Tally Ho Old Chaps! Put on a spot of tea, grab yourself a Magners (on ice, naturally) and buckle in-- With a trip across the Pond to take on the Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) in London for a good old fashioned football match, it was time to see if the Redskins (4-3) time in the post-season conversation can hold stronger than the mustache glue used for your "Sexy Ken Bone" costume from last night.
The contest at Wembley Stadium marked the Redskins European regular-season debut, and was only the second regular season game (calm down, we know: Osaka) that they have played outside the United States, with their last international tilt coming against the Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto exactly five years earlier to the day on Oct. 30, 2011.
Additionally, the matchup was the first game for Head Coach Jay Gruden against his former squad, where he spent the 2011-13 seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, helping guide the team to playoff appearances in all three seasons and serving as mentor to current quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Despite the sour taste left following the loss last week to Detroit, the Redskins made the trip to London winners of four of their last five, and are still in the hunt in the very competitive NFC East.
The game pitted two teams sitting in third place in their respective divisions, and seemingly suffering from from similar sets of struggles: division champions from a year ago with designs to return to the "top of the table", exceptionally talented skill players who have performed with frustratingly low levels of production, top fifteen quarterbacks who have the weight of high expectations upon them, and defensive units that have suffered key injuries over the course of the first half of the season.
Additionally, both teams have struggled to put up points once in the red zone, with the Redskins posting a 42.86% success rate inside the 20 (28th in the NFL) just barely ahead of the Bengals’ 42.86% conversion mark (29th in the league.)
Redskins were beneficiaries of a Bengals coin toss deferral to the second half, so Kirk Cousins and his NFL-best completion percentage (68.8%) since 2015 took the field first. Unlike many back here on the east coast, there didn’t seem to be any signs of sleepiness, perhaps because Captain Kirk is old school cool.
The Redskins offense was efficient, picking up five first downs including a highlight reel 17-yard grab on 2nd down near midfield by Jamison Crowder, who hauled in a screen pass out of the flat and picked up a long run after the catch. Rob Kelley tallied his first career rushing touchdown from 4 yards out, and capped off a sensational 15-play, 80 yard opening drive to give the Redskins an early 7-0 lead. The Redskins were a perfect 3/3 of 3rd down and 7:22 elapsed off the clock with Washington in possession, which will go down as their longest opening drive of this 2016 season.
The Bengals set up shop in Redskins territory aided by a 65 yard return of Dustin Hopkins’ kickoff, and it did not take long for the Bengals to build from there, marching 35 yards on 7 plays in just 3:47 to return the body blow with a Giovani Bernard 8-yard touchdown run to bring the game back to even at 7-7 with under 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter. After the defensive let-down that led to the loss in Detroit a week ago, this first drive was eerily reminiscent of what we saw in the waining moments of last week’s late-game effort in the loss a week ago.
The Redskins second drive moved backwards after a delay of game (IT’S NOT THE METRIC SYSTEM KIRK!) but nice runs by Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson, and a 3rd down grab by DeSean Jackson kept the offense in action. Washington stretched the field, as Cousins connected with Pierre Garcon for 23 yards down inside the Bengals 30 yard line, aided by a big Ryan Grant block, as the clock expired on the first quarter with the score still tied.
The 2nd quarter began with the Redskins coming up short on 3rd-and-1 inside 20 yard-line, but Gruden rolled the dice on 4th down sending his offense out on the field, forcing the Bengals to take a timeout to avoid taking a penalty for 12 men on the field. Out of the timeout Rob Kelley was stopped short of the marker for a turnover on downs, prompting my entire Twitter feed to become overrun by the same "The thing about Washington is, they always try and walk it in!" joke.
The Bengals took over on their own 18-yard line, but were unable to move the football and promptly went three and out. Crowder returned Huber’s kick out to the Bengals 35-yard line inside of 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Cousins struck quickly hitting Vernon Davis, who was lined up as a perimeter receiver, in stride for a 44 yard pitch and catch into Bengals territory.
Cousins throws an absolute DIME to Vernon Davis on the wheel route.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) October 30, 2016
Play is challenged, but that doesn't change the throw being great. pic.twitter.com/3cqkFWhjMi
The Bengals unsuccessfully challenged the call, and then Davis followed up his catch with another one for 15 yards down the seam. On 3rd and 6 Cousins threaded the needle into double coverage to Jordan Reed to make it 9 straight completions for the Redskins signal caller. After throwing out of the back of the end zone, Chris Thompson was stopped short of the goal line in the flat, and Dustin Hopkins knocked home the gimmie 20-yarder to make it 10-7 with 8:16 remaining in the first half.
Cincinnati took over off a touchback and moved the ball with their first measure of consistency in the game. Giovani Bernard picked up 27 yards on a flare pass out to the flat, but a forced fumble by Norman as well as the catch and run were negated by a defensive holding penalty on Breeland which gave the Bengals first down from the Redskins’ 47 yard line.
Mason Foster and Chris Baker split a double team to sack Dalton back near midfield on 2nd down, setting up a 3rd-and-long.
Tyler Eifert’s catch brought them 6 yards shy of a first down after a pick up of 12 on 3rd-and-18. Mike Nugent came on for a 51-yard attempt from the right hash and he shanked it wide left to preserve the 3-point advantage for the Redskins who took over with 3:25 remaining in quarter number two.
The Redskins took over, and on 3rd and long Cousins targeted Jackson on a deep post route to stretch the field, but the pass was picked off by George Iloka on the 14-yard line, for what amounted to a pretty good substitution for a punt.
With under two minutes remaining in the half, the Bengals offense was unable to advance beyond their own 32, but were gifted a dropped interception by Josh Norman before punting it back to Washington with 81 seconds remaining in the half.
The Redskins advanced into Bengals territory, aided by a Dre Kirkpatrick horse-collar tackle out of bounds (YOU CAN’T DO THAT!) on Pierre Garcon near midfield. And after coming up just inches shy of a first down, Dustin Hopkins was called upon to attempt a career-long 55-yard attempt, that came up just short of the crossbar as the clock expired, keeping the score 10-7 in favor of the Redskins going into halftime.
Washington dominated time of possession (19:29 to 10:31) but missed opportunities once again plagued the Redskins through the first half. The Redskins also out-gained the bengals 226 to 82 total yards, highlighted by 105 yards on 8 catches from the tight end duo of Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed, who returned to the field after having missed the last two contests with concussion issues.
Defensively, the Redskins held the Bengals to just 39 yards on the ground, and limited AJ Green to just one catch for 10 yards, largely to the credit of the aggressive cornerback play of Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland.
The Bengals began half number two on offense and promptly picked up consecutive downs on their first two plays from scrimmage, and didn’t stop there. Cincinnati strung together a drive that looked much like the Redskins’ first of the game marching 75 yards on 11 plays over 4:18, and capping it off with a Tyler Eifert 15-yard grab from Andy Dalton for the score, the tight end’s first of the year.
Mike Nugent’s missed the extra point and the score remained 13-10, as the Bengals claimed first lead of the contest.
Cousins took the field for the Redskins first drive of the second half, seeking to respond. Geno Atkins had other ideas, registering the first Bengals sack of the contest for a loss of 12. A short Crowder gain was not enough to pick up the first down, and the offense went 3-and-out.
After taking over at the 36-yard line with a 3 point lead, Andy Dalton looked to continue the momentum swing in the Bengals direction. After testing Josh Norman long with AJ Green, another would-be interception turned pass break-up, Norman took himself out of the game for a few plays, which resulted in back to back targets and catches by Green while matched up on reserve defensive backs.
Dalton then took matters into his own hands, selling a hard run fake and slipping to the open field on the bootleg for the score bringing it to 20-10 in favor of Cincinnati with 5:15 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Cousins looked to light a spark and connected with DeSean Jackson for 38 yards, who was then escorted to the sideline by the training staff with an injury off a high hit from Jordan Campbell.
Aided by a dead-ball penalty on the Bengals, the Redskins set up 2nd and 8 from the 23 yard line, Cousins took a 6-step drop found Jordan Reed at the sticks out in the flat, Reed though turned his shoulders up the field and jaunted the next 13 yards right through the center of the field into the endzone. The 5-play, 91-yard drive tied the Redskins’ longest of the season, and Hopkins’ PAT cut the deficit to 3 points, 20-17.
The Bengals took over to start the 4th quarter and moved the ball deep into Redskins territory. With Norman and Breeland out of the game, Dalton went after Quinton Dunbar who filled in on the outside receiver assignment. But on 2nd and 10 from the 20, the Redskins defense stepped up as Will Compton was gifted a dead-duck ball right to his zone on a rushed throw by Dalton who was looking for Eifert, the first turnover of the day for the Bengals which ended their streak of 165 straight plays without an interception, a span that had extended over their previous five games.
The Washington offense got to work quickly seeking a serious momentum swing in their direction. Vernon Davis hauled in a 26-yard catch off a play action, and four plays later Cousins found Crowder for another 10 over the middle, down to the Bengals’ 35-yard line.
Then on 2nd and 8 from the Cincinnati 33 yard line, Cousins capped off the drive and found a wide open Jamison Crowder at the 5 yard line who lunged in for the 100th touchdown in International Series games in London. After surrendering scores on the first two drives of the half to the Bengals, the Redskins returned the favor and regained a 24-20 lead with 9:39 remaining in the 4th quarter.
The Bengals were determined to respond, and did so quickly: Tyler Eifert went down the middle for 22 yards, and then AJ Green followed up with a 40-yard catch of his own with Norman draped overtop of his back to take it to the Redskins’ 7-yard line just four plays into the drive.
Three plays later, Jeremy Hill finished things off with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone and following Nugent’s extra point, the Bengals regained a 3-point advantage, 27-24 with 6:54 left in regulation time
After setting up shop from the 35, a run and two quick incomplete passes gave Tress Way his first opportunity to take the field in the contest. Adam Jones lost control the football on the return, but Marquis Flowers pounced on top of it as the Redskins were unable to capitalize on another near opportunity to regain the momentum.
The Bengals took 2:12 off the clock over 6 plays on their next drive, before being forced to punt back to Washington who took over trailing by 3 with 3:15 remaining at the 33 yard-line following a 23-yard return from Jamison Crowder.
On 1st and 10 from their own 44, Cousins found Ryan Grant for the first time of the afternoon on a big 17-yard gain to move into Bengals territory as the clock hit the two minute warning. Then on 3rd and 13 from the 42, needing 7 yards to get into Hopkins’ field goal range, the Bengals defense went jailbreak blitz, however they were unable to get to the quarterback before he delivered a 20-yard ball out to Jamison Crowder to pick up the first down at the 22 yard line.
With the catch, Crowder topped the 100-yard plateau on the day (morning? night?) The Bengals continued to apply pressure on Cousins, who threw three straight incomplete, before Hopkins came on and converted a 40-yard field goal to tie up the ball game at 27 with 1:07 left in the 4th quarter.
After only rushing 4 linemen in a similar situation last week, the Redskins mixed up their rush combos, but still allowed the Bengals to march the ball towards midfield, but a nice recovery by Duke Ihenacho to knock down a pass intended to AJ Green followed up by Su’a Cravens’ first career sack on 3rd down allowed the Redskins to avert danger and send the game to the first overtime in London NFL history.
The Redskins won the overtime toss and opted to receive (historically, not as much of a given as one would assume.) Garcon picked up 16 on the first play of the extra period off a hard play-action fake to jump start the drive. Despite another first down through the air to Chris Thompson, the Bengals defense held and forced the Redskins to punt from their own 45-yard line.
It was then the Bengals turn to win the game with just a field goal as they took over from their own 17 yard line. After a shovel pass to Bernard up the middle, Duke Ihenacho suffered what appeared to be a head or neck injury while attempting to make the tackle though at the Bengals 30 he was able to walk off under his own power.
Hill picked up another first down on two consecutive carries, and then the Redskins defense was given a gift on first down with a holding call. However, the Redskins were unable to capitalize on the 3rd and 9, as Dalton used his legs to march 14 yards down to the Redskins’ 42-yard line.
On 3rd and 8 from the 39, Dalton was swallowed up by the Redskins front seven, all the way back at the midfield stripe on the five-man blitz, pushing the Bengals out of field goal range where they were forced to punt.
A fifteen-yard fair catch interference penalty on the ensuing punt gave the Redskins favorable field position, and the Redskins quickly moved into Bengals territory in three plays. Then on 3rd and 1 from the 37, Vontaze Burfict committed a defensive holding penalty to give Washington a fresh set of downs at the 32. After a holding penalty backed the Redskins out of the red zone, "Fat" Rob Kelley ran off the left side for 16 yards.
Marvin Lewis’ used his final timeout to freeze the Dustin Hopkins who made his first kick after the play was blown dead. The tactic proved to be successful as the 34-yard attempt went wide to the left and the game continued.
The Bengals took over after the two-minute warning, and on 3rd and 1 from the 46, Dalton tried a sneak up the middle but Chris Baker forced the ball free and Anthony Lanier scooped it up to give the Redskins one more opportunity to win the ballgame with under a minute remaining.
Offensive pass interference on Pierre Garcon backed the Redskins up out of field goal range. Washington let the clock wind down to just two seconds remaining in overtime on 4th and 11 from the Bengals 49 yard line, but Cousins’ pass sailed out of bounds, and the game concluded in a tie, 27-27.
The tie was the first in franchise history since 1997 and with the draw, the Redskins hit the halfway mark of a season above .500 for the first time since 2008 (6-2).
The Redskins tied a team record by reaching 400 yards of offense for a third consecutive game, having previously accomplished that feat five times in franchise history (1949, 1981-82, 1983, 2013 and 2015).
Individually, the Redskins put up some gaudy numbers on offense with the full five quarters of play. Kick Cousins was 38/56 for 458 yards through the air with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. By crossing the 300-yard plateau, he is now tied with Sonny Jurgensen with 16 career 300-yard games, the most in team history.
Jamison Crowder led all receivers with 107 yards on 9 catches and a score. The tight ends were once again instrumental in the offensive passing game, with Jordan Reed recording 99 yards on 9 carries and a touchdown in his return from injury, joined by Vernon Davis who posted 5 catches for 93 yards passing Jeremy Shockey (6,143) for 12th-most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history with the effort.
Pierre Garcon was reliable catching the football, hauling in 6 grabs for 67 yards, while DeSean Jackson, who had his day shortened due to an injury, had 48 yards on 3 catches.
In his first career start in place of the injured Matt Jones, Robert Kelley performed admirably, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 21 rushes for 87 yards and a score. Chris Thompson played a change-of-pace role on 7 carries for 14 yards, though he also tallied 5 catches for 27 yards out of the backfield.
Defensively, Will Compton led the way with 10 tackles, a pass deflection and a tackle for loss, while Donte Whitner chipped in 9 tackles as well. Josh Norman's 6 tackles were supplemented by his 3 pass deflections, as he drew the tough assignment of AJ Green for the majority of the day.
In spite of Cousins' interception (which functionally amounted to a long punt) Washington won the turnover battle 2-1.
A few key players left the game with injuries including DeSean Jackson, Duke Ihenacho, and Bashaud Breeland, and they will likely be evaluated in the upcoming week.
Penalties proved to be an issue, as the Redskins were flagged 15 times for 106 yards, while the Bengals were called 7 times for 85 yards as well.
Ultimately, perhaps the key takeaway from this game, as it has been for each of the Redskins losses is the missed opportunities. On several occasions there were defensive backs who had opportunities to intercept Andy Dalton passes, but instead allowed them to fall incomplete, and of course the two missed field goals, including the one in overtime that would have won the game played a material role in the final outcome of the game.
Given the opportunities to win the game, the tie is a bit of a tough pill to swallow, particularly with the Redskins are still looking up at their competition within the division, the tie functionally places them a half game back in the overall standings.
The Redskins now head to their bye week and will have plenty of time to rest up and prepare for the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings in two weeks back at FedEx Field.