The Redskins played there most entertaining game of the season this past Sunday as they fell in overtime 27-24 to their rival Cowboys. Some of the typical issues that have plagued the Redskins this season were still in evidence, but they were able to alleviate many of thoseissues. Roy Helu was the teams leading rusher with 35 yards on eight attempts which is unacceptable in a game as tightly contested as this. The Redskins did have success passing the ball and it is almost wrong to complain about sticking with what worked, but a more balanced attack could have reaped the rewards of better time of possession and less opportunity to turn the ball over.
Turning the ball over remains the Redskins biggest issue. The Cowboys were able to work with a short field and draw first blood on a Dez Bryant touchdown after Fred Davis fumbled the ball reaching for a first down. The Redskins have enough issues with the quarterback getting the ball to the receivers that they do not need the receivers to then turn the ball over or drop a pass. Fred Davis has been one of if not the only consistent performer on the offense this season and is on a very short list of Redskins that should be considered part of the future.
It is a statement more often reserved for sports like baseball or hockey and it leads to a depressing silver lining when spoken in reference to Sunday’s game, but wins and loses don’t matter for the Redskins at this point. It is about finding out who can perform in the future. If the Redskins do decide to trade Cooley for whatever round draft pick they can get then perhaps Logan Paulson can step in as the Redskins second tight end. The importance of a two tight end set is growing in the NFL. The fact the Bennet and Witten were both favorite targets of Tony Romo on Sunday speaks to that.
Witten is a play maker and that couldn’t have been more evident late in the game when Tony Romo connected on a 59 yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten on what looked to be a broken play. When Witten’s original route was well covered by a tight zone he broke in the opposite direction and singled to Romo that he was doing so as Romo worked to avoid pressure. Romo looked down field and saw Witten had broken behind the defense and hit him in stride for what at the time was a go-ahead touchdown for the Cowboys.
On the first play of the Redskins drive Rex Grossman threw a pick. The Redskins defense held tough and gave the offense one more shot, and in surprising fashion the Redskins were not done as Grossman led the offense down field on a 14 play scoring drive capped off by a fade route to recently re-signed Donte Stallworth. Throughout his career Grossman has been known as an inconsistent quarterback. The bad he does is really bad, but his guts and lack of fear of covered receivers can pay off. The lob pass he threw to Stallworth was perfectly placed so that only Stallworth could catch it. It was a taste of what Grossman can do in one of his rare good moments.
After the Stallworth touchdown Dallas took a knee and decided to finish the game in overtime. The Redskins got the ball first and drove down the field close to field goal range. Graham Gano has a strong leg and is now the record holder for the longest field goal by a Redskin, but he is also extremely inaccurate. The field goal Gano had to make to win the game for the Redskins was 52 yards. For his career Gano has attempted seven such kicks and made three of them. Gano would be kicking from the right hash mark and wouldn’t have the luxury of a straight on kick. His kick was long enough and it was straight, but because he was kicking from the right hash mark it was wide-right.
Once Dallas had the ball they quickly got into field goal range and their kicker did not miss. The game was over and the Redskins had lost their sixth in a row. The season turned on a dime. Going into the bye-week the Redskins were 3-1 and came off the bye to face a struggling Eagles team. The Redskins lost that game due to Grossman’s four interceptions. Grossman was benched for John Beck. It was thought John Becks mobility and his willingness to check-down would limit the turnovers, but he was over eager to check-down and unable to limit turnovers. Grossman is now back at the helm and the Redskins season is at the point where it is more important to get a look at young players than to win games, and as some fans are more than eager to point out winning games at this point could be detrimental to the future of the Redskins.
One young player to watch for is linebacker Perry Riley. He had five tackles against Dallas and plays the game like he deserves to wear 56. It is easy to tell when a team believes in a player by the number they give them. Certain numbers are reserved for star players and because of Lawrence Taylor 56 is synonymous with strong linebacker play. In his two games as a starter Riley has played with a ferociousness and nose for the ball that could make the Redskins line-backing core one of the best out their if he can keep it up and continue to play at the level of Fletcher, Orakpo, and Kerrigan.
The future is not now for the Redskins. All the boast from the players about how this was a different team and a different year turned out to be nothing but more false hope from a organization that has stocked false hope in mass quantity since the early 90′s. It still feels different though. Shanahan won’t call it a re-build, but there are suddenly young players on the Redskins that could help them win in the future.