The Washington Redskins found themselves with a prime opportunity to close out the season on a strong note and give their faithful fans a Christmas Eve treat, but instead, they fell short once again, falling 33-26 to the Minnesota Vikings, who had only two wins and had lost six straight prior to Saturday.
Everybody talks about “Good Rex, bad Rex,” but all season long, we’ve seen “Good Redskins, bad Redskins,” and Saturday was no different.
I know this is supposed to be a great day full of Christmas spirit, but the Redskins didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, and so here we go diving into five observations from another lowly loss:
1.) Momentum lost: The Redskins entered yesterday’s game aiming to build on their strong showing against the Giants, but instead they failed yet again to string together victories. The team hasn’t won consecutive games since Week 2. Good teams find ways to pull out wins. The Redskins continue to hurt themselves with the same problems and that indicates that they haven’t really gotten better. As Lorenzo Alexander said, good teams play with consistency. But the only constant with the Redskins has been penalties, turnovers and collapses.
2.) Ball security: It’s no painfully obvious that until the Redskins find a way to take care of the ball, they’re not going to get better. It really doesn’t matter how bad an opponent is, if you give them the ball and short fields, they will manage to capitalize if they have fewer turnovers themselves. Rex Grossman again committed two turnovers. The first was Mike Sellers’s fault for missing a block but the second seemed to fall on the quarterback. The Vikings hadn’t picked off a pass in nine straight games, but Grossman still managed to give them the ball as he overthrew Santana Moss. As great as it is that Grossman can sling the ball all over and shrug off misfortunes, he simply can’t take the Redskins to another level with all the turnovers.
3.) Promise in the backfield: Okay, here’s some positivity. Mike Shanahan appears to have hit on his two rookie running backs. First, Roy Helu rushed for three straight 100-yard games as Evan Royster gradually learned the ropes, and then with Helu hurt, Royster topped the century mark in his first start. This tandem could serve the Redskins well for some time. Both backs have different styles but find ways to run effectively in the system, and both have improved in pass protection will help make them interchangeable. Give a lot of credit as well to offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who has gotten this patchwork line to do a rather solid job in run blocking.
4.) Standup guy: Second-year fullback Darrel Young didn’t have his finest game on Saturday. His neutral zone infraction on fourth and four gave the Vikings a first down on a drive that ended with Minnesota finding the end zone. Then late in the game, Young was called for holding on Brandon Banks’s 59-yard touchdown run, and that wiped out a much-needed touchdown. After the game, Young initially didn’t want to talk about it. Teammate Mike Sellers urged him not to talk, but Young later reconsidered and blamed himself for the loss. Accountability is something that Mike Shanahan preaches, but we’ve seen players (defensive captain DeAngelo Hall a couple of times) duck questions after poor performances rather than be accountable. Young is a guy who always obliges any interview request, and if anybody had the opportunity to give a “no comment,” it was him yesterday. But he proved himself to be a standup guy, taking responsibility for his mistakes. His two gaffes proved costly, but they didn’t lose the game for the Redskins. They were just two of many miscues that combined to cost Washington.
5.) Go-to Gaffney: With six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, Jabar Gaffney recorded a career-high mark for receiving yards in a season (919), and he tied his career best for touchdowns in one season (five). Gaffney has a knack for getting open. He runs routes to precision, gets open because of a good feel for coverages, and is sure-handed (of eight targets, he caught all but two balls). Gaffney has been a bright spot and a steal of a deal as Washington gave up Jeremy Jarmon, whom they likely would have cut, to acquire the veteran receiver. Where would Grossman be without his former college teammate?
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