|This wasn't a pleasant sight, though.|
But I must admit, I'd probably feel a lot differently about this if Griffin hadn't seemed OK. As you all read less than 24 hours ago, I had no real expectations for the Falcons game. It was fine to give Cousins a chance to show his stuff in the regular season, and if you go by the sometimes-totally-deceptive metric of fantasy football stats, the guy did better in this game than Griffin. And yet, despite the confidence that some members of the Redskins fanbase (read: unconsciously-racist douchebags who prefer a scrappy white guy who lucks into wins to a truly competent black guy who really does have the talent necessary to kick ass and reach an elite level) have seemingly been feeling about Cousins since before the first preseason game, and have definitely been proclaiming loudly since Cousins' performance against the third string of the Chicago Bears defense in week two of the preseason, I'd always prefer to have RG3 on the field as our starting QB. It already looks like he'll get the start next week--he twittered after the game that he feels fine and plans to play next week, which is a long way from being medically cleared but makes me feel better, and really, he did look all right when he was walking back to the locker room. I was by no means afraid that he'd get back there and start puking his guts out, or calling the training staff by the names of his coaches at Baylor, or something like that.
And let's face it--the game today was not won or lost by RG3 not being on the field. It was won by the Falcons, who are an at least slightly better team than the Redskins at this juncture. We could sit around and hash out the Cousins-to-Moss 77 yard TD vs. the two clutch interceptions Cousins threw on back to back drives at the end of the game--was the one good play more or less important than the two bad plays? I don't know, and frankly I don't care. I'm not a believer in the idea that if a single play went left instead of right, the whole thing would have gone a different way. I generally believe that if we didn't lose the game in one moment, we'd lose it in another, and if we were truly playing on a higher level than our opponent, we'd have won regardless of any single blunder (by either team--and yes, I think Cousins' TD pass was a blunder by the Atlanta Falcons defense, who I'm thinking let Santana Moss get 10 yards past the farthest-out defender due to their underestimation of our backup QB. If they'd recognized the true strength of the arm on Cousins--who, keep in mind, holds several passing records at Michigan State and was the cynosure of a truly powerful team during his last year at that school--they wouldn't have let any of that happen. And they didn't again, did they?).
Most importantly, I believe that the biggest factor leading to the RG3 injury was a bad game plan decision made by the Redskins coaching staff. The game planning I'm seeing so far this season is too conservative, too based around short passes and, worse yet, college-style running plays. RG3 proved against the Saints that he could bust out an accurate downfield passing attack at any time, and has a good chance of shredding secondaries. The first note I wrote down in my notebook while watching this game says: "too many college-style running plays--pistol/option, etc. RG3 can throw it down the field--let him!" That was midway through the first quarter. I recognize that Shanahan's conservative gameplanning through the first 5 weeks of the season has helped us with ball control. Griffin only has one interception so far this year, which means that he still has less interceptions than Andrew Luck had after week one. Meanwhile, he has four passing touchdowns and over 1,000 yards through the air. But he also has four rushing touchdowns, which is kind of the problem that I see here. The Redskins coaching staff are calling plays for RG3 as if he's the black Tim Tebow, when we all know that, if anything, he's the black Peyton Manning. Put him in the shotgun and let him throw 30 yard passes, for Christ's sake! The decision not to do such things seems to me to have led directly to Griffin's injury. Granted, I don't think the play on which he was hurt was a designed run--it seemed more like a bootleg play that fell apart. Griffin was just trying to make up some of the yards he'd lose if he were sacked. But teaching the guy to run headfirst into the teeth of opposing defenses is a recipe for brutal tackles leading to injuries like we saw today. The guy is our franchise QB--the coaching staff needs to treat him as such. Failure to do so will lead to more injuries, shortening his career and leaving us relying on the talented-but-relatively-earthbound Kirk Cousins, who beats the hell out of Ol' Gunslinger Eyes but is no RG3. If we're gonna build ourselves a playoff caliber team in the next two years or so, RG3 is the most fundamental building block we'll need in order to do so. We have to keep him healthy and on the field or we can't expect anything to get better from here.
I want to quickly address a few other things before I close the book on this particular game. First, the offensive line, which I tend to be pretty skeptical of at the best of times, really caught my eye, especially during the first half. By the end of the game, Alfred Morris had 18 carries for 115 yards, resulting in an average of 6.4 yards per carry. That's really good, but in the first half he was even better, with 86 yards on 9 rushes for an average of 9.5 yards per carry. At one point during all of that, I found myself thinking, "Is Morris really this amazing? Some of what I'm seeing seems to be really good holes being opened up by the O-line." At which point I realized that I was giving the offensive line credit for a positive development in our game play and nearly fainted with shock. But maybe it's true--if the Williams/Lichtensteiger/Montgomery/Chester/Polumbus starting five is good at run-blocking, it would certainly explain the sudden blossoming of Alfred Morris into a very solid star back as a sixth-round rookie running back from Florida Atlantic. And I can say this without giving them any credit for their pass blocking, which is still mediocre at best (though, having watched Peyton Manning's line collapse on him over and over during Denver's loss to the Patriots after the Redskins/Falcons game ended, I can certainly see how they could be a lot worse). Maybe the failings of our O-line also has something to do with the conservative play calling, the reluctance to let RG3 loose as a true in-the-pocket downfield passer. But there are certainly ways to fix that.
In other news, I saw the first sign of what I feared as the downside of our choice to sign Pierre Garcon this year. During the Manning era, the Colts were in the playoffs a lot, and I had a lot of chances to see them play. One thing I always noticed about Garcon, the thing that kept him from quite attaining the level that Reggie Wayne, and Marvin Harrison before him, attained on Manning-era Colts offenses, was a tendency to drop easy passes. He sort of made up for it with some kind of strange savant-like talent for pulling in impossible circus catches at clutch moments, and it's been nice to see this talent reveal itself during Garcon's time in a Redskins uniform. But I was sort of afraid when we brought Garcon in that he'd turn into an ostensibly-talented drop machine like Braylon Edwards. So far I hadn't seen that from him (partly because he hasn't been on the field that often, due to his week 1 injury), but today he fucked up a straight over the middle pass from Kirk Cousins that hit him right in the hands. I'm glad this is the first notable incident like this, but it will bear watching down the road. It was easy not to let it stress me out too much since the very next play was the 77 yard TD pass to Santana Moss, but I don't quite trust Garcon yet.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ryan Kerrigan's pick-six was a thing of beauty, and it's not like anyone thought he wasn't one of the leading lights of our entire team, so it might not even be all that worth noting, but it sure was a pretty thing to see. More surprisingly, I'm noticing a bunch of quality plays by DeAngelo Hall--it seems the guy is starting to learn to tackle. His tackles generally seem to come in situations when he's not in coverage but instead charging in towards the line, mainly in running situations, but if Haslett has found a way to motivate the guy and get him to perform and contribute positively to the team, I won't complain about the ways in which he's gotten D-Hall to do so. I'm glad I haven't seen any flagrant whiffed tackles from him so far this year. He's definitely another player I don't quite trust yet, though, so don't get it twisted.
Finally, a brief complaint about television announcers--can we petition for a ban on curse stats? These are the specialized stats relating to the particular situation within a game that announcers always read out right before the exact opposite of whatever event said stat seems to predict occurs. "Their kicker is perfect so far this year from this distance," followed by a missed field goal. We've all seen it a million times. I saw two separate ones in this game: one in which the announcers said that the Redskins had gotten 8 touchdowns in their 8 trips to the red zone so far this year. Very soon after that stat was read, the Falcons defense stopped Alfred Morris on third down, and Billy Cundiff missed a 31-yard field goal. Later in the game, with about a quarter left and the Redskins still very much in reach of winning the game, the announcers mentioned that the Falcons, who were undefeated coming into this week's game, had never started a season 5-0 in their team's history. We all saw what happened next. And maybe it's superstitious for me to even think that acknowledgement of these sorts of realities can change what happens on the field. In all reality, it probably can't. But what it feels more like to me is a pre-emptive rubbing of salt into the wound for whoever's team ends up on the losing end. While I have done my fair share of gloating when a curse stat is laid on a Redskin opponent during a game, it isn't worth dealing with the amount of times that curse stats wreak their foul vengeance upon the Redskins. I say they should be banished from the game. Hah, like anyone at the networks gives a fuck what I think.
OK, that's all I've got for now. More in a few days.