A look at the good (Hail!) and bad (Fail!) from the Redskins' 31-17 win over the Packers on Sunday.
Hail: Washington’s Pass Rush
Playing with a knee brace on his left knee, Aaron Rodgers gritted his way through another game, but he clearly wasn’t 100 percent. The Redskins' pass rush, which was nonexistent for much of the first two weeks, had no excuse not to get to the Packers quarterback. They did, to the tune of four sacks. Matt Ioannidis upped his season sack total to three, Jonathan Allen had his first two-sack game and rookie Daron Payne, Washington’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, registered the first sack of his career.
Fail: That Roughing the Passer Penalty on Clay Matthews
“What isn’t roughing the passer?” is the new “What’s a catch?” and it’s getting old fast. Late in the third quarter, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for his third roughing the passer penalty in three games because he landed “with all or most of his weight” on Alex Smith. The league defended the call based on Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(b). One day, the NFL will put a franchise on the moon. Until then, this rule, as currently written, will be a problem.
“This rule is written the wrong way,” Tony Dungy said on NBC’s “Football Night in America.” “This is impossible for defenders to come in, try to sack the quarterback and not land on them. It’s just physically impossible.”
Just about everyone — Redskins players and fans included — agreed. Asked what he thought defenders could do differently to avoid a penalty in that situation, Washington’s Jonathan Allen replied, “Pray to God, I guess.”
“It’s tough,” Smith, who took the hit from Matthews, said. “I’m glad I don’t play defense.”
“If I wanted to hurt him, I could have,” Matthews said. “I could have put some extra on him. That’s football. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Unfortunately, this league is going in a direction I think a lot of people don’t like. I think they’re getting soft."
Pillow soft, even. A couple of Packers fans brought some levity to the situation with a demonstration of how Matthews might sack a quarterback and avoid a penalty in the future.
Hail: Throwing Deep
Alex Smith proved he’s not afraid to let it fly, even without his former Chiefs teammate Tyreek Hill running past defenders. Smith was 12 for 20 for 220 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson Jr. and a 50-yard strike to Vernon Davis. The last time Smith threw for at least 200 yards on 12 or fewer completions was 2006, his second NFL season.
“I thought there were good looks,” Smith said. “You never know when the opportunities will present themselves. I think that’s what you work all week for, to identify them and pull the trigger and hit them when they are there.”
Fail: Randall Cobb’s Day
Perhaps Cobb is still paying the price for mocking Kirk Cousins’s “You like that?!” celebration after the Packers beat the Redskins in the playoffs in January 2016. (Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, who mocked the Redskins-turned-Vikings QB in similar fashion after the biggest upset of the season on Sunday, should be wary of a similar fate.) Cobb had a dreadful game from start to finish. The Packers' first drive ended when the wide receiver dropped a sure first down. He dropped another pass in the second half on fourth-and-two and the Redskins effectively iced the game when Fabian Moreau stripped the football out of his hands after a short reception in the fourth quarter. Cobb finished with four catches (on 11 targets) for 23 yards. “I played terrible and I didn’t give us an opportunity to win,” he told ESPN.
Hail: Ryan Anderson, Fullback
Anderson, Washington’s second-round pick in last year’s draft out of Alabama, is a linebacker by trade, but his biggest contributions have come as a fullback in goal-line sets. As Richmond Times-Dispatch sports editor Michael Phillips noted, Anderson has played three snaps at fullback this year and all three have resulted in Adrian Peterson touchdown runs. The 6-foot-2, 253-pound Anderson also helped pave the way for a pair of Rob Kelley touchdown runs last season.
“I don’t know if he knows what he’s doing, but he just runs in there and bulldozes somebody,” Gruden said after the game.
It’s a shame John Madden isn’t still doing color commentary, because Madden would love everything about this.
Fail: This Unfortunate Sequence
Fox analyst Charles Davis and play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt were discussing Washington’s unstoppable offense in the first half when Davis broke out some horse racing terminology. “Alex Smith to Paul Richardson on their first drive for the touchdown, and Jay Gruden has not let up off the reins since,” Davis said. “I mean, he is just going to the whip down the stretch and off they go.” Fox then cut to a shot of Peterson, who had just scored to give Washington a 28-10 lead. It was a cringeworthy — and one would assume accidental — juxtaposition given that Peterson was indicted on felony child abuse charges in 2014 for whipping his 4-year-old son with a tree branch.
Hail: Packers Rookie Linebacker Oren Burks
After missing the first two games with a shoulder injury, the former South County High School star and third-round pick out of Vanderbilt made his NFL debut before a couple hundred family and friends at FedEx Field. Burks was credited with a tackle on Washington’s second play from scrimmage. It was his only solo tackle of the game.
Fail: The Redskins' Second-Half Offense
Washington punted on its first four possessions after halftime and Smith didn’t have a single passing yard in the third quarter. The Redskins' defense finished strong to preserve the win, but the offense is still looking for its first complete performance of the season.
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