The Washington Redskins ended their six-game losing streak Sunday with a 23-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks and improved to 4-7 on the season thanks to fourth-quarter heroics on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Washington overcame two Rex Grossman interceptions to score 16 fourth-quarter points, while the defense recorded two sacks and a pick to deny the Seahawks.
Here are five observations from Washington’s fourth win of the season.
1.) All-out blitz works this time. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett took heat earlier this season when he dialed up an all-out blitz – sending eight rushers and leaving three defensive backs in man coverage – and Dallas burned Washington for the play that led to the game-winning field goal. This week, Haslett used the same strategy late in Sunday’s game, but this time it paid off. Safety LaRon Landry recorded a fourth-quarter sack on Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson one of those blitzes. The next time – on fourth-and-5 from the Seattle 23 -- Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Stephen Bowen all got to Jackson at the same time and dropped him for a loss of nine yards.
“I love Haz, he is a gutsy guy. He doesn’t care about anything that happened in the past, and regardless of the outcome of what happened in the past, he’s confident in his plays,” Orakpo said. “It was a spark. Everybody heard third down and saw all-out blitz and everybody was thinking of the Cowboys. But whatever was called, we had to rise to the occasion and go with what was called.”
2.) Creativity with Orakpo and Kerrigan. Kerrigan, the rookie outside linebacker, continues to develop into a dangerous pass-rusher. A testament to his growth was Haslett’s decision to flip-flop Kerrigan and fellow outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who normally rushes only from the right side. On most plays, Kerrigan came from the left and Orakpo from the right, but sometimes they switched sides. Another time, Haslett sent both outside linebackers from the right side to overload the Seahawks.
How does this benefit the Redskins? More than anything, it gives them more flexibility and less predictability. An offensive tackle will get a feel for one linebacker after going against him play after play. When Washington throws the switch at a lineman, it can throw him off balance and keep him from getting comfortable.
3.) Big plays return. To say the Redskins have come up short in the big-play department this season would be putting it mildly. But Sunday against the Seahawks, Rex Grossman had plenty of opportunities to go long, and Washington boasted 11 plays of 15 yards or more. Kyle Shanahan’s schemes regularly resulted in open receivers. Grossman took advantage.
A big reason for Washington’s success was the way the Redskins manufactured an effective rushing attack for only the second time this season. Short on balance for much of the year, Shanahan called 29 rushing plays and 35 pass plays. The result: one of the best outings of the season. Also, the sloppy Seahawks blew coverages repeatedly and presented a feeble pass rush. But the Redskins certainly will take it.
4.) Answer at RB. Coach Mike Shanahan has said previously that he didn’t want to overwhelm rookie running back Roy Helu with too heavy a workload. But the coach turned the Nebraska product loose against a Seattle defense that entered the game ranked in the top 10 against the run. With his play, Helu made a strong statement that he has what it takes to be the featured back that Shanahan needs.
Helu did a bit of everything in his 23-carry, 108-yard performance, including adding seven catches for 54 yards. The Redskins obviously want to win as many of the final five games of the season as possible. But just as important – perhaps more important – is evaluating which players have futures with the team. Helu appears well on his way to staking his claim.
Interesting side note: no carries or snaps for Ryan Torain, who has struggled mightily this season. Rookie Evan Royster got into the game for a couple of plays and carried the ball once for three yards.
5.) Special teams woes. The Redskins simply have to get better on field goal and extra point attempts. On Sunday, they had both a field goal and a PAT blocked by Seattle’s Red Bryant, who crashed the line and swatted the ball twice. Those were the fourth field goal and first point-after kick blocked this year.
Mike Shanahan blamed the breakdowns on Washington special teams coach Danny Smith having to shuffle linemen because of tackle Trent Williams’ knee injury. But regardless of who gets the nod at that position, the players have to do a better of job.