Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's brawl with the New York Giants at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands, N.J.
After years of teams like the Indianapolis Colts securing the division title in Week 12 and resting starters for the last month of the season, the NFL finally made the move to set teams up with important division games in the final weeks of the season.
Looking at the Redskins schedule in April, closing out the season with the Dallas Cowboys at home and the New York Giants on the road appeared to be what NFC East title would come down to.
But instead of the season boiling down to the final two games, the focus in Redskins Nation has shifted to 2014, with the outcome of both games deemed virtually irrelevant.
Rather, this is an opportunity for seasoning for some, and NFL auditions for others.
And yet the pride remains. No one makes it to the NFL without an insatiable desire to win, and that desire will be put to the test this afternoon in the elements on the road.
There wasn't one particular moment at which the game turned for the Redskins—it was simply not their day from the start. Missing on a whole slate of opportunities, the indicative moment was likely when the team could not score after recovering a fumble at the 18-yard line. The team's inability to score inside the red zone was just the latest frustration in a season-long theme.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Although the Redskins were unable to get the ball into the end zone, they were able to taketh away from the Giants adding seven more when Reed Doughty intercepted a ball in the end zone, deflected off of tight end Brandon Myers. Doughty returned the ball 25 yards to the 19-yard line, trying to inject life into an otherwise stagnant offense today.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Once again, Pierre Garçon was one of the few bright spots on offense, catching six-of-10 targets for 56 yards. That brings his 2013 receptions record to 113, putting him in a tie for 17th all-time in NFL history with former Denver Broncos receiver Rod Smith in 2001.
Kai Forbath was the only man to put points on the board today and that was no easy task. Despite having no wind, the conditions were slick on the field, complicating the foot-planting process, as well as all facets of the snap and hold. He kept his kicks low as far as altitude, but got them down the middle on both tries. His 49-yarder was a beauty and registers as the third-longest kick of his career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Giants are far from an offense juggernaut and the Redskins' defense took advantage in the early going, dominating the line of scrimmage and holding them to zero total yards until midway through the third drive of the day. Even after yielding yards through the air, the rush defense stuffed the Giants, holding them to -1 yards on the first six rushes.
--Brandon Meriweather has played all over the secondary this season, proving to be a durable impact player after an unhealthy first season in Washington. While has been an enforcer at the back end of the defense, he has also played the run particularly well, making open-field tackles and securing the turnover when he had help. Today presented one of those opportunities in the first half, when Meriweather ripped the ball away from Giants running back Andre Brown at the 17-yard line, setting the Redskins offense up for the first score of the day.
--While he has not had many opportunities to strut his stuff, the Redskins have cultivated the steady development of rookie cornerback David Amerson. In a defense with lots of parts in motion this offseason, the Redskins appear to have a solid piece of the puzzle at cornerback.
--Kicker Kai Forbath got the blame when he struggled early on special teams, going 5-for-9 to open the season. But he deserves ample credit for turning his season around in Week 10, nailing 13-straight to end the season. He has dealt with lousy field conditions in three of the last four weeks but still managed to nail kicks of 47, 49 and 50 yards. That is the steady production the Redskins expect from Forbath and points to a bounce-back year in 2014.
--Safety Reed Doughty has had another workmanlike season in Washington, filling in solidly at strong safety when Bacarri Rambo needed more seasoning, and leading the special teams coverage units. He got his just deserts this afternoon, intercepting Curtis Painter in the second half for his first takeaway of the year. It's good to see the veteran make the highlight reel, even in a disappointing season.
--Undrafted rookie free agent Nick Williams was a long-shot to even stick with the practice squad, but earned his spot and worked his way up to the active roster to aid in special teams. While he doesn't have elite speed or the escapability factor that the game's elite talents have, he did a solid job for the Redskins down the stretch taking over kick return duties and earning himself consideration going into the offseason.
--Veteran cornerback Josh Wilson has been a punching bag in the media at times, but at the end of the day, he provides the playmaking ability that this defense so richly needs. Today was a perfect example, as he had seven tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in the first half alone. The fumble recovery unfortunately did him in, as he was taken to the locker room for concussion protocol and another look at his injured calf. He was cleared of any head injury, but the calf injury knocked him out of the game. Still, Wilson did in 30 minutes what no one else can say they did in 60.
--Sav Rocca did not have a season up to his own standards, but made the most of a special teams unit that struggled in all facets of the game, as well as another pair of long snappers. The stat that stands out in his 2013 season was his 26 punts downed inside the 20-yard line without a single punt going into the end zone for a touchback. Unfortunately, the Redskins coverage unit allowed more than 650 punt return yards this season, more than double the number from a season ago. The unit also yielded three punt return touchdowns, Rocca's first touchdowns since 2007 in Philadelphia.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--Little known Giants receiver Jerrel Jernigan had a remarkable end to the season, catching 80 yards and a touchdown last week in Detroit and serving as a one-man wrecking crew today vs. Washington. He led the Giants in both receiving yards and rushing yards, finishing with 147 yards on eight touches and a touchdown. They simply had no answer for him.
--After spending most of the season as a top-five offense, the Redskins went anemic in the last few weeks of the season. Tallying just 251 yards today, they were held out of the end zone for the second time all season. They converted just five-of-20 third down opportunities and turned the ball over four times.
--The Redskins got bad news before the game started, as outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (groin) was held inactive to end his season. Although he tried to ready his body after being taken out of last week's contest with a strain, the Redskins aired on the side of caution and the book was sealed on his season. He finishes the year with 70 tackles, 15 for a loss, 10 sacks, 42 quarterback hits/pressures, five passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, one interception returned for a touchdown.
--Orakpo has three career sacks against Eli Manning. With a sack today, he could have tied his career high for sacks in a season (11), set in his rookie season, 2009.
--The Redskins have gotten off to quick starts with Kirk Cousins under center, but were sluggish out of the gate, struggling to get anything started on the ground or the air. They netted just 40 yards on the first four possessions, going 0-for-4 on third downs and punting each time.
--After appearing in five games last season as a rookie, offensive guard Josh LeRibeus went through the entire 2013 season as a gameday inactive. Considered a bold pick in last year's draft, the LeRibeus was expected to challenge Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger for playing time. Meanwhile, draft classmate Adam Gettis, taken much later in the draft, has been active for 12 games this season. LeRibeus needs a big offseason to remain in the team's plans moving forward.
--Coming into the game with four sacks on the Redskins from the Dec. 1st meeting, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck collected his fifth Washington in the first quarter today. As a former Pro Bowler on a talented defensive front, Tuck is going to get his opportunities. But his performance against Washington is just indicative of the season the Redskins' pass protection has had.
--The Redskins came into the 2013 season with reason to be hopeful about the depth at defensive end. But since last offseason, the Redskins have placed Adam Carriker, Stephen Bowen and Doug Worthington on injured reserve, leaving the team thin going into the final weeks. That situation got worse in the first half of today's game when Jenkins was taken to the locker room to be tested for a concussion. While he was able to return for the second half, his absence from the lineup opened up opportunities for the Giants on the ground.
--The Redskins running game was less than stellar today, with both Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. fumbling the football in the rain. Given the success he had in 2012, it's odd to see Morris struggle with ball security, but it continues to be an issue as the season goes along. He fumbled only four times on 346 touches last year, or roughly once every 87 Morris plays. This season, he has fumbled five times on 276 touches, or roughly once every 55 Morris plays. In a season when the Redskins struggled to stick with the run, that insecurity didn't help.
--Missed opportunities: After scoring a whopping 88 points off turnovers this season, the Redskins could not capitalize on the Giants mistakes. With three takeaways today in prime field position, the Redskins managed just a pair of field goals. While that pushes their season total to 94 points off turnover, it was not enough to make the difference in the game. There were also countless other bobbled and deflected passes that were not turned over.
--Redskins punt returner Santana Moss has been a difference-maker since taking over midway through the season, but was unable to do much damage today. The most egregious error was fielding a punt at the 5-yard line that could have conceivably gone into the end zone. There are no guarantees in situations like that, but Moss risked a turnover that close to his end zone and with very little to gain. Sure, the offense could have started at the 1-yard line if the Giants defender was able to down the ball. But if that ball could have gone into the end zone, Moss cost his offense 15 yards of space.
--Sav Rocca has had a trying season, rarely having enough time to get off clean kicks or the coverage unit to settle his efforts at the other end of the field. One of the concerns during the offseason should be the long-snapping game, which has gone consistently to his right for much of the season. Today, Rocca was fortunate to boot a long punt despite facing the Giants sideline standing in his end zone. It wasn't pretty, but he got the job done.
--Kirk Cousins was put in a difficult situation, taking over for Robert Griffin III with three games to go, weathering the drama and trying to turn around a team that was in the midst of a deep funk. He fell just short in his first two starts, losing by one point each, dropping the game in the final two minutes of the game. But Cousins didn't get it done today, finishing 19-for-49 for 169 yards, no touchdowns, two interception and a lost fumble. He had little help around him, as weather and a host of drops, bobbles and turnovers hurt those numbers. But ultimately, when the game was on the line, Cousins didn't have it today.
The electrifying season of top receiver Pierre Garçon continued today as he caught five receptions for the 16th time this season, becoming just the third receiver in NFL history to do so. The other two were Jimmy Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001 and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, also this season.
With no games left on the schedule, the Redskins go into the offseason with their task laid out before them: build a winner for 2014. Retaining most of the NFC East Championship roster was not the answer, so clearly the team needs to focus its efforts with new blood and new health at key positions. The Redskins will be without a first round pick for the final piece of the trade that landed Robert Griffin III, but should draw near the top of each round of the 2014 NFL Draft. With a number of large contracts coming off the books, the Redskins will have a lot of holes but also plenty of money to take care of those needs. There will be a youthful core carried into next season, but expect to see some new faces in burgundy and gold in 2014.
There isn't a whole lot to be said about a loss like this. The scoreboard and box score speak for themselves.
Ultimately, Sunday's loss to the Giants was a reflection on the 2013 season as a whole: glimmers of hope mixed with critical errors, lack of execution and missed opportunities.
The Redskins secured their first 3-13 season since 1994, and ride a tide of negative momentum to an eight-game losing streak to end the season.
There are no excuses to be made and there is no silver lining, other than to know that the next time the Washington Redskinss step onto the field, they will be 0-0 with all of the opportunity in the world.
This is a talented roster that needs some help, playing in a weak NFC East. Never mind that the Redskins finished 0-6 in division play; all four teams have major moves to make this offseason.
With smart personnel moves and a fresh slate in 2014, there is no reason the Redskins cannot exceed last season's success. Stay tuned, Redskins Nation.