COMMENTARY | Through the first two games of the 2013 National Football League season, the defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins have been blown out of the stadium. Even though they came back to make a game of it in their Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and put up some cosmetic scores against the Green Bay Packers the following week, neither game was as close as the score suggested.
Washington continued its pattern of having the stats mislead in yet another loss, their 27-20 setback against the Detroit Lions that dropped the Burgundy and Gold to 0-3 overall. The statline says Detroit only outgained Washington 448-446 in yardage, but the Redskins decisively beat themselves with poor tackling, two turnovers and a dropped touchdown pass that would have given the team a third quarter lead.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III committed both turnovers with an interception and a fumble that came at the end of a 21-yard scramble that blunted a Redskins drive that could have given the team a lead. Instead, Detroit recovered the fumble and drove for a 28-yard field goal that put the Lions ahead to stay.
On the fumble, Griffin dove head first on one of the few flashes of the RG3 of last year when he ran for a first down at the Detroit 30-yard line. According to the explanation by referee Ed Hochuli, the fact that Griffin dove head first instead of using a hook slide meant that the ball was still live. Griffin said several times during the offseason that he would use more hook slides and would not put himself in harmʼs way coming back from tearing several knee ligaments during the teamʼs playoff loss to Seattle in January.
His failure to use a hook slide or run out of bounds proved to be an example of the team beating itself. Another was wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, who was the target on an apparent 57-yard touchdown pass that would have given Washington a 24-20 lead. However, the so-called "Calvin Johnson Rule" came back to bite the Skins, as Robinson lost possession as he hit the ground, negating the score. The Skins ended up punting two plays later.
The biggest story of the game, however, was the shoddy tackling, which has been a recurring theme as the Redskins coughed up 1,023 yards of offense in their first two games, which was tied for third most in NFL history by a defense after two games. However, it isn't all about the defense seemingly forgetting to tackle. Against the Eagles, the Redskins ran one offensive play - which resulted in a fumble by Alfred Morris - while Philadelphia had three possessions. When a team, especially one as fast as the Eagles try to operate under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, holds the ball for extended periods of time, the defense gets tired and will miss tackles.
The simplest thing might be to call for backup quarterback Kirk Cousins to start, but even though Cousins is mobile in his own right, he's not the dynamic running threat Griffin was last year en route to a NFL rushing record for rookie quarterbacks. Griffin has appeared tentative, hardly threatening the Eagles or the Packers with his legs. This has made the Redskins offense less potent as teams are able to key on Morris when the team tries to run.
During preseason, some people like to argue that four, and sometimes five, preaseason games are too many, often saying that many starters donʼt play much in the first and fourth preseason games. However, Redskins coach Mike Shanahanʼs decision not to play Griffin at all during preseason showed the value of preseason. Griffin lacked timing during the first halves of each of the first two games. Iʼll grant that Griffin playing in preseason would have put his surgically-repaired knee at risk. However, if Griffin wasnʼt ready to let it rip, the Skins should have stashed him on the physically unable to perform list, which would have bought him six weeks to gain confidence, or they could have put him on injured reserve and designated him to return.
Griffinʼs ineffectiveness has seemingly rubbed off on the rest of the team as they've fallen to 0-3. Itʼs certainly not time to give up on the season, but the poor play so far has put the team in a difficult hole. The Redskins certainly canʼt afford to keep helping their opponents beat them the way they have so far.
Mike Sarzo has been a journalist for over 15 years and has been a Redskins fan since 1987.
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