Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 7 game against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands:
The Redskins drew another tough opponent this week, taking on the Super Bowl champions to open division play in 2012. This was the first professional division game for Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, who continue to show poise and focus beyond their years.
Despite facing the NFL's No. 8 rush defense, the Redskins amassed 65 percent of their first half yards on the ground, piling up 248 for the game. After a typical defensive struggle in the first half, the game opened up in the fourth quarter, with the Redskins coming up just short in the upset victory.
With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson made an athletic move on an Eli Manning pass, grabbing his second interception of the season. It also set the offense up in field goal range at the Redskins 32-yard line. Although the Redskins were only able to convert a field goal on the drive, the points made it a four-point game with five minutes remaining.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Without question, the play of the game occurred with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, when the Redskins completed a 77-yard touchdown drive with a 30-yard pass from Griffin III to Santana Moss. This was the second time the two linked up for a score today, and the second time it put the Redskins back on top. It was also Moss's fourth score of the season and the 60th of his career.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Even though the Redskins' efforts came up short in the end, Robert Griffin III still has yet to look like a wide-eyed rookie, bouncing back from series of bad plays to put the team in position to win. His numbers were excellent: 20-for-28 for 258 yards and a 108.9 passer rating. He also had another big day on the ground, rushing nine times for 89 yards, including two runs of 24 yards or more. The only drawbacks to today's performance were the four turnovers, which will be a point of emphasis this week in practice.
Redskins receiver Santana Moss read the writing on the wall last season, understanding that an injury-plagued season and the wrong side of 30 years old made him a prime candidate to get cut. Instead, Moss lost 15 pounds this offseason, regaining some of his trademark speed. When Pierre Garcon has been hobbled in recent weeks, the offense has turned back to Moss, who has delivered in a meaningful way in each of the last three weeks. This week, he had a disappointing fumble at the end of the game, but scored the team's two go-ahead touchdowns.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Anticipating a physical matchup, the Redskins turned to running back Alfred Morris early and often, rushing him 10 times on the opening drive, allowing him to pick up 46 yards in the first quarter. The Giants have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, but the Redskins imposed their will offensively early, keeping the defenders at bay and setting up play action and bootleg plays later in the game. Morris finished with a career-high 22 rushes for 120 yards, including one rush for 30 yards.
--After losing Fred Davis in the game, tight end Logan Paulsen blossomed in the Redskins passing attack, catching four passes 76 yards, both career highs. Paulsen talked in the preseason about how he spent the offseason learning to run with more comfort, and his playmaking ability shined today. He also threw a critical block that allowed Griffin to turn the corner on his 28-yard run down the sidelines.
--Cornerback Josh Wilson bailed his teammates out in the red zone, intercepting Eli Manning at the Redskins 9-yard line and returning the ball seven yards to the 16. For Wilson, it was his first interception since picking off Manning in Week 15 in the Meadowlands last season.
--Redskins linebacker Perry Riley had a monster day today, being credited with five tackles and two passes defensed. Since taking over the starting duties at inside linebacker last season, Riley has quietly made plays and set the table for players like London Fletcher to make tackles. Especially after Fletcher was knocked out of today's game with injury, Riley was an integral part of the Redskins defense.
--Redskins kicker Kai Forbath continues to learn on the job, but has stabilized a tumultuous position for the team in the last two weeks. After beginning his career with a 50-yard boot down the middle last week, Forbath's encore included conversions from 20 and 43 yards. His kickoffs appear to be a work in progress, but he told the media that he is still adjusting to kickoff duties in the NFL.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The injury bug attacked again this week, with a particularly troublesome injury to tight end Fred Davis. It is yet unclear the long-term status of the team's top tight end, but he was unable to put weight on his leg as he left the field, leaving the team with just two tight ends. Regardless of his long term prognosis, the team will be looking for roster options this week.
--Redskins running back Alfred Morris got his first career fumble today, turning the ball over to Giants linebacker Michael Boley late in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Redskins defense answered with a takeaway of their own, but it tainted an otherwise spectacular day for the Redskins rookie.
--Redskins pass protection allowed only one sack over the first three quarters, but fell apart in the fourth to the tune of three sacks and a pair of costly fumbles. Part of this had to do with downfield coverage forcing Griffin III to hold the ball longer, but the Redskins offense was totally derailed with the game on the line.
--Griffin III turned the ball over multiple times in a game for the first time in his career, throwing an interception and fumbling on a sack in the fourth quarter. The rookie has been a sensation with ball security in his young career, but in a game of inches, the Redskins wasted prime opportunities to pull ahead late in the game.
The Redskins opening drive went 93 yards in 17 plays, milking 9:11 off the clock. This drive not only gave the Redskins the early lead, but it also went a long way toward winning the battle for time of possession (33:18 vs. 26:36). They didn't end up winning on the scoreboard, but with the defensive woes this season, the time of possession battle grows more important by the week.
As far as the number of plays is concerned, this was the longest Redskins drive since Oct. 12, 2003, when the Redskins conducted a 18-play scoring drive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Redskins stay on the road next week, traveling to Pittsburgh to continue the AFC North schedule. The Redskins can expect another gritty, physical matchup against the NFL's No. 4 defense. The Steelers are a familiar opponent, as the two teams are each other's most common preseason opponent. The two have not played in the regular season since 2008.
Despite a 3-4 record after seven games, the Redskins have only lost by a combined 21 points, and have yet to lose by more than one score. The frustration in today's loss should be focused on lost opportunities, where the Redskins had a number of late opportunities to secure the victory.
Even in the loss, Redskins rookies Griffin III and Alfred Morris took big steps forward this week, experiencing major successes and disappointments. Expect the offense to address ball security this week, as the team fumbled the ball five times, losing three.
The Redskins were negative-three in turnover ratio today, by far their worst performance of the year. They will need to correct these issues before taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers next week at Heinz Field.
The schedule doesn't get any easier from here and the Redskins lost a golden opportunity to take the lead in the NFC East. With that being said, the Redskins should learn a lot from today's tape and be able to improve moving forward.