Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
1.) The Redskins' 2015 third quarter woes were magnified even greater Sunday.
Thanks in large part to three first-half takeaways by their defense, the Redskins went into halftime Sunday at MetLife Stadium with a 13-10 lead over the favored Jets.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets Oct. 18, 2015, at MetLife Stadium.
But coming out of halftime, the Jets were able to grab a hold of all the momentum, and before the Redskins knew it, they were trailing 27-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The third quarter problems on Sunday are just the latest of a troublesome trend for Washington's offense and defense. Through six games, the Redskins have been outscored 46-3 coming out of halftime.
"The third quarter has been a nightmare for us," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said.
Gruden said he wished he could pinpoint the reason for the third quarter struggles this season.
"We [have] had some good drives in third quarters. Just haven't been very productive, and that's something I've got to address," Gruden said. "You know we have a plan at halftime. We preview the second-half plays. We talk to the team. They get rested. We show them what happened in the first half. We talk about our plan moving forward. They're all eager and ready to go. They're fired up, but we haven't had much success or results."
2. A young, inexperienced Redskins offensive line – with its two leaders out with injuries – did a tremendous job keeping their quarterback protected against one of the league's top defenses.
Facing the Jets' defense is difficult with your starting offensive line in-tact is daunting enough, but doing so with your Pro Bowl left tackle and veteran center out is downright scary.
But Ty Nsekhe and Josh LeRibeus – filling in for Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger on Sunday – did an admirable job protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins was sacked just once the entire game, which was the result of a solid rush by defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson against right guard Brandon Scherff.
LeRibeus credited offensive line coach Bill Callahan with getting the front five ready to go on Sunday.
"I think as a whole we had like 14 starts throughout our careers combined. We felt good about it," said LeRibeus, who made his first-career start at center. "We got Callahan, who's got us prepared every week. We knew the game plan and they gave us what we thought we were going to get. We got after it."
Nsekhe said he was excited to just get on the field and play some ball.
"It's just football," he said. "I've been preparing for this all my life so I just went out there and did what I know how to do best. Every week I practice like I'm going to play, so it was nothing to prepare."
3. Bashaud Breeland balled out in the first half.
The second-year cornerback was everywhere for the Redskins' defense in the first and second quarters, recovering a fumble forced by rookie Kyshoen Jarrett, simply stealing the football from Brandon Marshall and then making an impressive juggling interception on a pass thrown Marshall's way towards the end of the first half.
All three takeaways collected by Breeland resulted in points scored by the Redskins, an area in which the team has struggled of late.
"He's good," Gruden said of Breeland. "He's a tough guy, competitor, has some injuries he's dealing with, fought through 'em, made a good strip and then obviously his interception."
Breeland sprained his MCL early on in training camp, which set him back a little, and he's had to step up his game once again, like he did last season, due to injuries at the cornerback position. With starters Chris Culliver (knee) and DeAngelo Hall (toe) out, Breeland has had to step into the lead role against the likes of Julio Jones last week and Marshall on Sunday.
Breeland had an interception against the Falcons and notched another one on Sunday, and continues to show his obvious skillset as a pass defender. His other playmaking abilities – the forced fumble and fumble recoveries – are exactly what defensive coordinator Joe Barry asks from his players.
4. The Redskins struggled with their running game once again.
Washington on Sunday ran the ball a total of 17 times for 34 yards – an average of two yards per carry.
They already knew it would be a challenge to have any success running the ball against a talented Jets defensive front, but those problems were compounded before the game even started when the Redskins labeled rookie running back Matt Jones, who is battling a toe injury, as inactive.
That left the running duties up to veteran Alfred Morris and Chris Thompson. Morris ran the ball 11 times for 21 yards and Thompson, usually the team's third-down back, ran it five times for 12 yards, notching the team's longest run of the day at eight yards.
After their performance against the Jets, the Redskins saw their average rushing yards per game figure drop to 107.2, which ranks 17th in the league. It wasn't long ago that Washington was tops in the NFL in this category.
This problem is pretty simple: the Redskins have to run the ball effectively to take the pressure off Cousins and the rest of the offense. Now, down two scores for most of the second half on Sunday, running the ball wasn't going to be a terrific option anyway, but because the offensive line is doing such a great job in pass protection, you have to believe the running game will follow suit at some point soon.
Maybe it can get re-ignited Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose 120.4 rushing yards per game allowed ranks 25th in the NFL.
5. Washington cashed in on its defensive takeaways.
Last week against the Falcons, the Redskins forced three takeaways (two interceptions and a fumble recovery), but were only able to score a field goal off those plays. They would end up losing in overtime.
On Sunday vs. the Jets, the Redskins were much better in this regard, as they scored all 13 of their first-half points off defensive takeaways (each of them involving Breeland).
The two-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Pierre Garçon in the first quarter, in fact, was the first touchdown scored off a takeaway by the Redskins since the 2013 season.
For the season, the Redskins have a -2 overall turnover ratio, the same as the Buccaneers, their opponent on Sunday. Tampa Bay has been better at scoring off turnovers this season, however, with 35 points. Washington overall has 16 points off turnovers after a solid day on Sunday, and looks to continue to improve that mark moving forward.