*Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's battle with the Kansas City Chiefs at FedExField in Landover, Md., presented by Virginia 529. *
Playing for pride. Relishing the role of playing spoiler to a playoff contender. Putting together the pieace for next year.
These were all storylines heading into a Week 14 matchup that saw the 3-9 Redskins matching up against the mirror-opposite 9-3 Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 14 offered the first NFL opportunity for Robert Griffin III to play in the snow, and it was a major gut-check opportunity for the losers of four-straight vs. a Chiefs team riding a three-game slide.
The fate of the Redskins' 2013 season is already sealed, while the Chiefs' hang in the balance. A 10th victory would all but guarantee a spot in the AFC playoffs, while a big showing by the Redskins would prove misery loves company.
In the second quarter, Robert Griffin III attempted to make something out of nothing, tucking and rushing to the left, being tackled one yard short of the first down marker. The ball came out as he went to the ground and was called a fumble, returned 16 yards for a touchdown.
The play was reviewed by the officiating staff and overturned. Sav Rocca came on the field to punt. Dexter McCluster received the punt and weaved through traffic, down the sideline and into the end zone.
Even on a play in which the Redskins were able to keep the defense out of the end zone, the special teams unit allowed them back in only seconds later.
PLAY OF THE GAME**
For the Redskins, the play of the game was a touchdown pass to Logan Paulsen. The score put the Redskins on the board, albeit way too late to make the game competitive. Regardless, it was a finger-tips grab that Paulsen made out in front of his body, and secured before colliding the side of his helmet into the goal post. He held on for the catch and earned his third touchdown of the season the hard way.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. came through in the fourth quarter, doing something the defense had failed to do all day: make a highlight play. Lining up on a tight end on third down, Riley Jr. spun and intercepted a lob pass from Chase Daniel, setting the offense up near midfield.
Ultimately, the play was not to be, but it showed that the Redskins still have fight, even in a game and a season that has gotten way out of hand.
Give credit to Kai Forbath for a 50-yard field goal that gave the Redskins their only other points of the game. It hasn't been a highlight season for the sophomore kicker, but it was a big boot in some of the worst conditions he will ever see.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Tight end Logan Paulsen has long been an underrated threat in the passing game, and has shown it with a touchdown in consecutive weeks for the first time in his career and a career-high three on the season. Paulsen may not be the prototypical receiving tight end, but with Jordan Reed out again this week, Niles Paul a major player on special team and Fred Davis in the dog house, Paulsen got the Redskin started with a touchdown to put them on the board. He also added another field-reversing 27-yard reception in the second half.
--Wide receiver Pierre Garçon came into today's game needing just 20 yards for his first 1,000 yard receiving season. It took until midway through the second quarter, but Garçon got there on a 10-yard pass from Robert Griffin III that converted a first down. Garçon has been exactly what the Redskins envisioned when signing him as a free agent last offseason. He has been the team's go-to receiver and has averaged nearly 13 yards-per-reception since joining the burgundy and gold.
--Running back Alfred Morris has had a tough stretch this season, losing opportunities with the team's inability to balance the playcall around big deficits. He gave another soldierly performance today, rushing nine times in the first half for 27 yards and gaining the necessary four yards to put him over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. This is the second time in two years Morris has eclipsed the millennial mark, making him the first Redskins running back since Clinton Portis to do so in back-to-back seasons (2007-08). Even with a number of questions about offensive personal moving forward, the Redskins have a top-notch back in Alfred Morris.
--After a sensational start to his career, Kai Forbath has battled injuries, inconsistencies and his third long snapper in his first year and change in Washington. The results haven't been pretty at times, but Forbath got a boost today, hitting a field goal before the half from 50 yards. The kick matched his career long, the distance of his first NFL kick, and narrowed the gap to 10-38 going into the half. It made zero difference in the outcome of the game, but on a day when not much went right, Forbath did his job.
--The fourth quarter was proverbial garbage time for the Redskins, playing out a game that was decided in the first quarter. But credit inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr., who hung in there in coverage, picking off backup quarterback Chase Daniel for the first interception of his career. Riley Jr. continues developing as a pro linebacker and could be pressed into a much bigger leadership role next season if London Fletcher decides to retire or move on.
--The Redskins finally got a look at reserve players Kirk Cousins and Adam Gettis, as Cousins took over for an ineffective Griffin III and Gettis took over for an injured Kory Lichtensteiger (stinger). It was a solid performance by Gettis, who helped keep Cousins clean in the face of pressure. It was an encouraging performance by Cousins, who finished the day 7-for-16 for 58 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--In a perfect world, the Redskins defense is built to stop the run up front and force turnovers in the secondary. But the Redskins appeared to be running in slow motion this afternoon vs. the run, as Jamaal Charles, the AFC's top rusher, gashed them for 19 carries and 151 yards and a touchdown.
--It was another forgettable performance that put pressure on a depleted secondary to make plays. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith picked his spots well and was an efficient 7-for-9 for 80 yards and two touchdowns to start the game. The Chiefs scored on each of their first five possessions before electing to punt in field goal range.
--Dexter McCluster is a dynamic threat on offense and special teams, and was easily the deciding force in this game. In the first two quarters, McCluster had four punt returns for 158 yards and a long of 74 yards with another returned for a touchdown. The Chiefs sealed off running lanes for him and when the Redskins had the opportunity to make a play, they didn't. Bacarri Rambo had an opportunity to stop McCluster near the 25-yard line on the return for a touchdown, but let the returner get to the outside and went for the arm tackle. McCluster barely needed to brush him off on the way to the end zone.
--Kick returner Quintin Demps was no kinder to the Redskins, returning the opening kickoff 28 yards and setting up a game-opening field goal drive. He waited for an encore performance until the Redskins scored their first touchdown, throttling any momentum they would have gained with a 95-yard touchdown return.
--One of the things that stood out in each of the Chiefs' long returns today was the patience and vision that each returner showed. Rather than plowing headlong into oncoming traffic and expecting good results, McCluster and Demps showed burst, found blockers and waited for a path to be cleared. This is something that has been lacking from the Redskins' special teams all season as they continue to look for a long-term answer in the return game.
--For the second week in a row, the Redskins struggled in the long-snapping game, with a number of punt snaps still sailing up and to the right from Kyle Nelson to Sav Rocca. This was first an issue last week with Rocca's partially blocked boot vs. the New York Giants, and continued today with a few close-but-no-cigar block attempts. Clearly, opposing special teams units see the advantage of putting pressure on the punt unit, which has had problems all year.
--The injury bug bit again, taking three of the Redskins starters out of commission before the game, with Darrel Young (hamstring) and Jordan Reed (concussion) both being shelved for the third game in a row and Brandon Meriweather (chest) missing after practicing fully Friday. In the first half, running back Evan Royster got an early carry and took a huge hit that twisted his knee under him. As he fell, the toe of his cleat caught in the dirt, while his body twisted above. He was unable to put weight on the leg coming off the field and was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that could end his season.
--There were times in the second quarter where the Chiefs defense, which had collected just two sacks in the previous five games, could create pressure on Griffin III at will. A low-water point for dignity was registered when Griffin III was wrapped up by Tamba Hali, who gently put No. 10 down on the ground. Hali had a free shot at Griffin III, but with the game already out of hand, elected to take the stat without inflicting the pain. That mercy was more than the Chiefs showed on the scoreboard.
--The Redskins yielded a touchdown today in almost every way possible: rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return and nearly a fumble return which was overturned upon review. Everyone should have critical film study this week as they look to get back to fundamentals.
--Even good players had poor plays today, as tight end Logan Paulsen finished off a good day with a fumble that put the Chiefs back in business in the fourth quarter. Not that the Chiefs needed any more opportunities, leading by 35, but they were able to drain time off the clock.
--Alfred Morris cracked 1,000 yards on the season today, but did little else on the day. He finished with 12 carries for 31 yards. He now has 37 yards for 109 yards and a touchdown in the last three weeks without fullback Darrel Young.
At the end of the first half, the Redskins and Chiefs had both together modest offensive efforts, combining for 325 yards. That effort was nearly matched in the Chiefs return game, as the kick returners, punt returners and returning interceptor had 321 yards.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III after the 10th loss of the season:
"They outplayed us today. There's no other way to look at it and it got out of hand right from the get-go."
The Redskins take this show on the road, traveling to Atlanta for a game with no playoff implications. With only three wins, the Redskins and Falcons are each competing internally, seeking answers for 2014 with an eye toward final draft position in April. The Redskins have won only one-of-six games on the road this season. The Falcons, who were one of the best home teams in football since the arrival of Matt Ryan, have won only two games in the Georgia Dome this season.
The Redskins limped into this three-game homestand at 3-7 with no margin for error. They needed to be perfect. They needed to dig deep and flip the switch that carried a frustrated 3-6 team to the playoffs a year ago.
They now travel to Atlanta in search of their first win in six weeks, dating back to an overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers in Week 9.
In what looked to be a marquee matchup when the schedule was created in April, the Atlanta Falcons (3-10) will host the Washington Redskins (3-10) in one of the most irrelevant games of the season. Fortunately for the Redskins, it also provides the most winnable matchups for the remainder of the season.
The Redskins were devoid of a spark today and got put through the buzz saw. If they have any chance of salvaging moral victories in the final three games, they will need their best and most-complete game of football in nearly a year.
That starts with practice Monday morning. Stay tuned, Redskins fans.