Best and worst moments from the Redskins’ 45-41 over the Chicago Bears Sunday at FedEx Field.
Best Sport: NFL Football. Eight lead changes, 86 points, a McCown-RGIII shootout, a last-minute go-ahead score? That’s the stuff, NFL. Love you.
Best Third-Down Passing: Robert Griffin III had two monster third-down throws in Bears territory on Washington’s final drive. On the first, he bought time, rolled right and rifled a ball to Pierre Garcon up the sideline. On another, he threw a perfect strike to Jordan Reed inside the 5. The fancy running stuff is fun for now, but his career will be defined by throws like those. Those two plays shifted the thinking from “oh no, they’re going to lose,” to “hey, at least they’re in field-goal range,” to “wait, they’re going to win.”
Best Weapon: Jordan Reed, obviously. The rookie tight end has become Robert Griffin III’s favorite target and most dangerous ally; he caught five of Griffin’s first seven completions on Sunday, and had outgained the entire Chicago offense at halftime. He also caught one of the biggest passes of the day, that third-down bullet on the Redskins’ final drive that gave Washington the ball at the Bears’ 2-yard line. The Redskins scored on the next snap. Reed finished with 9 catches for 134 yards, the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in franchise history.
Best Percentage: Reed was targeted nine times. He caught nine passes. Hard to do much better than that
Best Goal Line Runner: Wait, is it Roy Helu Jr.? Alfred Morris was amazing in the red zone a year ago, scoring 13 touchdowns. But Helu used both his speed and his power to get into the end zone three times on Sunday, once from 14 yards, once from 3 yards and once from 2 yards. It was his first career multi-touchdown game, and it gave him four touchdowns on the year. Morris has three. Washington has struggled in the red zone much of the season; Helu might have just changed that trend.
Worst Job Burying a Wounded Opponent to Allow Everyone to Relax in the Second Half: The Redskins.
Worst Punt Coverage Unit: The Redskins.
Worst Feeling: Watching the same special teams meltdowns three weeks in a row. I mean, Devin Hester hadn’t returned a punt for a touchdown in 29 games, and then he popped off an 81-yarder Sunday when the Redskins were nursing a seven-point lead and facing a backup quarterback. That’s three weeks in a row the Redskins special teams have given up a touchdown, and two weeks in a row they’ve given up a punt return for a score. That hadn’t happened since 1952.
Best Defense: What’s defense?
Best Throw By a Punt Returner: Devin Hester chucked the ball from one sideline to the other on Chicago’s final kickoff return. There are NFL quarterbacks that don’t make that throw.
Worst Penalty Call: That roughing the passer call on Brian Orakpo was nonsense. Home-team fans say that after every roughing the passer call, and I usually try to stay above that fray, but this one was inexplicable. He didn’t hit the head, and he didn’t launch late.
Best Penalty Calls: Brandon Meriweather hit Alshon Jeffery in the head and earned himself a 15-yard penalty. I know the fans booed, and I know Nick Sundberg complained on Twitter. To me, it looked like Meriweather — who has a history of helmet-to-helmet hits — hit Jeffery on the head with his head. Later, Merwieather earned another 15-yarder for launching himself into Brandon Marshall’s head. It’s just not how you’re supposed to hit guys.
Meriweather will either get suspended or face a huge fine based on his history and what he’s done today.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 20, 2013
Most Controversial Penalty Call: The Bears were flagged for being offsides on a surprise onsides kick attempt in the fourth quarter. Looked like a good call to me. Others disagreed. Either way, dang, that was close.
Worst Kick Return: After that penalty, the Bears moved back five years and kicked again. Joshua Morgan still couldn’t make it to the 20-yard line. The special teams are bunk.
Best Tweet: Congrats, Czabe.
Brandon Merriweather: X button = “Helmet to Helmet Hit” Y button = “Miss Tackle”. The other buttons don’t do anything.
— Steve Czaban (@czabe) October 20, 2013
Worst Job Avoiding Contact: Robert Griffin III loves to cut back inside near the sidelines to gain maybe one or two extra yards while 280-pound men hurl their bodies at him. He loves that move. There are times when it’s a necessary part of football; say, 3rd-and-1 carries in the fourth quarter. There are other times when Griffin is just tempting fate.
Best Break: Robbie Gould hadn’t missed a field goal this season. He had made 13 straight dating back to last season. He was barely off-target on a 34-yarder Sunday. Those three points maybe didn’t’ matter in the end, but they were a nice gift.
Best Halftime Score: 24-17 ? The Redskins leading? At halftime? Weird. Hadn’t happened yet this season.
Best Interception Returned For a Touchdown: Brian Orakpo, who probably would have been about 16th on my list of guesses in this category, got the defense in the end zone. After all the headlines and stories about DeAngelo Hall, it was Reed Doughty breaking up a pass, and Orakpo returning the ball 29 yards for his first career touchdown on his first career interception. That gave the Redskins 14 points in a 17-second interval of the first half, and completely turned the game’s momentum on its head. Of course, the momentum later flipped about 13 more times.
Best Scoring Unit: The defense, clearly. DeAngelo Hall, Orakpo and David Amerson have a combined four touchdowns. Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Joshua Morgan have a combined five touchdowns.
Worst Injuries: Whichever offense is playing the Redskins. Players who have been knocked out against the Redskins defense this year include Eddie Lacy, Darren McFadden DeMarco Murray and Jay Cutler.
Best Run: On Washington’s second play from scrimmage, they were again the 2012 Redskins. Robert Griffin III kept the ball, gained the corner on the right side, and gained 23 yards. For the sixth week in a row, we could say that Griffin looked faster than he had the week before. Except for the bye week I suppose.
(Second) Best Run: Alfred Morris’s 21 yard carry in the fourth quarter included about 10 yards in which he was plowing through a defender. He’s been bottled-up much of the season, but those were the type of carries that made fans fall in love with him in 2012.
Best Runner: It has to be Griffin, and I’m so confused about what to think now. Last year, a whole bunch of people — including me — thought running Griffin as much as the Redskins did was a recipe for injury and a shortened career. This year, the offense has often been anemic, but looked dynamic again with a mobile Griffin freezing defenders. That’s minus-one for the haters. On the other hand, if the offense was going to be anemic behind a still-recovering RGIII, that’s yet another argument that the quarterback should have waited until after the bye to return, because he was cold honey poured on hot tar in those first few games. That’s plus-one for the haters. SO MANY CONFLICTING THOUGHTS. Anyhow, he finished with 11 carries for a season-high 84 yards.
Worst Tendency to Drop at Least One Pass a Game: Leonard Hankerson. Often, these are not easy catches. Always, they are catches you’d like your professional receivers to complete. Sunday, the drop came on a crucial third down in the third quarter. The ball was behind him, but you gotta catch it. Have to. Must.
Best Touchdown Thrown Into Double Coverage: When Griffin chucked that deep ball to Aldrick Robinson in the fourth quarter, I was thinking interception the whole way. So were you. It seemed hopeless, at best. Somehow one Bears defender fell down and the other timed his jump poorly and Robinson fell down in the end zone with the go-ahead 45-yard catch.
Best Corner Blitz: David Amerson, who was questionable to play after a concussion last week, didn’t have his name mentioned too many times in pass coverage. But he made one of the biggest defensive plays in the game when he got to Josh McCown on a third-and-long in the fourth quarter. The backup quarterback got a pass attempt off, but it had no chance to reach its target thanks to Amerson’s pressure. The Bears settled for a field goal.
Worst Open-Field Tackle: On the other hand, a few minutes later, Amerson tried some sort of missile move to tackle Alshon Jeffery in open space. It didn’t work. The idea of wrapping people up and dragging them to the ground might be old-fashioned, but it has its merits.
Best Hurry-Up: The Redskins have had their issues snapping the ball quickly this season, but when it mattered most on Sunday, they got it done. A long completion to Jordan Reed in the first quarter ended with what might have been a fumble, but Washington hurried to the line and snapped the ball before the Bears coaches could get a look at the replay.
Worst Hurry-Up: Except the quick snap led to an Alfred Morris fumble and a 17-yard loss. Not sure whether the fumble resulted from the quicker-than-usual operation, but that would be my guess. That giant loss ultimately contributed to the Redskins getting a field goal instead of a touchdown on their first drive.
Worst Job Letting a Punt Roll to the 1: Joshua Morgan. Sure seemed like he could have fielded the Bears’ first punt of the day at around his own 11. Instead, he waved his arms and let the ball bounce and roll, ultimately giving Washington the ball at its own 1. (Later, he fair caught a ball at his own 5. That’s not right, either.)
Worst Timeout: With the ball maybe two inches past the goal-line on the ensuing series, Griffin took a timeout as the play clock ran down. The Fox announcers astutely noted that there was virtually no way to move the ball back, so Griffin might as well have just taken the penalty. And indeed, after the timeout, the Redskins were called for a false start, which cost them maybe a centimeter.
Worst Interception: The one Griffin delivered right into the arms of his fellow Copperas Cove alum Charles Tillman. Unless he was just trying to help out his old buddy. In which case it was actually a beautiful pass.
Worst Trend: Griffin threw five interceptions in his rookie season, which was one of the most remarkable stats from that remarkable campaign. He already has six in 2013, including at least one in every loss. The Redskins are now 4-7 when RGIII has thrown an interception, and 7-4 when he hasn’t.
Best Sport: I’ll say it again, it’s the NFL. If the last four minutes went differently on Sunday, we would be talking about Mike Shanahan’s coaching future for the next seven days. Instead, we will again be looking at the NFC East standings and breaking down future opponents. What a life.