- Happy Victory Monday, y’all! Before we reference the ugliness of the Redskins road game against the Eagles, let’s all keep in mind just how hard it is to win in the NFL, and just how important that win was. We celebrate victories for a reason: they don’t grow on trees and few fanbases know better than ours just how it feels to lose the kind of game that the Redskins stole on the road this week. I say stole because the Eagles looked like the better team for pretty much the entire game, but when the final whistle sounded, it was the team having the better season that prevailed.
- The 2016 Washington Redskins have lived on both sides of the border that separates winning ugly and losing uglier. Hell, they have lived directly on the border if you think about that tie in England. I can recall many seasons when I think about the “ones that got away.” Games that the Redskins “could have won, but didn’t” are plentifully scattered across the entire Dan Snyder era. Close your eyes for a second and think about the closing minutes of yesterday’s game. How certain were you that the Eagles were going to score and win? I would say we are all lying to ourselves if we don’t admit to some level of certainty there. I mean, come on...teams don’t even need to suit up a punter against us most days because almost the entire field is four-down territory. The mere idea that we would trot out a prevent package at the end of a game seems absurd, as our base package seems to function that way on most days. If a team needs to march down the field at the end of the game, they seem to find the going pretty easy. If there is an argument to be made in terms of whether or not Chris Thompson should have taken a knee at the 1-yard line instead of scoring the go-ahead touchdown with two minutes left in the game, it is centered around our defense’s propensity to give up yardage like candy on Halloween. That said, I am not a proponent of taking that knee. When your kicker leads the league in missed field goals, has already missed a high-percentage game-winner (in England), and accounts for the difference in multiple outings already this season (in losses), you take the touchdown.
- I should preface these next thoughts with an admission that I was sitting there watching the game yesterday with that familiar nauseous feeling—that same feeling I have felt on countless occasions watching a fourth quarter where the Redskins do just enough to lose. I felt pretty confident in Philadelphia’s chances to march down the field and get some solid end zone looks for the win, while simultaneously hoping that our defense could make a game-saving play. To be honest, it is the exact feeling I have long associated with my Redskins fandom in recent memory. What makes it different under this regime (led by Scot “McLovin” McCloughan), is that our defense HAS made a couple of those plays this season. In fact, watching these plays get made by our defense has really begun to thaw out my years-old desensitization to these scenarios where we are trying to close out games. As I said, I was thinking the Eagles had a good chance to pull off the victory, but instead of believing that we would blow it, my gut was fully aware that
- For all the bad things you can say about and attribute to the Redskins defense, two road games inside the NFC East ended with OUR defense making a game-saving play: Su’a Cravens intercepting Eli Manning to secure our win over the Giants and Ryan Kerrigan with the strip-sack fumble that sealed the victory over the Eagles yesterday. The truth is that our defense is just not good enough to inspire large playoff aspirations. Getting to and advancing in the playoffs will be driven by the strength of our offense. This is good news though, as the Redskins offense is actually good enough to take over games. Chris Cooley noted yesterday morning that the Redskins average the most yards per drive than all other teams. This means we are among the most successful at performing the ol’ Hank Stram endeavor of metriculating the ball down the field. Far be it for me to start blasting sunshine into everyone’s dark places, but when you take an offense like ours and pair it with a defense that has proven it is capable of making “that one play,” you all of a sudden have a fighting chance in a one-game playoff scenario. (True...the opposite exists too. When you take an offense like ours, that has failed to get out of the blocks until the 3rd quarter, and a defense that gives it away like Ewoldt at the prom, that one-game playoff scenario is potentially disastrous.)
- For my money, I continue to argue that the Redskins are a good team. The best piece of evidence I could take from this weekend to add to my case is that a bad team would have lost that game to Philadelphia. The Redskins overcame a sluggish start, stupid penalties and a catastrophic turnover (all things bad teams do I guess) to win a divisional battle on the road, in a place that has been historically hard for us to get wins. I am fine suggesting that the Redskins are still not good enough, but there is a huge difference between the team we have watched lose that game yesterday and the one that found a way to bring home the win. To the greater point above, just not being bad is good enough some days, including playoff days. This era of NFL parity pits teams that “aren’t bad” in the first round of the playoffs every season. If you don’t think the Redskins could win a playoff game—handily—you just aren’t paying attention. (If you think the Redskins are a lock to win a playoff game...you just aren’t paying attention.)
- Only because it continues to come up, unprompted and unsolicited (by others...not just me in this space), I will once again suggest there is NO WAY Kirk Cousins goes anywhere. He will be a Redskin for the foreseeable future. To all those out there who think the money we would spend on Kirk should be put entirely to work on the defensive side of the ball, the idea that you could win as many or more games with a few extra defensive starters and Colt McCoy or a high draft pick at quarterback is preposterous. The Gruden/Cousins offense is officially a proven commodity. We know that the rest of the league thinks so too, which is why a number of teams are lining up to interview Sean McVay as a possible head coaching candidate. There is ALWAYS room in the salary cap for a franchise quarterback. On a point I have been hammering home the last few weeks, Kirk Cousins is 55 pass attempts away from becoming the ALL-TIME LEADER in quarterback accuracy (you need a minimum of 1500 passing attempts to qualify for the list). He is sitting on a career number of 66%, which would put him at the top of the heap. Drew Brees’ career number edged up to 66% over the last couple of weeks, making him the current reigning champion of accuracy. It would be unfair to both Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins to compare the two, but suffice to say that Brees would be great company to be in. Regardless of the pass-happy era we find ourselves in (irregardless even), there is a premium on being accurate. Since this is not a post about banging the Kirk Cousins contract drum, I will spare you his records (they were flashed on the screen during the game yesterday), but I will finish with the notion that Kirk Cousins is firmly in the category of “players you don’t allow to leave.” To the extent this argument still exists amongst us, I would like to suggest we all work really hard to move on. The Kirk Era is here to stay.
Are the Redskins good enough to make the playoffs, or just barely good enough to slip past bad teams on the road?