- It’s days like this when I look ahead into the future...and see Case Keenum giving his Hall of Fame acceptance speech (because, you know...that’s the kind of launching pad the Redskins provide to so many mediocre-at-best signal-callers). A week after Russell Wilson did his thing against the Redskins defense in a loss, the Vikings ride their quarterback’s monster day to a win. Like many of you, I am still amazed at the dizzying pace of the Vikings offense against a Redskins defense that has recently been looking capable of hanging with such runaway scoring teams. The 32-game streak of getting at least one sack ended yesterday...against Case Keenum (the surefire future Hall of Famer). The lack of pressure on the purple quarterback must have made him feel extremely comfortable and confident, so at a minimum, the Redskins were topnotch hosts. (Maybe not my most positive Sixpack, but definitely one that goes hand-in-hand with a 4-5 record.)
- Staying with the frustration for a moment, there was a Kai Forbath sighting yesterday—at least that’s what I’m told. I was looking hard to see the kicker who was jettisoned by the Redskins for not having a strong enough leg (mostly related to kickoffs, but certainly that extended to his scoring range). Instead, I saw a guy who had only missed one of his last 22 attempts. Then I watched that same guy drill a 53-yard field goal, which moved the Vikings two scores in front of Washington with less than eight minutes to play. Suffice to say, if he and Case Keenum retire simultaneously, the HOF Selection Committee is going to have a lot to discuss (especially is Adam Thielen is also eligible.)
- I heard that plenty of fans had a huge problem with Stefon Diggs putting in serious work on Josh Norman. Stefon’s touchdown was not on Josh (I believe it was on Bashaud Breeland), but that one long play (on a beautifully thrown ball) definitely had Josh trailing. After the game, Norman was understandably angry, saying, “We played like trash in the secondary.” For my part, I find it rather foolish to point the finger at #24 today. For the first time this season (for me), I feel like Greg Manusky did not have the right plan. You might also say his personnel was lacking, as yet again the starting defense had both DeAngelo Hall and Will Compton. By the end of the game, it was Everett and Spaight, with injury contributing to that change (Hall with a knee and Compton with a foot I believe). I am not sure what the Redskins could have done differently, but the attempt at making Keenum uncomfortable in the pocket failed spectacularly. When you can’t pressure the quarterback, the secondary is on its way to getting exposed. This phenomenon is well-known to Redskins fans, despite the aforementioned sack streak. It must be so hard for Manusky to put together a plan for blitzing/pressuring the opposing quarterback after being torched by guys like Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson. Containment becomes a priority, and you have to think you can bottle up a journeyman quarterback like Case Keenum...and then by the end of the game, the dude is being fitted for a gold jacket.
- Before the game, I couldn’t believe we were getting our entire starting offensive line back—the rotation that the Redskins employed to help those guys finish the game was interesting to watch (yes, I was the guy in the stands reporting which linemen were in and out as they shuffled on and off the field). The thought/hope was that the Redskins could get a rushing attack going with these guys back in the fold. Once again, Kirk Cousins was the headliner in our rushing attack, netting two rushing touchdowns. To me, the height of my personal pain in this department was when—after Kai Forbath nailed his long-distance kick—the Redskins got completely snuffed out on third down as Chris Thompson ran into a wall at the line of scrimmage (he needed one yard). Kirk Cousins promptly handed it off to Thompson on fourth down, which ended with a loss on the play and a turnover on downs. The Vikings are the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense, which explains at least some of the ineffectiveness, and Jay Gruden is going to call running plays no matter what, which explains the opportunities Minnesota received to thwart the Redskins. Rob Kelley is banged up again, meaning that Samaje Perine has been summoned from the doghouse to log time for the Skins (would be nice to have Mack Brown). All in, 81 yards rushing on 27 carries is just not going to get it done. I hate using the word “uneven” when you bang up against a legitimately sound rushing defense, and especially because the rushing game has not been extremely reliable, but that might be the most complimentary term I can produce.
- Despite the proficiency that the Vikings demonstrated in the first half, as they buried the Redskins early with 28 points on the board, once again you can look back at this game and see moments where a slightly different bounce could have led to a drastically different outcome. We can argue both sides of this—either the Redskins are just good enough to lose against good teams, or they are just bad enough to cede victory to evenly matched opponents. I am reminded of something that I thought about this team most of the 2016 season: their record does a great job of defining them. Even though we can all agree that the Redskins are capable of being better than 4-5, the simple truth is that they are not. At 4-5, the Redskins are on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture is concerned. They seem to always be trying to close a gap between them and their opponent when the game hangs in the balance, and over the last four weeks, they have only managed it once. Injuries have been excruciatingly painful, and they deserve the pixels dedicated to arguing that point, but every team in the NFL gets punished by the injury bug at some point. Put simply, the Redskins are as average as it gets in the NFL. Take a gander at the league standings—our 4-5 record puts us pretty close to the middle of the league-wide pack.
- Time to turn things in a more positive-leaning direction. The Redskins are 11th in the NFC playoff standings. That means that there are four teams—the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys—that stand between the Redskins and the two wild card teams (currently the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers). The Redskins are ONE GAME behind all of these teams. Dallas is without both Ezekiel Elliott and now Tyron Smith. They also have to play Philadelphia twice. The Green Bay Packers are without Aaron Rodgers. I like Detroit as long as Matthew Stafford is healthy, especially because their schedule looks favorable. Atlanta, however, is about to hit a rather difficult stretch to close out their campaign (Seahawks on the road, Saints twice, Vikings and Panthers at home highlight the rest of the way for the Falcons). There are a lot of matchups between and amongst the playoff contenders over the next month, while the Redskins only have two games against teams fighting for a playoff spot right now: the Saints and Cowboys. Of course, worrying about all those other outcomes is pointless unless and until the Redskins start putting their own wins in the W column. If you like playing the “what if” game on a forward basis (looking back and playing that game is soul-crushing), you can see that the Redskins could enter a final stretch of the season needing to win four straight against the Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos and Giants. I’m not making any ridiculous proclamations here, but I’m pretty sure that is exactly how the Redskins have made the playoffs in recent years (end-of-year runs). That might be “our thing.” We would be helping ourselves out a ton if we can steal a win from an ACTUAL Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees next week. I guess what I’m trying to convince myself and all of you is this: the season is so far from over. Unlike some teams that scrape their way into the playoffs and get bounced in the first round, I feel confident that if the Redskins find their way there, nobody is going to want to play them. In the meantime, Washington is going to have to do to New Orleans what they did to Seattle, so that we can land on a meaningful home game on Thanksgiving against the Giants.
Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays
The Redskins are 4-5, but still in the thick of the NFC playoff race.