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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Loss To The Giants In Week 4
by Al Galdi
Sep 26, 2014 -- 2:30pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins fell to 1-3 with a 45-14 loss to the Giants on Thursday night (Sept. 25, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Oops they did it again


The Redskins now have lost six straight primetime games and now are 3-16 in primetime games since the start of the 2008 season, including 3-11 at FedEx Field.


2. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a horrendous second half

Cousins committed five turnovers: a first-quarter lost fumble on a sack-strip and four second-half picks, including three third-quarter picks.  The sack-strip was the result of right tackle Tyler Polumbus getting beat badly by linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka.  The four picks all appeared to be bad decisions/throws by Cousins.

ESPN 980 Cousins went 15-of-22 for 189 yards and a touchdown over the first two quarters and the first drive of the third quarter.  He went 4-of-11 for 68 yards and four picks the rest of the game.  

Cousins now has 15 picks over 11 career regular-season games.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III has 17 picks over 30 career regular-season games.  

Cousins had a second-and-six 12-yard read-option run out of the shotgun on the Redskins’ first offensive drive, which resulted in the lost fumble on the sack-strip.  But Cousins appeared to make the wrong read on another read-option run, an early-fourth-quarter first-and-10 three-yard shotgun run for running back Alfred Morris.  The drive resulted in Cousins’ fourth pick.

Three moments in which Cousins' pass catchers didn't help him out:
     •    The play before Cousins’ first-quarter lost fumble on the sack-strip featured tight end Niles Paul quitting on the route on a second-and-nine under-center deep incompletion.  Paul was open and potentially would have had a big reception had he kept running hard.

     •    Receiver DeSean Jackson had a drop on a first-quarter first-and-20 shotgun screen-pass incompletion.  The drive resulted in a three-and-out.

     •    Tight end Logan Paulsen had the ball ripped away from him by corner Trumaine McBride for a lost fumble on a late-second-quarter second-and-seven five-yard reception.


3. The Redskins’ defense was woeful    

The Giants started the game 8-for-10 on third downs and finished 11-for-16 on third downs.

The Giants went 6-for-8 in the red zone.  A big part of that was tight end Larry Donnell (duh-NEHL), who had three first-half touchdown receptions.
    
The Redskins’ pass rush was virtually nonexistent, as it finished with just one sack and one quarterback hit.  Eli Manning did an excellent job of getting rid of the ball quickly and was sacked or under duress on just two of his 41 dropbacks according to ESPN Stats & Info, his second-lowest pressure percentage since 2009.   


4. A number of Redskins struggled in pass coverage

Corner David Amerson
     •    Amerson got beat by receiver Rueben Randle on his second-quarter second-and-nine 27-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Donnell’s first-and-goal six-yard touchdown reception.     

     •    Amerson got beat by Donnell on his third-quarter third-and-two 14-yard reception.  The drive did result in a punt.

     •    Amerson got beat by Randle on his third-quarter third-and-seven 12-yard reception.  The drive did result in linebacker Keenan Robinson’s pick at the at the Redskins’ 1.

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr.
     •    Riley got beat by Donnell on his first-quarter third-and-four five-yard touchdown reception.  

     •    Riley committed an early-fourth-quarter third-and-goal-at-the-2 one-yard illegal-use-of-hands penalty.  The next play was Manning’s first-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.

Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland    
     •    Breeland got beat by Donnell on his second-quarter first-and-goal six-yard touchdown reception.  

     •    Breeland committed a late-second-quarter first-and-10 17-yard pass-interference penalty on the drive that resulted in Josh Brown’s end-of-first-half 29-yard field goal.  

     •    Breeland got beat by Randle on his third-quarter first-and-10 21-yard reception.  The next play was tight end Daniel Fells’ third-quarter first-and-goal two-yard reception on which linebacker Will Compton got lost in coverage.

Safety Brandon Meriweather
     •    Meriweather got beat by Donnell on his early-second-quarter second-and-goal six-yard touchdown reception.

     •    Meriweather had a dropped pick on a third-and-quarter third-and-seven incompletion.  The next play was a Giants punt.

     •    Meriweather did put the hit on Randle to help generate Robinson’s third-quarter pick at the Redskins’ 1.

The drive that resulted in Donnell’s early-second-quarter second-and-goal six-yard touchdown included corner E.J. Biggers with a blown assignment on receiver Victor Cruz’s first-and-10 36-yard reception.  Biggers thought he was blitzing, but then realized that he wasn’t.
    

5. The already-banged-up Redskins got even more banged-up

Left tackle Trent Williams left the game in the third quarter due to a right knee injury suffered on Cousins’ third third-quarter pick.  Head coach Jay Gruden revealed on Friday (Sept. 26) that Williams was only dealing with patella inflammation as opposed to any structural damage.

Paul left the game late in the second quarter due to a concussion suffered on a second-and-10 28-yard reception that was initially ruled an incompletion.  Paul was sandwiched by safeties Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps, who was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.  

Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins left the game in the second quarter due to a ribs contusion.  

Safety Trenton Robinson suffered a left high-ankle sprain on the Giants' final offensive drive of the game.

The Redskins’ injury report for this game listed 17 players.


6. Redskins special teams had another bad game    

Defensive end Clifton Geathers committed a first-quarter four-yard illegal-use-of-hands penalty on a Giants punt and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the extra point after Donnell’s early-second-quarter second-and-goal six-yard touchdown reception.

The Redskins allowed a 34-yard kickoff return by receiver Preston Parker after Roberts’ second-quarter first-and-goal 18-yard touchdown reception.

Rookie linebacker Trent Murphy committed a third-quarter five-yard false-start penalty as the Redskins were getting ready to punt.

Corner Tracy Porter, making his Redskins debut off being inactive for the first three games due to a hamstring injury, committed a one-yard neutral-zone-infraction penalty prior to the extra-point attempt after Manning’s early-fourth-quarter first-and-goal one-yard touchdown run.


7. The Redskins have a penalty problem

The Redskins committed 11 accepted penalties and now have 39 accepted penalties over four games.  

Williams committed a first-quarter first-and-10 10-yard holding penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt and a third-quarter first-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt.  He now has committed five accepted penalties this season off committing just four accepted penalties all of last season and six accepted penalties in 2012.


8. There was a special-teams bright spot

Tress Way had four punts: first-quarter 55-yarder, first-quarter 57-yarder, third-quarter 77-yarder and a fourth-quarter 44-yarder.  

Way averaged a career-high 58.3 yards per punt on four punts, falling 1.1 yards shy of matching Pro Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh’s team record for punting average in a single game (59.4 at Detroit on Oct. 27, 1940).

Way’s 58.3-yard punting average and 55.5-yard net punting average were both the most by an NFL punter so far this season.

Way’s third-quarter 77-yard punt matched Steve Cox’s for the third-longest punt in franchise history (Nov. 1, 1987 at Buffalo).

Way became the first Redskins punter since Matt Turk to record a punt of 60 yards or more in four games in a single season.  Turk recorded a 60-yard punt in five games during the 1998 season.


9. Key Redskins offensive weapons weren’t big enough factors

The Redskins’ six turnovers and Cousins’ poor second-half play were the biggest reasons for this, but it still was remarkable the extent to which key names did not touch the ball.

Jackson and fellow receivers Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts combined for just four receptions on 15 targets.  One of the receptions was Roberts’ second-quarter first-and-goal 18-yard touchdown reception.

Morris totaled just 12 carries.  He did accumulate 63 rushing yards, but 38 of them came on two carries: second-quarter second-and-10 18-yard pistol-handoff run on the drive that resulted in Roberts’ second-quarter first-and-goal 18-yard touchdown reception and a third-quarter first-and-10 20-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run


10. Miscellaneous notes:
    
The Redskins fell to 0-for-4 on challenges this season with a failed challenge of an early-second-quarter first-and-10 under-center deep incompletion intended for Jackson.  The drive did result in Roberts’ first-and-goal 18-yard touchdown reception.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    Griffin for a second straight game due to the dislocated left ankle he suffered in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville

     •    tight end Jordan Reed for a third straight game due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    left guard Shawn Lauvao due to a right-knee injury that caused him to leave both the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville and the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia early

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston for a third straight game due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a fourth straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a fourth straight game

     •    nose tackle Robert Thomas, who was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster hours before the game

The Redskins also played this game without:    
     •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was placed on the reserve/injured list (designated to return) on Sept. 9 due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Loss At Philadelphia In Week 3
by Al Galdi
Sep 23, 2014 -- 3:29pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins fell to 1-2 with a 37-34 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 21, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was very good for a second straight game


Cousins went 30-of-48 for 427 yards, three touchdowns and a pick.  The 427 passing yards were the fourth-most by a Redskins quarterback in a regular-season game in team history, trailing Brad Johnson’s 471 (Dec. 26, 1999), Mark Rypien’s 442 (Nov. 10, 1991) and Doug Williams’ 430 (Sept. 11, 1988).

Cousins was excellent over the Redskins’ first two drives: 12-of-13 for 124 yards and two touchdowns.  Incredibly, Cousins became the first Redskins quarterback with two first-quarter touchdown passes in one game since Mark Brunell on Dec. 24, 2005 against the Giants.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Cousins’ performance: he was not sacked despite attempting 48 passes.  

Cousins’ best throw was a third-quarter first-and-10 81-yard offset-I-formation play-action touchdown bomb to receiver DeSean Jackson, concluding a one-play drive.  Perfect arm strength, touch and ball placement.

The first-quarter drive that resulted in Cousins’ second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to fullback Darrel Young included:
     •    first-and-10 19-yard under-center completion to receiver Pierre Garcon

     •    second-and-nine 13-yard under-center completion to Jackson

     •    third-and-three 10-yard shotgun completion to receiver Andre Roberts

The first-quarter drive that resulted in Cousins’ second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Garcon included:
     •    third-and-one 37-yard I-formation play-action completion to tight end Niles Paul on a wheel route down the right sideline

     •    third-and-six 10-yard under-center completion to Jackson

The fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Forbath’s missed 33-yard field-goal attempt included a first-and-10 43-yard under-center completion to Garcon.    


2. Cousins did struggle some after his hot start

Cousins went just 18-for-35 after his 12-for-13 start.

The Redskins went just 2-for-9 on third downs after beginning the game 6-for-6 on third downs.

Cousins’ biggest mistake was a pick to safety Malcom Jenkins on the Redskins’ first offensive play after Maclin’s fourth-quarter second-and-six 27-yard touchdown reception.  Cousins was under center and did not appear on the same page as his intended target, Paul.  

Other bad throws for Cousins:
     •    the second-quarter drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s 49-yard field goal included Cousins throwing too high to Garcon on a second-quarter first-and-10 under-center play-action incompletion and throwing behind Garcon on a third-and-two pistol incompletion.

     •    a  third-quarter drive that resulted in a punt included Cousins displaying bad mechanics off being pressured on a third-and-three shotgun incompletion.  Cousins' target was Jackson despite running back Roy Helu Jr. being open.

     •    the Redskins’ final drive of the game included three consecutive shotgun incompletions


3. The Redskins dealt with a number of in-game injuries for a second straight week, including losing two defensive backs for the season

Corner DeAngelo Hall suffered a torn left Achilles injury in the third quarter and was placed on the reserve/injured list on Monday (Sept. 22).

Safety Duke Ihenacho suffered a fractured heal bone in the first quarter and was placed on the reserve/injured list on Monday (Sept. 22).
    
Linebacker Brian Orakpo suffered a torn ligament in his left middle finger on the same drive on which Hall suffered his torn left Achilles.  Orakpo did return to the game, but he had to rush from the left side (not his usual right side) thanks to the injury.  What was interesting was that some of Orakpo’s best pressures came after the injury and the switch to the left side.
    
Defensive end Jason Hatcher left the game in the fourth quarter due to a hamstring injury.  Pro Football Focus credited him with five of the Redskins' 25 pressures.

Left guard Shawn Lauvao aggravated his right-knee injury and left the game in the third quarter.


4. The fourth quarter included a brawl that led to two ejections

Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland appeared to register a pick on a first-and-10 pass by quarterback Nick Foles.  While returning the ball, nose tackle Chris Baker shoulder-tackled Foles to the turf.  Left tackle Jason Peters then attacked Baker, and the fight was on.

The ultimate outcome of the play was Breeland’s pick being overturned via replay (he clearly did not make the catch, as the ball hit the turf) and Baker and Peters being ejected.  

Baker’s decking of Foles looked nasty, but it made sense if you consider that Foles had become an active defender given the (apparent) pick by Breeland.  But Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the NFL rulebook reads in part that "it is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.  Players in a defenseless posture [include]...a quarterback at any time after a change of possession..."

Referee Tony Corrente initially announced that no. 71 on the Redskins (left tackle Trent Williams) was ejected, but after several minutes, it was revealed that Peters was gone.  Williams being tossed was plausible, as both he and corner David Amerson were very much involved in the brawl, which spilled off the field and onto the Redskins’ sideline.
    
The Eagles’ drive ultimately resulted in receiver Jeremy Maclin’s second-and-six 27-yard touchdown reception.

We found out on Tuesday (Sept. 23) that Baker would not be fined for his hit on Foles.  Former Redskins safety Troy Vincent, now the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said to The Washington Post, “When you look at the rule, he didn’t do anything illegal. People can say it’s a cheap shot and you can talk about whether it might fall under unsportsmanlike conduct.  But when you know the rule and you look at the play, he didn’t hit him in the head.  He didn’t hit him in the neck.  We looked at it.  I looked at it very closely.  He’s not going to be fined for that.”  Baker found out about this while on the air with Steve Czaban and me on The Drive on ESPN 980.  We did learn on Friday (Sept. 26) that Baker was fined $8,268 by the NFL for his role in the brawl.


5. Even factoring in the injuries and Baker’s ejection, the Redskins’ defense disappointed in its chance to show how much better it is

The biggest Redskins storyline specific to this game, for me, was just how improved is the defense?  Doing a good job at Houston and tying a franchise record with 10 sacks against Jacksonville were great to see.  Shining against an elite offense like the Eagles’ would have been the most encouraging sign yet that the defense is much improved.  

But we did not get that.  The Redskins totaled no sacks and just two quarterback hits, though Pro Football Focus did credit the Redskins with 25 pressures and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said on Tuesday (Sept. 23) that the Redskins, according to their stats, registered 15 quarterback hits in the game.  

The pass rush was better in the second half but never good enough, especially considering the depleted nature of the Eagles’ offensive line.  Center Jason Kelce left the game in the third quarter due to an abdominal injury.  Left tackle Jason Peters got ejected in the fourth quarter.  And the Eagles entered this game without right tackle Lane Johnson due to a suspension and left guard Evan Mathis and right tackle Allen Barbre due to injury.

Five of the Redskins’ 10 penalties came on defense:
     •    linebacker Ryan Kerrigan committed a first-quarter five-hard holding penalty on the drive that resulted in Breeland’s early-second-quarter forced fumble and Hall’s recovery

     •    corner E.J. Biggers committed a third-and-11 40-yard pass-interference penalty on the drive that resulted in Cody Parkey’s third-quarter 38-yard field goal.

     •    the drive that resulted in Parkey’s third-quarter 33-yard field goal included Breeland committing a five-yard illegal-contact penalty and rookie linebacker Trent Murphy committing a second-and-10 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty

     •    linebacker Keenan Robinson committed a third-and-five 21-yard pass-interference penalty on the fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Maclin’s second-and-six 27-yard touchdown reception

The Redskins had numerous issues in pass coverage:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather returned from a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules and struggled, including getting beat by Maclin on his fourth-quarter second-and-six 27-yard touchdown reception.  Meriweather also got beat on a late-third-quarter second-and-six 13-yard reception by Maclin, but that drive resulted in a punt (also on that drive was nose tackle Chris Baker dropping a pick on a first-and-10 incompletion).

     •    rookie receiver Jordan Matthews had two second-quarter 11-yard touchdown receptions.  The first saw linebacker Perry Riley Jr. get fooled by read-option play-action, allowing Matthews to get wide open.  The second saw Matthews make the catch between Riley and Meriweather off a terrific throw by quarterback Nick Foles.

     •    corner David Amerson got beat by receiver Riley Cooper on his second-quarter third-and-11 21-yard reception.  The drive resulted in Matthews’ first second-quarter 11-yard touchdown reception.

     •    Biggers got beat by Matthews on a second-quarter second-and-six 10-yard reception.  The drive resulted in Matthews’ second second-quarter 11-yard touchdown reception.


6. There were positives for the Redskins’ defense

I do think that the Redskins’ defense has improved (the question is by how much), and it does deserve credit for some good in this game.

The Redskins held running back LeSean McCoy to just 22 yards on 19 carries.  He did perhaps struggle in part due to a first-quarter head injury suffered on a hit by Amerson, though McCoy returned from that in the second quarter.

The Redskins held the Eagles to just 4-for-11 on third downs.    

The Redskins forced the Eagles to punt on three consecutive drives in the second half.


7. Redskins special teams were terrible

Meriweather and punter/kickoff man Tress Way missed on attempted tackles on running back Chris Polk’s first-quarter 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  Also on the play was safety Trenton Robinson getting out of his lane big time.

Meriweather committed a five-yard offside penalty on the first-quarter kickoff after Garcon’s four-yard touchdown reception.

Polk had a 35-yard kickoff return after Forbath’s second-quarter 44-yard field goal.

Rookie safety Akeem Davis committed a 15-yard horse-collar-tackle penalty on a third-quarter 59-yard punt by Way.

The Redskins allowed an 18-yard punt return by running back Darren Sproles late in the third quarter.

Forbath, who was questionable with a right groin injury for the second straight game, missed a fourth-quatrer 33-yard field-goal attempt, hitting the right upright.  He entered that try having made a personal-best 18 consecutive field-goal attempts, including second-quarter tries of 49 and 44 yards.

Way had punts of 59, 46 and 65 yards, but his net average was just 41.0.


8. Redskins pass catchers had mixed games

Jackson, playing at his former team, had five receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown but on 11 targets.

Garcon rebounded from his one-catch performance in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville with 11 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets.  He made a great catch on the second-quarter second-and-10 23-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s 44-yard field goal.

Paul had six receptions for 68 yards on nine targets.

But there was bad from Redskins pass catchers:
     •    the second-quarter drive that resulted in Forbath’s 44-yard field goal included a drop by Paul on a first-and-10 shotgun incompletion on which the ball placement from Cousins was perfect.  Paul didn't seem on the same page as Cousins on several plays, including the fourth-quarter pick.

     •    a third-quarter drive that resulted in a punt included a third-and-nine shotgun incompletion on which Cousins threw the ball behind rookie receiver Ryan Grant, though he reasonably could have made the catch

     •    a late-third-quarter/early-fourth-quarter drive that resulted in a punt included a third-and-10 shotgun incompletion on which Cousins appeared to throw the ball too soon.  The ball, though, went through Roberts' hands.

     •    the fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Forbath’s missed 33-yard field-goal attempt included a third-and-12 shotgun incompletion on which Cousins’ throw was off.  Jackson, though, appeared as if he could have made the catch.


9. Running back Alfred Morris has had better games

The first-quarter drive that resulted in Garcon’s four-yard touchdown reception included a second-and-eight three-yard I-formation-toss run by Morris, who fumbled the ball.  Garcon made the recovery.  Morris also had two near-fumbles in the Week 1 loss at Houston (one was officially a fumble on Griffin; the other was ruled to have happened after Morris was tackled).

Morris had 23 carries for 77 yards, as the Redskins’ offensive line had a rare off day when it came to run blocking.

Morris did have a vintage moment on the final play of the third quarter, gaining seven yards on an I-formation-handoff carry on which it appeared as if he was being stopped by linebacker Brandon Graham for a loss.


10. Miscellaneous notes:

The Redskins' next drive after Cousins' fourth-quarter pick resulted in Helu's one-yard touchdown run.  Two things stand out from that drive: 1) the Redskins scored quickly as needed, going 80 yards in just five plays and 1:39 off the clock and 2) Helu had a terrific first-and-10 55-yard reception off a shotgun screen pass from Cousins.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    quarterback Robert Griffin III due to the dislocated left ankle he suffered in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville

     •    tight end Jordan Reed for a second straight game due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston for a second straight game due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a third straight game

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) for a third straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a third straight game

     •    rookie tackle Morgan Moses

The Redskins also played this game without:    
     •    nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was placed on the reserve/injured list (designated to return) on Sept. 9 due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7.  His contract was terminated on Monday (Sept. 22).

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three At Atlanta And Winning The N.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:03pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 4-2 win on Monday night (Sept. 15)

Game 2: 3-0 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 16)

Game 3: 3-1 loss on Wednesday night (Sept. 17)


1. The beast of the National League East

ESPN 980 Galleries
The win on Tuesday night clinched the Nats’ second NL East title in three seasons and just the third division title in the history of the franchise (1981, 2012 and 2014).

After a loss on June 27, the Nats were 41-38 and tied for first place in the NL East with the Braves.  From that point until clinching the division, the Nats went an NL-best 46-25.  

Plenty of credit should go to Matt Williams for winning a division title in his rookie season as a manager.  He has taken his share of criticism from the media (myself included), but at no point has the job appeared to be too big for him, and the results speak for themselves.  

But no one deserves more credit than general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo.  He has made one good move after another since taking over the Nats’ front office (at first on an interim basis) in March 2009.  The Nats’ roster is one of the best in the majors.  The team has been positioned well for the future for several years now.  The Nats’ success over the last three seasons says as much about Rizzo as anyone.  


2. The Nats’ Game 3 lineup did not feature a single regular

Perhaps it was a reward for the division title.  Perhaps it was a necessity given the celebration after Game 2.  Whatever the case, not a single Nats regular played in Game 3.  The Nats’ starting lineup for the game: center fielder Michael Taylor, shortstop Danny Espinosa, third baseman Kevin Frandsen, first baseman Tyler Moore, right fielder Nate Schierholtz, left fielder Stephen Souza Jr., second baseman Jeff Kobernus, catcher Sandy Leon and starting pitcher Blake Treinen.


3. Not their daddies this month

The Nats, in taking two of three at the Braves, improved to 8-11 against them this season.  The Nats lost nine of their first 13 games against the Braves this season.

Nats killer and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went just 2-for-11 in the series, which he entered with incredible numbers against the Nats this season: .476 batting average, .521 on-base percentage, .778 slugging percentage.

The Nats batted just .185 (17-for-92) in the series, including going just 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position.


4. The starting pitching was excellent    

Stephen Strasburg tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts and also providing an RBI single and a walk.  He was pulled after just 90 pitches in part due to waking up with neck stiffness on Monday.  Strasburg, in this his career-high 32nd start of the season, surpassed 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career.  He now has 28 strikeouts versus zero walks over his last four starts.

Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, allowing just five hits and no walks.  He exited the series first among all Nats pitchers with a 5.0 bWAR.

Treinen tossed five scoreless innings in Game 3.


5. Game 1 ended up being much closer than it should have

Nats relievers combined to allow five runs in seven innings in the series thanks to two rough outings.

Rafael Soriano officially was credited with two runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 1.  He went double, strikeout, RBI double, fly out, walk in the bottom of the ninth before being replaced by closer Drew Storen.  But he struggled too, giving up an RBI single and a wild pitch before inducing a game-ending groundout.  Storen did toss a perfect ninth for the save in Game 2.

Ross Detwiler allowed three runs in the bottom of the sixth of Game 3.


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles' Three-Game Sweep Of Toronto And Winning The A.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:02pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 5-2 win on Monday night (Sept. 15)

Game 2: 8-2 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 16)

Game 3: 6-1 win on Wednesday night (Sept. 17)


1. Division champs for the first time since the Clinton Administration


The win on Tuesday night clinched the Orioles’ first American League East title since 1997 and just their second division championship since the start of the 1984 season.

The O’s are off to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and for just the fourth time since the start of the 1984 season.

The O’s are in the midst of their third consecutive winning season.  They hadn’t registered three straight winning seasons since 1992-94.

What manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette have done in just a few seasons is remarkable.  This franchise was a joke thanks to 14 consecutive losing seasons (1998-2011).  It is now the only team in the A.L. East to make the postseason in two of the last three years.  


2. The offense was great
       
The O’s batted .278 (27-for-97) in the series, including going 6-for-20 with runners in scoring position.

Steve Pearce started Games 1 and 2 at first base and Game 3 in right field and had a monster series: 5-for-9 with three walks.  He blasted a three-run homer in Game 2 and another three-run bomb and a solo shot in Game 3.  Pearce exited this series first on the O’s with a 5.9 bWAR.  

DH Nelson Cruz went 5-for-12 in the series.
    
Second baseman/third baseman Ryan Flaherty started Games 1 and 2, providing a two-run homer in Game 1 and two walks in Game 2.

Center fielder Adam Jones had three singles, an RBI and a run in Game 1 and provided the most memorable images of the division-clinching celebration after Game 2, smashing willing fans in their faces with pies.    


3. The starting pitching was good enough

Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1, recording six strikeouts.  He did give up nine hits and a walk.

Ubaldo Jimenez made a spot start in Game 2 and pitched reasonably well: two runs in five innings with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed.  He did give up four walks.  The outing was Jimenez’s first of any kind since Aug. 31 and just his third outing since his previous last start on Aug. 16.

Bud Norris tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 3, though he did give up two hits, five walks and a wild pitch.


4. The bullpen was excellent for a second straight series

Orioles relievers combined to allow just one run in 11 innings in the series, recording 12 strikeouts.


5. Things got chippy in Game 1

It all started in the top of the fifth, when Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes got angry at catcher Caleb Joseph after Reyes’ hand made contact with Joseph’s cleat on an RBI single by first baseman/third baseman and former Oriole Danny Valencia.  Reyes appeared to feel that Joseph had illegally blocked the plate.

Then in the bottom of the sixth, Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman sailed a pitch behind Joseph’s head.  Plate umpire Ted Barrett warned both benches, and Joseph struck out to end the inning.  Stroman kept glaring at the Orioles’ dugout as he walked off the field, and several players actually started to hop over the railing, though no incident took place.  Manager Buck Showalter ultimately came out to talk to Barrett and was furious.

MLB suspended Stroman for six games and fined him an undisclosed amount on Wednesday.  Stroman is appealing, maintaining that the pitch was not intentional. 

 


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Blowout Of Jacksonville In Week 2
by Al Galdi
Sep 17, 2014 -- 6:59pm

The Redskins improved to 1-1 with a 41-10 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated left ankle in the first quarter and is out indefinitely


Griffin looked good in his brief time in the game.  He had two read-option runs for 22 yards, including a 12-yard run on the first offensive play of the game.  He went 2-of-3 for 38 yards, including a second-and-eight 19-yard shotgun completion to tight end Niles Paul off read-option play-action and a second-and-nine I-formation incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson on a play that should have been ruled a completion (the Skins challenged but were unsuccessful).

Griffin got injured on second-and-four 19-yard completion to Jackson off a play-action boot out of the pistol.  Griffin had both Jackson and receiver Pierre Garcon open and should have thrown the ball earlier, but he instead kept running and, ultimately got injured when his left foot hit the turf awkwardly and bent in a gruesome fashion.  Griffin was trying to get away from linebacker Paul Posluszny on the play.  Griffin suffered no break in the ankle, but head coach Jay Gruden on Monday (Sept. 15) offered no timetable for a return other than saying, “We'll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he'll be out.”        

This was Griffin’s fourth injury over 31 regular-season and postseason games: concussion in the Week 5 loss to Atlanta in 2012, grade-one right LCL sprain in the Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, torn right ACL in the wild-card-round playoff loss to Seattle in Jan. 2013 and now this injury.

The other negative for Griffin was a third-and-nine sack for a nine-yard loss.  He was in the shotgun and was guilty of standing too still in the pocket.  Griffin now has been sacked 42 times over his last 15 regular-season games off getting sacked just 30 times in 15 regular-season games in 2012.  


2. Receiver DeSean Jackson, like Griffin, exited the game in the first quarter and was one of five Redskins injured

Jackson suffered an AC-joint sprain in his left shoulder on a first-and-10 deep incompletion.      

Fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain on a fourth-quarter second-and-nine seven-yard reception that also included a 10-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Winston Guy Jr.

Running back Roy Helu Jr. exited the game in the fourth quarter due to a left-knee strain.

Left guard Shawn Lauvao exited the game in the fourth quarter due to right-knee inflammation.


3. The Redskins had one of their best offensive games of the last few seasons despite the injuries, a key absence and a surprise underperformer

The Redskins scored 41 points, producing 32 first downs and 449 total net yards of offense and no turnovers.  

The Redskins won the time-of-possession battle by 18:02.  

The Redskins’ 31-point margin of victory was the team’s largest since Oct. 7, 2007 vs. Detroit (34-3).

What was most impressive was the Redskins’ offense in the first half: 21 points, 308 total net yards, 21 first downs.  The second quarter at Dallas in 2012, the first quarter against Baltimore in 2012, the first half at Minnesota in 2013 and the first half of this game stand as the Redskins’ best offensive quarters/halves since the start of the 2012 season.

The most impressive aspect of this offensive performance: the Redskins did it despite Griffin and Jackson exiting the game in the first quarter due to injury, tight end Jordan Reed being inactive due to a hamstring injury and receiver Pierre Garcon totaling just one reception on four targets.

And the offensive numbers could have been even better.  A second-and-nine Grffin I-formation deep incompletion intended for Jackson should have been a catch according to officiating experts Mike Pereira of FOX Sports and Mike Carey of CBS Sports.

The Jaguars did play this game without safety Johnathan Cyprien due to a concussion.


4. Kirk Cousins relieved Griffin and was very good, especially in the first half

Cousins completed his first 12 passes, going 14-of-18 for 170 yards and a touchdown in the first half.  He went just 8-of-15 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the second half, but the performance still overall was terrific, especially considering that it was a relief performance.  

Cousins’ two touchdown passes were a first-quarter second-and-10 20-yard shotgun connection with Young on Cousins’ first throw of the game and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-goal two-yard I-formation toss to Paul.  The touchdown pass to Young was particularly impressive, as Cousins watched the corner fall off of Young toward Garcon before throwing to a wide-open Young for the touchdown.

Cousins’ pocket presence and decision making are better than Griffin’s right now without question.  Cousins' average pass was released in 2.4 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information.  That was a half-second faster than the average throw by Griffin, who, of course, is faster and has the stronger arm and overall higher ceiling.  I never liked the idea of trading Cousins last offseason given the bad year that Griffin had in 2013, to say nothing of Griffin’s injury history.  This game was exactly why you keep Cousins on your roster.

And this game also was why spending a fourth-round pick on Cousins in 2012 was a good idea.  He has at this point has proven at the very least to be a capable backup at a bargain price (four-year, $2.57 million deal).  And he may be a quality starter.  On what planet is that poor use of a fourth-round pick?  


5. The Redskins’ defense was dominant

The Redskins tied a team record with 10 sacks, set previously on Oct. 9, 1977. The 10 sacks were the most by the Redskins in a game since the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982.

The Redskins totaled a ridiculous 18 quarterback hits.

The Redskins held the Jaguars to 148 total net yards of offense, eight first downs and 3-of-13 on third downs.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan tied a team record with four sacks, matching Phillip Daniels (12/18/2005), Ken Harvey (11/23/1997), Dexter Manley (10/2/1988) and Brian Orakpo (12/13/2009).

Defensive end Jason Hatcher had two quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks, but the stats don’t tell the story of his game.  Hatcher was a major disruptive force, earning a perfect 10.0 grade from our own Chris Cooley.  

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. had three quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson had three quarterback hits, including half of a sack.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two quarterback hits, including a sack, and was again impressive with his run defense.

Corner David Amerson had two of the Redskins’ six pass defenses.

The Jaguars did play this game without receiver Cecil Shorts III due to a hamstring injury.


6. Safety Bacarri Rambo committed another major mistake and is gone

The Redskins waived Rambo on Tuesday (Sept. 16) off allowing tight end Marcedes Lewis to get behind him and taking a bad angle on Lewis’ second-quarter third-and-12 63-yard touchdown reception.  Rambo, of course, also was guilty of a terrible missed tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception in the Week 1 loss at Houston.

Rambo played on just 38 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps, as safety Trenton Robinson was in on 48 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.  He had an early-fourth-quarter interception but also was at least partly responsible for rookie receiver Allen Robinson’s fourth-quarter third-and-nine 54-yard reception.

Rambo getting waived means that just two of the Redskins’ seven 2013 draft picks are on the 53-man roster: Amerson and Reed.

Two other defensive negatives had to do with corner DeAngelo Hall.  He got beat badly on a first-quarter second-and-10 deep incompletion intended for rookie receiver Allen Hurns, who dropped the ball.  And Hall committed a second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard personal-foul penalty.  


7. Running back Alfred Morris had a very good first half

Morris had 14 carries for 63 yards in the first half, including two second-quarter one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown runs.

Morris did have eight carries for just 22 yards in the second half, but bad blocking by Lauvao and right tackle Tyler Polumbus had a lot to do with Morris’ bad second-half.    

Rookie Silas Redd had eight carries for 41 yards, including a late-fourth-quarter fourth-and-seven 14-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run.

Roy Helu Jr. had eight carries for just 25 yards but provided the play of the game from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint: second-quarter first-and-10 nine-yard I-formation run on which Helu accumulated much of the yardage while pushing off the turf with his right arm.


8. Tight end Niles Paul and receiver Ryan Grant took advantage of others’ absences

Tight end Logan Paulsen actually started in place of Reed, but it was Paul who played on 71 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps and finished with eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.  He did have a drop late in the third quarter on a first-and-10 incompletion.  But that drive resulted in Paul’s second-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception.

Grant played on 44 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps thanks to Jackson’s injury and finished with five receptions for 57 yards on eight targets.
    

9. Redskins special teams had a second straight uneven game

The good from Redskins special teams included:
     •    kicker Kai Forbath going 2-for-2 on field goals of 36 and 42 yards despite being questionable with a right groin injury

     •    receiver Andre Roberts’ third-quarter 37-yard punt return that helped to set-up Forbath’s third-quarter 36-yard field goal

     •    punter Tress Way blasting two first-quarter 61-yard punts and a 48-yard punt to the Jags’ 14 in the second quarter

But the bad from Redskins special teams included:    
     •    Roberts totaling just 22 yards on his six other punt returns

     •    Way producing a mere 29-yard punt in the third quarter

     •    Five of the Redskins’ 11 penalties being on special teams, including two by special-teams captain and linebacker Adam Hayward


10. Miscellaneous notes:

This victory snapped a nine-game regular-season losing streak for the Redskins.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    Reed due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a second straight game

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) for a second straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a second straight game

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long for a second straight game

     •    quarterback Colt McCoy for a second straight game

The Redskins also played this game without:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who is serving a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules

     •    nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was placed on the reserve/injured list (designated to return) on Sept. 9 due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Three Of Four Against The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Sep 15, 2014 -- 11:56am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 11-inning win on Friday afternoon (Sept. 12)

Game 2: 5-0 win on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 3-2 loss on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-2 win on Sunday night (Sept. 14)


1. First baseman Chris Davis is done for the regular season


We learned on Friday that Davis had been suspended for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall.  The suspension was to cost Davis the Orioles’ remaining 17 regular-season games and eight postseason games should the O’s advance that far.

Under the terms of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program, a first offense for a stimulant violation results in follow-up testing.  A second violation brings a 25-game suspension, and a third offense results in an 80-game suspension.  So Davis, obviously, failed a test for a second time.

Davis released a statement of apology through the Major League Baseball Players Association: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans.  I made a mistake by taking Adderall.  I had permission to use it in the past but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption this year.  I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

One of two things happened here: 1) Davis legitimately needs Adderall, took it without an exemption, and got caught or 2) Davis took Adderall as a performance-enhancer in a frustrating season without an exemption and got caught.  Whatever the case, this was a foolish and completely avoidable misstep.

Davis has an OPS+ of just 97 (100 is average) this season off his incredible 2013: OPS+ of 168, MLB-leading 53 homers, MLB-leading 138 RBI, MLB-leading 370 total bases.  Two bright spots, though, for Davis this season: 1) he’s second on the O’s with 26 homers and 2) his advanced defensive numbers at first base are very good, and he has played some at third base in the absence of Manny Machado.

The O’s have been without Machado since he injured his right knee on Aug. 11.  He underwent season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in late August.  Additionally, catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t played since May 10 and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 17.


2. The starting pitching was terrific with the exception of one inning

Kevin Gausman tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts.

Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, recording 10 strikeouts.

Miguel Gonzalez allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3, though he gave up just three hits and three walks.  All three runs came in the top of the second, which featured a solo homer, a walk, a double, an RBI single and a steal of home.

Chris Tillman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings in Game 4, recording six strikeouts.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 19 starts.  The Orioles’ record for such a streak is 25, which was set by Dave McNally in 1968.  

3. The bullpen was excellent

Orioles relivers combined to allow just two runs in 11 1/3 innings in the series, totaling 13 strikeouts.


4. The offense overall was bad…

The O’s totaled just one homer and batted just .230 (31-for-135) in the series, though they did total 11 walks over Games 1 and 2.


5. …but the theme of unlikely heroes continued for the O’s

Steve Pearce started all four games at first base and went 5-for-14 with two walks in the series.

Jimmy Paredes had a pinch walk-off two-run double in Game 1.

Left fielder Alejandro De Aza had two RBI triples in Game 2, which also included shortstop Ryan Flaherty providing an RBI double, a walk and a run and DH Delmon Young producing a two-run single.

Third baseman Kelly Johnson, a former Yankee whom the O's acquired from Boston on Aug. 30, hit a walk-off double in Game 4.


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