Week 17: Redskins conclude a 10-6 regular season with a 28-18 win over Dallas on Sunday night (Dec. 30, 2012).
1. The Skins are NFC East champions for the first time since the 1999 season.
The Skins entered this season having finished last in the NFC East in each of the previous four seasons.
This game proved to be not only for the NFC East title but also a win-or-go-home affair for both the Skins and Cowboys. The Skins entered Sunday with a chance to still make the playoffs as a wild card with a loss to the Cowboys, but the Skins needed both Chicago (at Detroit at 1 p.m.) and Minnesota (home to Green Bay at 4:25 p.m.) to lose. Both the Bears (26-24) and Vikings (37-34) won.
The Skins will host Seattle on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN 980 and ESPN980.com. Each of the Skins’ last two playoff appearances has ended with a loss at the Seahawks.
2. An amazing turnaround is complete.
The Skins won their seventh consecutive game. The Skins are just the fourth 3-6 team since the 1990 season to make the playoffs. The last 3-6 team to make the playoffs was the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Skins have won seven consecutive games for the first time since winning seven consecutive games in Weeks 2-9 of the 1996 season.
Each of the Skins’ last three postseason appearances now has come by way of winning out in the regular season.
• The Skins went from 5-6 to 10-6 in the 2005 season.
• The Skins went from 5-7 to 9-7 in the 2007 season.
• The Skins have gone from 3-6 to 10-6 this season.
3. Rookie running back Alfred Morris had one of the greatest games in Skins history.
Morris had 33 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Morris had a fourth-quarter third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run that essentially clinched the victory. The drive also included a handoff out of the pistol for a first-and-10 10-yard Morris run on which he broke through an attempted tackle by defensive lineman Sean Lissemore.
Morris had a fourth-quarter first-and-10 32-yard touchdown run that helped to give the Skins a 21-10 lead. The toss run began with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III under center and included Morris cutting back, then making his way by linebacker Anthony Spencer and then running by safety Eric Frampton.
Morris had a third-quarter 10-yard zone-read-option run on which he broke through an attempted tackle by Lissemore and broke the Skins’ single-season rushing record, which had been set by Clinton Portis during the 2005 season (1,516). Morris’ record-setting run was part of a five-play sequence that featured runs of one, 10, five, six and 22 yards. The nine-play 82-yard drive resulted in RGIII’s third-quarter first-and-goal 10-yard zone-read-option touchdown run.
• Morris had a first-and-10 22-yard toss run off RGIII being under center. Morris broke through an attempted tackle by safety Gerald Sensabaugh and then dragged Frampton for extra yardage before being brought down by him. Spencer suffered an ankle injury on the play.
Morris had a second-quarter first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run on an eight-play 68-yard drive that also included consecutive Morris runs of 13 and 12 yards.
• Morris had first-and-10 13-yard stretch run out of the pistol, running by linebacker Brady Poppinga and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and then cutting back toward the middle of the field for more yardage.
• The next play saw Morris with a first-and-10 12-yard toss run out of the pistol, running through attempted arm tackles by linebacker Dan Connor and Frampton.
• Morris then had his first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run, on which he ran out of the pistol and by Sensabaugh.
Morris had consecutive runs of 19 and 10 yards on the Skins’ second drive of the game, but that drive resulted in kicker Kai Forbath’s (KY FOHR-bath’s) first-quarter missed 37-yard field-goal try.
• Morris ran through rookie corner Morris Claiborne on a first-and-10 19-yard stretch run, which came off RGIII being under center.
• The next play was a first-and-10 zone-read-option 10-yard run.
Morris had a fourth-quarter first-and-10 zone-read-option 10-yard run, breaking through an attempted tackle by Poppinga. The drive did result in a punt.
Morris had two first-half receptions for 12 yards. He had just 11 receptions this regular season, but five receptions came over the final three games.
Morris finished the 2012 regular season ranked:
• Second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,613)
• Second in the league in rushing touchdowns (13)
• Second in the league in rushing first downs (83)
• Ninth in the league in yards per carry (4.8)
Morris had four fumbles this regular season. Three ended up as lost fumbles: one in the Week 7 loss at the Giants, one in the Week 13 win over the Giants and one in the Week 14 win over Baltimore.
4. RGIII was still clearly not 100 percent but ironically shined as a runner.
RGIII completed just nine of 18 passes for 100 yards and a season-low passer rating of 66.9.
RGIII, despite lacking his usual burst thanks to the grade-one sprain of the LCL in his right knee suffered on a fourth-quarter second-and-19 13-yard scramble in the Week 14 overtime win over the Ravens, had six carries for 63 yards and a touchdown.
RGIII shined with his arm and legs on three key Skins drives:
• The fourth-quarter six-play 74-yard drive that resulted in Morris’ first-and-10 32-yard touchdown run included an RGIII second-and-nine 17-yard zone-read-option run on which he ran by a faked-out linebacker in DeMarcus Ware and a third-and-one bullet of a pass out of the shotgun to receiver Pierre Garcon for 15 yards.
• A third-quarter nine-play 82-yard drive resulted in an RGIII first-and-goal 10-yard zone-read-option touchdown run on which he ran by a faked-out Ware. The drive also included an RGIII (who was under center) first-and-10 18-yard completion to Garcon off play-action to running back Evan Royster and a second-and-13 13-yard completion to Garcon on a receiver screen off zone-read-option play-action to Morris.
• The second-quarter eight-play 68-yard drive that resulted in Morris’ first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run included an RGIII third-and-seven eight-yard completion to tight end Logan Paulsen and an RGIII first-and-10 nine-yard zone-read-option run.
A first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt saw RGIII connect with receiver Leonard Hankerson for a first-quarter second-and-10 12-yard quick-slant completion off being under center and with receiver Santana Moss for a third-and-seven 11-yard completion off being in the pistol. But that drive also saw RGIII seem very off from a mobility standpoint on a second-and-10 three-yard zone-read-option run and nearly picked off by corner Brandon Carr on a second-and-six deep incompletion (Carr caught the ball out of bounds).
RGIII had a first-quarter third-and-four nine-yard zone-read-option run on which he ran by a faked-out Ware. The drive did result in Forbath’s first-quarter missed 37-yard field-goal try.
RGIII broke through an attempted tackle by linebacker Ernie Sims on a fourth-quarter zone-read-option 15-yard run. But two plays later RGIII took a wicked hit from an unblocked Ware on a second-and-eight incompletion. The Skins were forced to burn a timeout due to RGIII being shaken up. The next play (a third-and-eight) resulted in RGIII (in the shotgun) being sacked by Spencer for a 13-yard loss. The drive resulted in a punt.
RGIII went just 1-for-6 on balls thrown over 10 yards in the air according to Pro Football Focus.
RGIII dealt with communication problems during the game. Head coach Mike Shanahan on Monday (Dec. 31): “Right from the second play of the game we had some problems with communicating with the quarterback. He could not hear us, so that’s why we had to use that first timeout, and I think we switched it three or four times during the game. For some reason that communication wasn’t there.”
RGIII finished the 2012 regular season with 20 touchdown passes versus five interceptions and ranked:
• First in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.14)
• Third in the league in passer rating (102.4)
• Tied for fourth in the league in completion percentage (65.6)
• First in the league in rushing yards per attempt (6.8)
RGIII captained a Skins’ offense that:
• Set a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a season (14), surpassing the previous team record of 16 set in the nine-game 1982 strike-shortened season.
• Finished tied for 23rd in the NFL in third-down efficiency (35.8 percent; 68-for-190) but has gone 36-for-78 (46.2 percent) on third downs during this seven-game winning streak.
5. The Skins’ defense continued to display remarkable improvement.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett blitzed the Cowboys repeatedly, and the results included three interceptions, two sacks, five quarterback hits and nine passes defended.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed just 20 of 37 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, three picks and a passer rating of 55.9. He had totaled three picks over his previous eight games. Romo fell to 1-6 in elimination games (regular season and postseason) in his career.
Corner DeAngelo Hall, used largely in man coverage on receiver Dez Bryant thanks to the repeated blitzing, held Bryant to four receptions for 71 yards on eight targets. Bryant entered the game with 10 touchdown receptions over his previous seven games. Hall graded out at plus-1.7 for the game according to Pro Football Focus.
• Hall provided quality coverage on Bryant on a fourth-quarter third-and-five incompletion. The drive resulted in kicker Dan Bailey’s fourth-quarter 48-yard field goal.
• Hall provided quality coverage on Bryant on a first-quarter second-and-14 incompletion on which linebacker Perry Riley got significant push on running back DeMarco Murray. Hall did get beat by Bryant for a third-and-14 23-yard reception on the next play. But the drive resulted in corner Josh Wilson’s first-quarter second-and-five interception.
• Hall provided quality coverage on receiver Dwayne Harris on a fourth-quarter second-and-10 incompletion. The drive resulted in a punt.
Wilson graded out at plus-2.6 for the game according to Pro Football Focus.
• Wilson had the first-quarter second-and-five interception of an underthrown Romo pass.
• Wilson gave Romo a cracked rib on his left side on a second-quarter second-and-10 quarterback hit on a one-yard completion to tight end Jason Witten. The drive resulted in a punt.
• Wilson, along with linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, pressured Romo on a third-quarter third-and-seven incompletion on which Haslett blitzed five Skins. The drive resulted in a punt.
Linebacker Rob Jackson continued to shine.
• Jackson made a terrific leaping catch for a fourth-quarter first-and-10 interception. He began the play by coming toward Romo but then dropped back into coverage on Murray and generated the pick. The ensuing Skins drive resulted in Morris’ third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run that essentially clinched the victory. Jackson finished the regular season with four picks.
• Jackson pushed Witten back toward Romo on his first-quarter second-and-five pick to Wilson.
• Jackson penetrated into the backfield on the second quarter’s first play, which resulted in a Murray carry for a three-yard loss (the tackle officially was made by Riley and fellow linebacker London Fletcher). That drive did result in Romo’s third-and-goal nine-yard touchdown pass to Witten.
Fletcher blitzed a season-high 16 times according to Pro Football Focus and had team highs of two sacks, three quarterback hits and 11 tackles.
• Fletcher had a fourth-quarter third-and-10 sack of Romo for an 18-yard loss. Haseltt blitzed six Skins on the play, and Fletcher went unblocked. The drive resulted in a punt.
• Fletcher and Kerrigan provided heavy pressure on Romo on a third-quarter third-and-10 incompletion on which Haseltt blitzed seven Skins, as he had on the previous play, a second-and-10 incompletion. The drive resulted in a punt.
• Fletcher and Riley combined to tackle for Murray for a three-yard loss on a carry on the first play of the second quarter. The drive did result in Romo’s third-and-goal nine-yard touchdown pass to Witten.
• Fletcher did have a dropped pick on a third-quarter first-and-10 Romo incompletion on the drive that resulted in Bailey’s fourth-quarter 48-yard field goal.
Rookie corner Richard Crawford had a first-quarter third-and-eight interception off Haslett blitzing seven Skins. The ensuing drive resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter missed 37-yard field-goal attempt. Crawford did get beat by receiver Kevin Ogletree on his fourth-quarter third-and-four 10-yard touchdown reception and then by receiver Dwayne Harris on reception for a two-point conversion on the next play.
Safety Reed Doughty, who started each of the Skins’ final four regular-season games, impressively undercut fullback Lawrence Vickers back into Murray for a second-quarter carry that resulted in a two-yard loss (the tackle officially went to safety Jordan Pugh (PYOO)). The next play, though, was Romo’s third-and-goal nine-yard touchdown pass to Witten.
The Skins finished the 2012 regular season ranked:
• 30th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest passing yards allowed per game (282)
• Tied for 23rd in the league with just 32 sacks
o The Skins’ totaled 41 sacks in 2011 and 29 in 2010.
• 22nd in the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (24.3)
• Second in the NFC with a turnover differential of plus-17
o The Skins’ turnover differentials in each of the previous 10 seasons: minus-14 in 2011, minus-four in 2010, minus-11 in 2009, even in 2008, minus-five in 2007, minus-three in 2006, minus-four in 2005, minus-one in 2004, plus-two in 2003, minus-14 in 2002.
• Tied for fourth in the NFC with 31 takeaways.
6. It wasn’t all good for the Skins’ defense.
The Cowboys went 7-for-13 on third downs.
• The Skins rushed just three, saw Romo with plenty of time and then saw him impressively extend the play with his legs on his second-quarter third-and-goal nine-yard touchdown pass to Witten. The play, though, should have resulted in a delay-of-game penalty, as the play clock clearly had expired before the snap.
• Riley got beat by Witten on his third-quarter third-and-three 10-yard reception. The drive resulted in Bailey’s fourth-quarter 48-yard field goal.
• The Skins finished the 2012 regular season last in the NFL in opponents’ third-down efficiency (44.2 percent; 95-for-215).
Murray and fellow running back Felix Jones combined for 22 carries for 100 yards.
• Murray had a third-quarter first-and-10 21-yard run on which he ran by Riley and then cut back through an attempted tackle by Wilson. The drive did result in a punt.
• Jones ran by Kerrigan on a second-quarter nine-yard run (on which receiver Miles Austin suffered a high ankle sprain) on the drive that resulted in Romo’s third-and-goal nine-yard touchdown pass to Witten.
• The Skins struggled to stop the run in five of their last nine games: Week 8 loss at Pittsburgh, Week 9 loss to Carolina, Week 13 win over the Giants, Week 14 win over Baltimore, Week 17 win over the Cowboys.
• The Skins finished the 2012 regular season fifth in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (95.8) and tied for 13th in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per carry (4.2).
Safety Madieu (muh-DEE-oo) Williams left the game in the second quarter due to a left shoulder injury but returned.
Corner D.J. Johnson left the game in the first quarter due to a sprained left knee suffered on a first-quarter 28-yard punt return by Harris. The Skins placed Johnson on injured reserve on Friday (Jan 4, 2013).
7. This was a remarkably clean game.
The Skins and Cowboys combined for just three accepted penalties. All three came in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys’ lone accepted penalty was a costly one: a fourth-quarter third-and-seven six-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. The infraction gave the Skins a first-and-goal at the 6. The drive resulted in Morris’ third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run that essentially clinched the victory.
The Skins entered Week 17 30th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest accepted penalties with 114. The Cowboys entered Week 17 tied with St. Louis for last in the league in fewest accepted penalties with 116.
The Skins finished the 2012 regular season 29th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest accepted penalties with 116.
8. The Skins won despite a largely poor game for special teams.
Forbath finally missed a field-goal try and continued to struggle on kickoffs.
• Forbath hit the right upright on his missed first-quarter 42-yard attempt. He finished the 2012 regular season 17-for-18 on field goals over 11 games with the Skins and first in the NFL in field-goal percentage (94.4).
o Twelve of Forbath’s 17 made field goals each have been at least 42 yards. Forbath’s field goals have been of 50, 20, 43, 45, 48, 45, 47, 25, 25, 48, 33, 48, 49, 34, 44, 45 and 42 yards.
• Forbath saw all five of his kickoffs returned and finished the 2012 regular season with just 15 of his 61 kickoffs having resulted in touchbacks with the Skins.
The Skins entered Week 17 fifth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per punt return (6.7) but allowed two massive punt returns by receiver Dwayne Harris.
• Harris had a fourth-quarter 39-yard punt return that drew a 15-yard facemask penalty from punter Sav Rocca, who perhaps saved a touchdown with that penalty (for which the league fined him $7,875). But the ensuing Cowboys drive resulted in Romo’s third-and-four 10-yard touchdown pass to Ogletree.
• Harris had a first-quarter 28-yard punt return after the Skins went three-and-out on the opening drive of the game. But the ensuing Cowboys’ drive resulted in Crawford’s interception.
• The Skins did finish the 2012 regular season ranked eighth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per punt return (8.2).
Rocca averaged 41.4 yards and 25.8 net yards on five punts. He’s dealing with a torn meniscus in his right knee and finished the 2012 regular season ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per punt (43.9) and 29th in the league in net yards per punt (37.2).
Hall muffed but recovered the ball on a third-quarter punt return for no gain.
Crawford had a third-quarter three-yard punt return, though he did also provide a fourth-quarter 15-yard punt return. He averaged 19.5 yards on eight punt returns over four games as the Skins’ primary punt returner.
Tight end Niles Paul had just a 17-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff but provided a fourth-quarter 48-yard kickoff return. The ensuing Skins drive resulted in Morris’ fourth-quarter third-and-goal one-yard touchdown run that essentially clinched the victory. Paul averaged 30.7 yards on three kickoff returns in this game and 21.8 yards on 13 kickoff returns over four games as the Skins’ primary kickoff returner.
The Skins did hold the Cowboys to an average of just 18.6 yards on five kickoff returns.
• The Skins finished the 2012 regular season ranked 12th in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per kickoff return (23.0).
• Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander had a nice hit on Harris on a third-quarter 21-yard kickoff return and finished the 2012 regular season with a team-high 31 special-teams tackles according to Skins coaches’ film.
9. Skins pass catchers weren’t flawless but delivered enough.
Garcon had three receptions for 46 yards on five targets as the Skins improved to 9-1 when he's active this season (1-5 when he's not).
• The fourth-quarter six-play 74-yard drive that resulted in Morris’ first-and-10 32-yard touchdown run included a Garcon third-and-one 15-yard reception on which he dragged Claiborne for yardage after the catch.
• The third-quarter nine-play 82-yard drive that resulted in RGIII’s first-and-goal 10-yard zone-read-option touchdown run included Garcon receptions of 18 yards on a first-and-10 and 13 yards on a second-and-13. Garcon also provided a terrific block on Claiborne on RGIII’s touchdown run.
• Garcon did have a third-quarter third-and-two drop on a drive that resulted in a third-quarter three-and-out.
Moss had two receptions for 22 yards on four targets, including a first-quarter third-and-seven 11-yard reception on a first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt.
Hankerson’s lone target saw him break through an attempted tackle by Claiborne for a first-quarter second-and-10 12-yard quick-slant reception on a first-quarter drive that resulted in a punt.
Paulsen’s lone target saw him impressively make the catch despite corner Sterling Moore doing his best with his right arm to separate the ball from Paulsen’s hands on a second-quarter third-and-seven eight-yard reception. The drive resulted in Morris’ first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run. Paulsen also had a big block on Sims on Morris’ first-and-10 12-yard run on the drive that resulted in his first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run.
Receiver Joshua Morgan had a third-and-eight drop on the opening drive of the game, which resulted in a three-and-out. He finished with no receptions on four targets.
Paul had no receptions on one target but did provide a key block on Spencer on Morris’ second-quarter first-and-10 17-yard touchdown run.
The Skins finished the 2012 regular season with different leaders in receptions (Morgan, 48), receiving yards (Garçon, 633) and receiving touchdowns (Moss, eight). The last time the Skins had three different leaders in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns was the 2000 season.
10. Miscellaneous Notes:
The Skins’ offensive line has a lot to be proud of.
• The Skins rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries and finished the 2012 regular season first in the NFL in rushing yards per game (169.3) and second in the league in rushing yards per attempt (5.2).
• The Skins allowed just one sack and finished the 2012 regular season tied for 12th (with the Seahawks) in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed with 33. The Skins’ sacks-allowed totals over the previous four seasons: 41 in 2011, 46 in 2010, 46 in 2009, 38 in 2008.
• Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger suffered a left ankle injury on Morris' third-quarter 10-yard zone-read-option run on which he broke the Skins’ single-season rushing record. Rookie guard and 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus (luh-REE-biss), who was active for just the sixth time in 16 games this season, filled in for Lichtensteiger, who did return to the game.
• Right tackle Tyler Polumbus returned from a one-game absence caused by a concussion. He did get pushed back big time by linebacker Anthony Spencer on a first-quarter third-and-six RGIII incompletion on a drive that resulted in a punt.
• Left tackle Trent Williams had a great block on Sims on Garcon’s third-quarter second-and-13 13-yard receiver-screen reception. The next play was RGIII’s third-quarter first-and-goal 10-yard zone-read-option touchdown run. Williams did commit a fourth-quarter second-and-two five-yard false-start penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt.
The already-banged-up Cowboys got even more banged-up:
• Romo suffered the cracked rib on his left side on the second-quarter quarterback hit by Wilson on the second-and-10 one-yard completion to Witten.
• Bryant suffered severe lower back spasms that forced him to leave the game in the fourth quarter.
• Austin suffered a high ankle sprain in the second quarter. He attempted to play after halftime but left the game during the opening series of the third quarter.
• Spencer suffered an ankle injury on Morris’ third-quarter first-and-10 22-yard run but returned to the game.
• Ware dealt with an ailing right shoulder and right elbow.
Inactives for the Skins were receiver/returner Brandon Banks, receiver Dezmon (DEHZ-mihn) Briscoe, rookie offensive tackle Tom Compton, rookie guard Adam Gettis, safety DeJon Gomes (second-degree sprain of his left MCL), linebacker Roderick Muckleroy and linebacker Vic So’oto, who was signed from Green Bay’s practice squad on Dec. 19.
The Skins remained without:
• Linebacker Brian Orakpo (torn left pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 2 loss at St. Louis)
• Defensive lineman Adam Carriker (right quadriceps tendon tear suffered in the Week 2 loss at St. Louis)
• Safety Brandon Meriweather (torn right ACL suffered in the Week 11 rout of Philadelphia; Meriweather missed the previous nine games due to an injured left knee)
• Safety Tanard Jackson (indefinite suspension due to a third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy)
• Corner Cedric Griffin (four-game suspension without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances)
• Rookie linebacker Keenan Robinson (torn pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 12 win at the Cowboys)
• Tight end Fred Davis (torn left Achilles suffered in the Week 7 loss at the Giants)
• Running back Roy Helu Jr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 26 due to turf toe; he also had dealt with tendinitis in both Achilles)
• Right tackle Jamal Brown (hip problems; was kept on the physically-unable-to-perform list past the deadline of Nov. 27, ending any chance of him playing this season)
• Offensive tackle Jordan Black (four-game suspension without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances)
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