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The 5 O’Clock Club: Looking at mistakes - penalties and turnovers, Week 6

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


There were six accepted penalties against the Redskins on Sunday in their game against Miami.

  • There were no pre-snap penalties and no offensive penalties.
  • There were two flags on special teams punt returns.
  • Every other flag was thrown on linebackers or DBs.

Of the four defensive penalties, there were two defensive holding calls (Norman and Moreau) for 6 yards, but, of course, each comes with an automatic first down.

  • The Moreau penalty came on a 3rd down play, extending a drive which resulted in a Dolphins field goal.
  • The Norman penalty came on 1st & goal from the Washington 3. Although the Dolphins scored a TD 2 plays later, the penalty itself only cost two yards of field position.

The other two penalties were quite memorable for anyone who watched the game, as both were fairly close judgement calls based on protecting defenseless players and quarterbacks.

  • The first was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against Jon Bostic for his hit on Miami receiver Williams on the 2nd play of the game. The Dolphins ran three more plays, then punted, so the penalty didn’t end up costing the Redskins on the scoreboard.
  • The second was a roughing the passer penalty on Ryan Anderson on a 1st & 10 play at the Miami 46 on the play immediately following the Moreau penalty on the Miami second quarter drive that ended with a field goal. I didn’t think it was a good penalty by the refs, and it wiped out an outstanding sack by Anderson, but we see flags on plays like this every week across the NFL.

Overall, I find it hard to get too upset about the flags against Bostic and Anderson. Neither one was a “dirty” hit or flagrantly after the play was clearly dead. They were both hard defensive hits that the NFL tends to flag in 2019.

Bill Callahan suggested in his Monday press conference that the penalties had been reduced.

I hope we don’t have a number of fouls. I hope we can end up with no penalties and all that. But our numbers were considerably down compared to where they’ve been, especially going on the road.

That’s not exactly true.

This was the Redskins’ 3rd game of the season with six accepted penalties, including last week’s game against the Patriots, and the game against Dallas had fewer penalty yards.

However, the Redskins’ two worst games of the season, from a penalty standpoint, did come on the road against the Eagles and Giants, with 12 flags in each game.

The huge improvement came from the fact that the team didn’t have a single offensive penalty.

As of Monday morning, 14 teams had more than 6 flags against them in Week 6, while 9 teams had 5 flags or fewer. The Redskins were basically, a little better than average for the week.

  • Miami was one of the teams that had fewer penalties — they had just 5 accepted penalties for 45 yards.
  • When it comes to penalty yardage, 12 teams had more penalty yards against them this week than did the Redskins; 13 teams had fewer.
  • This is the third time this season that the Redskins have had 6 accepted penalties. The other three games saw the team with 9 (Dallas) or 12 (both Philly & NYG).
  • Overall, the Redskins are the 3rd most penalized team in the league behind Cleveland and Atlanta.
  • Miami is the second least penalized team, behind the Colts, but both Miami & Indy have had their bye week already. The Carolina Panthers have the fewest penalties among teams that have played 6 games.


The Redskins offense did not give up a single turnover against Miami, while the defense took the ball away twice, with two interceptions.

The first takeaway came in the second quarter by Quinton Dunbar, who picked off Josh Rosen at the Redskins 31 yard line. While the Redskins went 3 & out on the resulting offensive drive, Dunbar took away a potential scoring opportunity from the Dolphins.

Callahan was effusive in his praise of Dunbar in yesterday’s press conference:

“He was tremendous in so many areas — a guy that can come up and make two plays behind the line of scrimmage for loss.

He was relentless versus their screens – he came up, he supported, he filled the alley, really impressive – and the play he made on the slant on the pick, really great anticipation, awareness, instinct, intuitiveness.

He showed all those traits, but by and large he made plays not only in the backend against the passing game, but in the running game, in the screen game, the things that he prevented, the big play opportunities that he shut down early before they got going – that was really impressive. Very impressive play by ‘Q’ yesterday.”

In the third quarter, Shaun Dion Hamilton made a beautiful play on a 3rd & 16 play from the Miami 19, picking the ball off at the 34 yard line. This set up a short field for the ‘Skins offense, who settled for three points after an ugly series of plays that began with a 1st & goal from the 3 yard line.

The Redskins are 20th in the league, with a -2 turnover differential, having lost 3 fumbles and 8 interceptions.

The turnovers have come in bunches:

@Eagles 0 INT, 0 FL
Cowboys 0 INT, 0 FL
Bears 3 INT (Keenum), 2 FL (Keenum)
@Giants 4 INT (Keenum 1, Haskins 3), 0 FL
Patriots 1 INT (McCoy), 1 FL (Quinn)
@Dolphins 0 INT, 0 FL

  • The Redskins lost 9 of their 11 offensive turnovers in two games against the Bears and Giants. Case Keenum turned the ball over 6 times in just over 5 quarters of play, but has three games (Eagles, Cowboys, Dolphins) in which he didn’t give the ball to the opposing defense at all.
  • The Redskins’ 7 interceptions tie them for 4th best in the league (the Patriots have an incredible 14 INTs in the first 6 weeks).
  • Quinton Dunbar leads the team with 3 interceptions, while Montae Nicholson has 2. SDH and Josh Norman have one each.

Trying to play mistake-free football

Bill Callahan talked a little bit about the importance of eliminating mistakes when he talked to reporters on Monday.

I think [the Redskins players] understood that it was important to stay penalty-free in terms of what we wanted them to do and that is to run the ball and to utilize the run action, which we did effectively and keep us out of the long distances.

I think we were only third-and-long one time, third-and-double-digits one time, which is a huge, huge improvement for us to stay out of those downs and distances because the penalties had backed us up so many times and put us in bad spots.

So the goal going in was to manage the game in a different manner where we could stay more manageable. I think we had somewhere in the area of six to seven third down plays where we were under five yards or less. When you’re functioning within those parameters, it gives you a pretty good opportunity to convert

Washington has shown the ability to take care of the football generally. The Chicago Bears, who are tied for 4th in the league with +6 turnover differential absolutely killed Case Keenum. Dwayne Haskins, looking lost against the Giants, gave up 3 interceptions. Aside from those 8 quarters of football, however, the team hasn’t really been loose with the giveaways.

Reducing the number of offensive penalties to zero (as the team did this week) helps a lot, since the team doesn’t have to earn those yards twice to move the ball down the field.

Defensive takeaways are a real bonus as they not only eliminate the opposition’s scoring opportunity, but help the Redskins win the field position battle by giving the offense occasional short fields. Even when the offense doesn’t score, the defensive takeaway allows Tress Way to push the opposing offense back towards their own goal line, forcing them to earn the yards to a potential score twice.

Reducing the self-inflicted wounds of penalties (especially offensive and pre-snap penalties) will help the Redskins be competitive against better teams than the Dolphins. Winning the turnover battle is a huge factor in winning NFL football games. If the Redskins can do both in the remaining 10 games of the season, they improve their chances of adding to the win total.


How do you expect the Redskins to perform with regard to penalties (with a focus on drive killing offensive or drive extending defensive flags) in the remaining 10 games under Bill Callahan?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Much improved - probably among the 10 teams with the fewest penalties
    (26 votes)
  • 18%
    Badly - probably among the 10 teams with the most penalties
    (35 votes)
  • 68%
    About average - probably among the ‘‘middle 12" teams
    (130 votes)
191 votes total Vote Now


The Redskins are currently -2 on turnover differential. Where do you think they finish the season?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    -7 or worse
    (25 votes)
  • 40%
    -1 to -6
    (75 votes)
  • 40%
    0 to +4
    (74 votes)
  • 4%
    +5 or better
    (9 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now