After four lead changes in the second half alone, Carson Palmer hit J.J. Nelson with a 42-yard pass with less than two minutes remaining, to take a 31-23 lead and put the game away for good. In the process, the Redskins lost their grip on the second wild card spot as they fell to 6-5-1; and coupled with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers win, put the Redskins on the outside looking in, as they drive for the playoffs over their last four games. You can check an American site that offers updated NFL lines for this week’s pertinent playoff match-ups.
Palmer threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns on the day, but second year running back David Johnson was the difference maker.
He not only scored twice, but led all running backs in carries and yards (18 for 84), while simultaneously leading all receivers in both receptions and yards (9 for 91). He scored one on the ground, and one in the air for good measure. The Redskins didn’t appear to have an answer for him all day.
“I think he’s the best player in the NFL,” Palmer said after the game.
The struggling Redskins defense helped him look like the best player in the NFL anyway.
Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry is getting a lion’s share of the blame, and he deserves some of the responsibility, but the players themselves just haven’t executed well over the last couple of weeks. The Cardinals converted 10 of 16 third downs, and nine of those attempts were over 6 yards. Seven were converted!
On offense, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins had a decent day, going 21 of 37 for 271 yards. He also had a one-yard sneak for a touchdown, after hitting DeSean Jackson on a 59-yard strike to put them on the goal line. Unfortunately for Cousins, perhaps his most mentionable play of the game, may have been when he was stripped of the ball by Calais Campbell late in the third quarter, and Markus Golden returned the fumble 20 yards to the Redskins ten-yard line.
Three plays later, Palmer hit Michael Floyd for a six-yard score and the Cards were back on top 17-13.
It is impossible to put the loss on the fumble though, as Cousins did a great job bouncing back, and immediately took the lead back at 20-17 with a 26 yard pass to Jamison Crowder.
Nevertheless, the fumble seemed to give the Cards momentum where there was none. And the Redskins defense did not respond. Arizona immediately responded to the Redskins touchdown, with a touchdown of their own on a 25-yard pass from Palmer to Johnson. They had their lead back at 24-20, and although there was still over eleven minutes to go in the quarter, they would never again relinquish that lead.
The Redskins would add a Dustin Hopkins 53-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to get close at 24-23, but it stayed that way until Nelson’s touchdown with 1:56 to go, officially.
Head coach Jay Gruden was not pleased after the game, and was reported to have been yelling in the dressing room following the loss. With just four games to go in the schedule, it’s easy to understand Gruden’s frustration getting the better of him. The Redskins let a must-win game – that they could have easily won – slip away; and in the process, their wild card playoff berth, slipped away with it. Washington will face two tough division match-ups in those last four games, including the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) this week, and the surging New York Giants (8-4) in the final game of the season.
Even if they win all four games and finish at 10-5-1, they will still have to rely on the Buccaneers losing one of their four remaining games.