You will often hear people remark that no one, single play defines a game, but it would be tough to deny that if you string even two or three really bad plays together, the result will be reflected negatively in the score more often than not. Such was the case on Thursday night in the Washington Redskins’to the New York Giants.
Obviously football is a complicated sport, and mistakes are going to happen on every play. That isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about plays that are head-scratchers, or change the momentum of a game, or both as is often the case.
The first of these mistakes came early for Washington. Two minutes into the game, Giants starting running back Rashad Jennings showed why he was on the punt team, and blocked a Tress Way kick, that then bounced through the end zone. Safety. The special teams gaffe seemed even more slapstick given that the Redskins had to re-kick the punt following a penalty called against Jennings for running into the kicker. The Redskins were also penalized nullifying the play and forcing them to re-play the down, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jennings penetrated deep enough to run into Way the first time. You’d think that the near miss would shore things up defensively on the re-kick, but Terrance Plummer whiffed worse the second time than he did the first. Result? Blocked kick. 2-0 Giants. And the Redskins kicking the ball back to New York following the safety.
The Redskins defense stood strong though, and forced the Giants to kick. Damage had been averted, and Washington should have been able to just settle in and try to win the rest of the game.
The Redskins found themselves deep in their end, and after a 3-yard run by Alfred Morris, Kirk Cousins dropped back to throw a pass to Pierre Garcon. The pass was soft, and Prince Amukamara was waiting on it, jumped the route, and intercepted the pass deep in Redskins territory. Four plays later, Andre Williams ran it in from the one, and the Giants had a 9-0 lead before anyone had broken a sweat; moreover, it set a tone of ineptitude that seemed to keep the Redskins offense down for most of the game.
Was that ineptitude and sloppiness caused by the interception? Well no, not entirely. Obviously the entire offense looked out of synch. Run blocking was nowhere near what it has been in the first two games. Tired on a short week? Youthful inexperience? Whatever the reason, starting the game with a whimper just seemed to suck the life out of the offense for the first 45 minutes or more.
Cousins threw another interception in the second half, his sixth against the Giants in two meetings, and his eye-popping 29th in 17 NFL starts. It wasn’t totally on Kirk though, as the ball was tipped high into the air, but the ball was underthrown in the first place, and Cousins was trying to fit it into a tight spot. As a result, Uani Unga came away with the interception, and ultimately Eli Manning and Odell Beckham would hook up for a back-breaking touchdown on the ensuing drive.
That’s 16 points paid, for three mistakes.
The last mistake of note was Matt Jones’ fumble in the end zone. Or maybe “into” the end zone would be a better way to put it. While it would be easy to dismiss this one and say that the game was already out of reach, nobody will ever really know. The Redskins clawed hard down the stretch and had they managed to score the touchdown there with nine and a half minutes to go, they actually may have had enough time to do something more.
That’s two fumbles in the last two games for Jones, and while his upside has also been good, NFL running backs don’t keep jobs when they can’t keep a handle on the pigskin. I trust that Mr. Jones will be forced to carry a football all week and nurture it like it was a newborn babe. If at any point anyone steals his “baby ball” or knocks it out of his hands, he can hold Mr. Griffin’s hand on the sidelines next Sunday. Deal? No?
If he can’t put a considerable distance between his second fumble and his third fumble, then he may find himself waiting an inordinate amount of time to even have opportunity to fumble the ball a fourth time. Alfred Morris fumbled four times in his entire rookie season if you are looking for an applicable barometer.
Regardless, another costly mistake, that directly impacted the scoreboard.
Sure it is tough not to concede that it was actually an entire game filled of flat, uninspired play that hung a loss on Washington last night, but at the same time, take a look at how a few mistakes directly and drastically affected the outcome of the game.
After the game, Coach Jay Gruden offered, “You go on the road and you play a big division game, a game like this, and you turn the ball over three times and have a punt blocked, and it’s going to be very tough to overcome.”
An optimist would likely opine that the Redskins just have to cut down on, or eliminate those costly mistakes and they will win more football games. A pessimist will offer that if it’s consistently a lack of application, then perhaps there’ s a culture of losing that has to somehow be eradicated.
This is a young team. A team that is being re-built from the ground up. They are going to have growing pains. They are going to shoot their toes off occasionally. They ARE going to make mistakes.
Keep that in mind if you’re spewing vitriol.
But winning teams make less mistakes. Well coached teams beat other teams, not themselves. The Redskins have proved they have a ways to go in both regards, in two out of the three games they have played.
Keep that in mind if you’re drinking the kool-aid.