat. Sellers was upended by Chris McAlister, and either just before he was down or a millisecond after his elbow hit the ground, the ball came loose. The officials called the runner down by contact, and the Redskins went to run another play. At the last second, with Campbell calling signals at the line, it appeared replay official Larry Nemmers wasn't going to call for a booth review of the play, and so New Orleans coach Sean Payton called a timeout.

During a timeout, it's perfectly within the rules for the replay official to determine if the play should be reviewed. And Nemmers called for a review. Now, overnight, I watched this replay seven times. I believe it does not meet the most important criterion for being overturned -- namely, that it requires indisputable visual evidence to change the call on the field. The one angle where you can see Sellers upside down, with his elbow either touching the ground or very close to touching the ground, the ball has just been dislodged. It's very, very close. Referee Carl Cheffers called for a reversal. I wouldn't have. But you watch the play a few times and let me know what you think.

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