Five observations from the Redskins’ loss to the Broncos

October 28, 2013

(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Redskins dropped to 2-5 on Sunday after losing what wound up being a very winnable game against the Denver Broncos.

So, it’s another Monday of what ifs. What if the offense had played like last week? What if the defense had gotten one more turnover? What if they ran the ball more?

But, as Josh Wilson often says, “If if was a fifth, we’d all be drunk.”

We’ll hear from Mike Shanahan at 3 p.m., and at that time he’ll give a final assessment of what went wrong before turning attention to San Diego, which comes to town this Sunday.

But until then, here are five observations from the game.

1. Offense didn’t show up — On a day where they needed strong execution in all three phases of the game, the Redskins got a strong defensive effort through three quarters and the special teams units held up their end of the deal, for the most part. But Washington’s offense didn’t show up when it mattered. Third downs remained an issue. Scoring drives were nonexistent. The Redskins had the one 16-play scoring drive for a touchdown. But Pierre Garcon said that really didn’t even count because the team had to settle for a field goal before Denver bailed them out with a penalty that led to a first down. There was a three-play scoring drive resulted in a touchdown off of Peyton Manning’s fumble. But otherwise, the offense hung the rest of the team out to dry, and that’s something you cannot do when your defense gives you four turnovers.

2. Abandonment of the run — Part of the perplexing issue over Sunday’s  offensive performance was how quickly the Redskins shifted into a pass-heavy attack in the second half despite the fact that Denver hadn’t demonstrated an ability to stop the run. Even after the Broncos scored to pull within a touchdown, the Redskins could have maintained control of the game with a long drive that featured a heavy dose of Alfred Morris. Kyle Shanahan gave Morris the ball on two plays of the first possession following Denver’s touchdown. But Santana Moss had a drop on third and seven, and the punt team took over. From there, Washington went into pass mode. On the Redskins’ first possession of the fourth quarter, three straight incomplete passes led to a three-and-out. And for the rest of the game, realizing there was no threat of the run, Denver’s defense started teeing off on Robert Griffin III, and Washington was sunk. Mike Shanahan said part of the decision came from increased eight-man fronts, which are harder to run against. The coach also said it’s easy to second-guess everything when things don’t work out. And that’s true. Had Griffin and his receivers connected on one of those three pass attempts on that early fourth-quarter possession, that leads to a first down and possibly more runs, which the team could have definitely have used.

3. Patchwork secondary — For all the worries about how Washington’s secondary would do without both starting safeties, the unit didn’t do that poorly. E.J. Biggers, Bacarri Rambo, Jose Gumbs and Jordan Pugh combined to provide a decent effort. It wasn’t perfect. They surrendered too many plays in the middle of the field. But Rambo did better in the tackling department and Pugh recorded an interception. Elsewhere in the secondary, DeAngelo Hall again had a strong game, and Josh Wilson and David Amerson had bright spots as well. The main area of struggles for the defensive backs came on the screen passes where Denver’s receivers helped create openings for each other with picks. Those plays are extremely hard to defend. The Redskins didn’t give up any deep passes, but it was instead a number of underneath passes that did them in late. Still, give Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris credit for coming up with a game plan that kept Manning & Co. in check much of the game despite the fact that the front seven didn’t generate a whole lot of pressure. The group  and defense as a whole  just seemed to run out of gas late.

4. Misfiring connection — For whatever reason, things are not clicking between Griffin and his receivers  not consistently, anyway. There were far too many drops, overthrows, underthrows and missed opportunities. Griffin didn’t have an explanation for the struggles and his receivers didn’t, either. They said considering how much they practice, there is no excuse for the issues. But even in pregame warmups, we saw Griffin and his receivers a step, a move or a throw off. And it carried over into the game.  This wasn’t the first time. The impressive accuracy that Griffin displayed as a rookie thus far has been missing much of this season. Many of the misses have come on third downs or with receivers in position to make big gains. Some of it has been on Griffin. He doesn’t appear to be working his way through his progressions quickly, and a number of times, he went to his first read even though it was heavily covered. Meanwhile, open targets existed elsewhere on the field and those players were left standing with their hands in the air in frustration. This happened several times, but on one play in particular, Griffin went to Jordan Reed in the middle of the field while both Garcon and Josh Morgan ran uncovered in scoring position. In addition to scanning the field more quickly, Griffin needs to do a better job of leading his receivers, or, in some cases, throwing his receivers open with ball placement. There are other times when receivers can do a better job of helping Griffin. These are instances where maybe a pass isn’t quite pinpoint accurate, but still catchable. You may recall seeing some one-handed attempts to snag balls. Instead, the pass-catchers need to make a hard stop, turn and make an effort to get both hands on the ball and purpose that no ball coming their way is hitting the ground. The solution: “Be better,” Griffin said, and his receivers said the same. But how? Is it extra work after practice? Better focus? They have to figure it out.

5. Improbable quest? — Now at 2-5, the Redskins’ margin for error the rest of the way shrinks even more. It was highly unlikely that they would defeat Denver, but they certainly had their chances. And an upset would have not only given the team a much-needed win, but a big boost in confidence as well. But anyway … Now what? Up next is a three-game stretch that features San Diego, Minnesota and Philadelphia. Is a three-game win streak possible? San Diego is playing better now, but Minnesota and Philly both have their own problems and fading hopes. Washington needs to find a way to summon last year’s magic and string together some wins. Three straight would put the Redskins at 5-5 by late November with six games (two versus the Giants, one versus Dallas) remaining. Matchups with San Francisco and Kansas City will prove challenging, but both take place at FedEx Field, which could help a little. Ridiculously, amazingly, fortunately  however you want to spin it  all hope is not lost. But it’s go time for the Redskins, who basically need a 7-2 home stretch run to have a chance to reach the playoffs this year.

The Takeaway video:

The Post's Jason Reid says after last night's loss to the Broncos, the Redskins need a win against the Chargers on Sunday if they want to do well this season. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Shanahan speaks with reporters at 3 p.m.

More from The Post:

D.C. Sports Bog: Critics blast the play-calling | Best and worst | More

Denver’s 38-point second-half onslaught powers a 45-21 win

Wise: Getting away from the running game was costly

The Takeaway: Bad outweighs the good | Gallery: Photos from Denver

Griffin gets a scare, but says knee is fine | Defense superb, then it goes awry

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · October 28, 2013

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