As questions swirled about Gruden’s future, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and team president Bruce Allen got the heck out of FedEx Field like they were a couple of contestants on “The Amazing Race.” Reporters noted that the duo’s quick getaway was unusual, as they typically hang around the owner’s box for several hours after a game, win or lose. Perhaps Snyder and Allen were headed to Redskins Park to discuss Gruden’s fate, or maybe they were in a hurry to get to Nationals Park to experience something they won’t see in Landover any time soon: a home playoff game. The escape was emblematic of Snyder and Allen’s tendency to leave others to answer for their failings throughout a decade-long reign of error together.
For a few minutes in the first quarter, a Redskins upset of the defending Super Bowl champions to spark a winning streak that saved Gruden’s job seemed possible. After rookie wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. split a pair of would-be tacklers and turned on the jets en route to the end zone in the first quarter, fans could dream that Washington, a double-digit underdog at home for the first time since Terry Allen fueled a surprising win over the Cowboys in 1995, would do the unthinkable. Sims’s 65-yard touchdown run was Washington’s longest of the season — by 51 yards — and eclipsed the total number of yards New England’s second-ranked rushing defense was allowing per game through four weeks. Gruden is gone, but his replacement needs to find more ways to get Sims the ball.
Gruden’s final major act as coach before he was fired early Monday morning was deciding McCoy, not rookie Dwayne Haskins, was the quarterback who gave his flawed team the best chance to win. McCoy looked rusty in his first game action since breaking his leg in a loss at Philadelphia last December, completing 18 of 27 passes for 119 yards and an interception. He was without his full complement of offensive weapons and he faced relentless pressure, but he also missed throws when he did have time against what Adrian Peterson described as a fairly vanilla defense. “They showed a lot of exotic stuff on film,” Peterson said of the New England defense after the game. “But against us, they didn’t really [do anything exotic]. You know? It was like, hey, we’ll sit back here and see what you guys do, allow you guys to mess up.” The Redskins messed up plenty, including when McCoy threw an ugly interception over the middle that led to a Patriots field goal just before halftime.
The Redskins’ league-worst third down defense wasn’t terrible for the first time this year. New England was 5 for 15 on third down, and only 4 for 14 if you exclude that time in the fourth quarter that Washington left tight end Ryan Izzo completely uncovered in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass, perhaps because they mistook him for a Patriots fan who had wandered onto the field.
Early in the game, CBS’s Greg Gumbel noted that the Redskins hadn’t converted a third down of at least 10 yards all season. That’s still true after Washington went 1 for 11 on third down against the Patriots, including 0 for 6 on third downs of 10 yards or greater. The Redskins’ average third-down distance was 10.6 yards, and on the rare occasion they faced a third-and-short, they didn’t have enough confidence in their offensive line to run the ball. On third-and-two from the Washington 44-yard line early in the second quarter, McCoy rolled out to pass and was sacked by Dont’a Hightower for a loss of six. Unable to sustain drives, the Redskins ran only 27 plays on six second-half possessions and didn’t take a single snap in the red zone.
Hail: The Redskins’ pass rush
In the Redskins’ long list of disappointments through four weeks, their virtually nonexistent pass rush was among the biggest. The unit came into the game with five sacks, which was tied for the second fewest in the league. Washington got to Tom Brady four times on Sunday, including three times in the first half, when the Patriots managed only 12 points. Tim Settle, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen were each credited with one sack, while Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan split another. It’s amazing what a difference a consistent pass rush can make for a defense. Just ask the Patriots, who arrived in Landover tied for the league lead with 18 sacks and left with six more.
Fail: Washington’s “great skill players”
“It was amazing … Surprising and overwhelming,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said after his team improved to 5-0. Belichick was talking about the Patriots fans who took over FedEx Field, but he could’ve just as easily been referring to the Redskins offense he praised during a conference call with Redskins media members last week. Belichick hailed Washington’s “great skill players at every spot” and Gruden’s “very well-designed and thought-out offensive scheme.” The Redskins’ 220 total yards were their ninth-fewest during Gruden’s six-year tenure.
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