There were times during Sunday’s 31-28 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens that people checked to make sure I was still breathing. The game was an incredible rollercoaster of emotion that started with a high when it was announced that Brandon Banks was inactive and featured a terrifying low when Robert Griffin III was helped off the field after taking a brutal hit to his right knee. In the end, however, rookie QB Kirk Cousins propelled this team into overtime where Kai Forbath did what Kai Forbath does. In years past, Redskins fans would cringe when the game winning points were in the hands (feet?) or our kicker, but no longer. After a week of listening to boastful Ravens fans defame our team, man, that win felt good.
Tale of Turnovers
It didn’t look good early in the game when Alfred Morris had his third fumble of the season on the first drive of the second quarter. The Ravens recovered the ball and went on to score a TD. But the winds shifted in the second half and the turnover gods smiled on Washington. First, Rob Jackson forced a fumble from Joe Flacco early in the third quarter. The Redskins only managed to come away with three points on the ensuing drive, but there was a noticeable shift in momentum. Later in the third quarter, as the Ravens were marching down the field, Jarvis Jenkins got pressure on Flacco who threw his only INT of the game into the arms of London Fletcher. Perhaps the biggest dose of turnover luck, however, came late in the game when Niles Paul fumbled the ball on a kickoff return. It looked like that fumble was the end of the road for the Redskins Sunday until an official review revealed that the Ravens did not have control of the ball before going out of bounds.
Who’s D is this?
Our much maligned defense is finally making a contribution. They’re still not winning any awards or digging themselves very far out of their terrible rankings, but they are making a difference in games – in a good way. Yes, they let Ray Rice gain too many yards early on and they didn’t defend two easy Anquan Boldin TDs well. They did, however, do a more than adequate job of breaking up passes and covering the feared Torrey Smith, who only had one reception for 21 yards. Even more importantly they finally found a way to invigorate the pass rush, pressuring Flacco on 5-11 drop backs in the second half and tallying two sacks and three QB hits. They are experimenting with personnel combinations and game planning well. Let’s hope this here-to-for inconsistent unit can keep up this transformation over the coming weeks.
Penalties continue to haunt the Redskins, this week to the tune of eight penalties that cost them a total of 70 yards. As big a Logan Paulsen fan as I am, he has hurt us more than helped us over the last few weeks, drawing both holding and false start calls. Paulsen isn’t the only one to blame, though, with both the offense and defense proving a little jumpy at the line of late. At least one of the eight flags Sunday, however, should never have been thrown. Niles Paul was called for interfering with a Jacoby Jones fair catch. Paul never touched Jones. I’m not convinced he even looked at Jones.
When Griffin III went down and hobbled back up after the big hit to his right knee, I thought I might pass out. Hyperbolic, maybe, but he is our star. When he went out the second time, helped off the field by trainers, I really started to see stars. And on those stars were written horrible words like broken, torn, ACL, MCL, season-ending. There was no end to the relief felt when it was later announced that it was a mild strain.
Coach Shanahan awarded two games balls on Sunday – to Kai Forbath and Richard Crawford, our overtime heroes. One could argue that a third ball should have been awarded to Kirk Cousins, for staying cool under pressure and putting forward his best RGIII impression on the 2-point conversion scramble, but Coach certainly called it right with the first two. Forbath went 3/3 Sunday on field goal attempts, striking from 48, 49 and 34 yards out and 2/2 on extra points. Forbath is now 14/14 on field goal attempts this season and finally has Washington rallying behind a kicker for the first time in years (decades?). And the man who helped set Forbath up for the final, game winning FG? Rookie Richard Crawford, who gained 100 yards over three punt returns on Sunday, including the 64 yarder in overtime. It is good to see Crawford back on the field and finding a way to contribute. Hopefully he’ll keep the return job and slowly start to make his way back onto the defense as well.
Our offense struggled at times on Sunday, but both Leonard Hankerson and Pierre Garçon stepped up, and Alfred Morris continued his 100-yard game streak. If Cousins starts over Griffin III against the Browns this weekend, we can only hope these guys rally around him the way they do Griffin III. By all accounts, Cousins has a diligent work ethic and his teammates believe in his abilities. Like all of Redskins Nation, I am hoping for a fully and speedy recovery for Griffin III. I also, however, don’t want to rush him back and risk further injury. I believe we can win with Cousins in Cleveland, if we need to.