WASHINGTON, November 10, 2013 — While falling to 3-6 on Thursday night to the Minnesota Vikings, a team to which Washington had no business losing, the Redskins did their very best to show why they will not be competitive for the rest of the season. It is difficult to see how things could get any worse for Washington, who now needs to go 5-2 the rest of the way just to end up back at .500. In a must-win game against a team that had only one win all season, the Redskins could not finish what they started.
Washington led by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter, but things only went downhill from there. The offensive line which had not allowed a sack since October 24 against Denver, allowed four sacks against Minnesota including three in the third quarter. Washington’s maligned secondary showed why they are one of the worst units in the league after making Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel look like competent quarterbacks.
Washington was also done no favors by their coaching staff which could not seem to make a single good decision in the second half. After abandoning Alfred Morris and the run for most of the second half, Washington had three points to show for it. Once Mike Shanahan saw to it that the Redskins were out of timeouts by their last drive, the younger Shanahan made sure to compound the problem by going back to the run once Washington had no way to stop the clock.
Despite all this, Washington managed to drive down the field into the red zone. With three chances on Minnesota’s four yard line, Kyle Shanahan did his best impression of Ken Whisenhunt and called three pass plays, none of which were successful.
The problem with this team, which is also the reason they will not repeat their amazing 7-0 run from last year, is that every unit has been inconsistent. Washington had the best rushing offense last year, but the defense was the main reason that they stumbled out of the gate. Eventually the Redskins’ defense stepped up and was able to be mostly average for the second half while their offense was able to win them games.
This year is an entirely different story. The defense is just as bad this season as it was last season, only this time they have company. RGIII and the offense have not lived up to expectations, and while some of that may be attributable to Griffin’s recovery from last year, one cannot look past the turnovers and inconsistencies that this unit has had all year. In just nine weeks, Griffin has almost twice as many picks as he had all of last season. Washington’s takeaway/giveaway differential is zero this season, which does not sound so bad on the surface. Last year, however, Washington was +17 in that category, which was good for third in the NFL. Simply put, Washington is not winning the battle of turnovers like they were last year.
Despite the risk of possible side effects including intense nausea or thoughts of depression, Washington’s special teams unit must also be mentioned. While they have had some bright spots for both offense and defense, Washington’s special teams have been lost in the dark all year. Only Niles Paul has averaged more than 20 yards per kick return for Washington, while no player has averaged more than nine yards per punt return. If that is not embarrassing enough, Kai Forbath is kicking field goals at a rate of 63.6%, a full 21% worse than kickers on opposing teams.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the special teams unit is the punt/kick coverage or lack of coverage. They have already allowed three return touchdowns against them this season along with a cluster of other long returns. The special teams unit cost Washington a chance at beating Dallas and almost cost them a win against Chicago if not for a clutch game-winning drive by Washington’s offense late in the fourth quarter.
Even the most optimistic Washington fan will have to admit that this season is lost. If the team wishes to finish above .500 this season, they must end the year 6-1 or 7-0, a daunting and almost impossible task considering that they play Kansas City (9-0) and San Francisco (6-2) before the season ends. Washington would also need to avenge the losses against both Dallas and Philadelphia. It is now up to Washington to prove everyone wrong, and after losing to one of the worst teams in the NFC, that looks almost impossible.
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