Redskins Fall to Jets

ZUMA PRESS/ICON SMI

The Redskins had every opportunity to beat the New York Jets at Fed Ex Field Sunday, but gacked it away with a series of mistakes and blunders. From top to bottom, every part of the team shares in the dispiriting loss.

The Skins opened the game with a convincing 80+ yard drive that culminated in a Roy Helu touchdown. Washington deftly mixed runs and passes, and offered up a tweaked ground attack that New York never quite solved. The toss right/left play was a fast-developing, hard-hitting play that was a welcome change from the slow-developing stretch plays Washington has featured all season.

After riding the balanced offensive attack to solid drives and 10 points, the coaching staff inexplicably called for 14 passes in 16 plays. Despite the fact that Washington was running the ball effectively. Despite the fact that New York's defensive strength is its pass defense.

Before I go on a lengthy rant, let's look at the Skins-Jets contest through the prism of the 5 factors I identified in the game preview:

  1. Grindhouse -- The numbers suggested Washington could have success running the ball against the Jets, and they did just that. Heavy use of the pitch sweeps was a wrinkle the Skins hadn't used this season. The success of that play FINALLY puts something on film that opposing defenses have to think about. That should help open things up in other areas for the Skins' offense. Ultimately, the only thing that stopped Washington's ground attack was its own play calling.
  2. Aerial Attack -- Entering the game, I wanted the Skins to establish the run so the team could use play-action and help Rex Grossman. That worked in the early going -- until the team abandoned the run. After that, Grossman was awful. He had his usual two turnovers, but it could easily have been five.
  3. Don't Be Fooled -- The pass protection hasn't been as good as a superficial look at the sack numbers might suggest, and yesterday's game was ample evidence of that truth. Grossman had time to throw at times, but was heavily rushed at others. He had to simply throw the ball at receivers' feet at least four times to avoid big losses. Washington's deficient pass protection gets exposed because of Grossman's immobility. And, with Trent Williams facing suspension after testing positive for marijuana, it's going to get worse.
  4. An Interception Waiting to Happen -- Grossman comes pre-installed with 2 turnovers per game. While he largely avoided the face-palm interceptions of earlier in the year, he lost a fumble and threw a late interception. The Jets could easily have had another 2-3 interceptions if they'd just been able to corral tipped balls. Thing is: Grossman's turnovers weren't a critical factor. The play-calling, inaccuracy in the passing game, and fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns hurt more.
  5. Depleted Secondary -- Washington's battered defensive backfield largely held its own against the Jets. Mark Sanchez had a pedestrian game, and none of the receivers had a monster game. Washington's defense was good enough to win -- if the Skins had come into the game with a sensible game plan.
 

Game 12: New York Jets @ Washington Redskins

Will Rex Grossman revert to turnover-prone ways against the Jets? Zuma Press/Icon SMI

Last week, the Redskins managed to beat the sad-sack Seattle Seahawks in one of their last realistic chances for a win this season. Today, Washington takes on a Jets team that probably must win out to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Jets are followed on the schedule by New England, which is followed by the Giants. The Skins figure to be 50-50 for winning the final two games of the season -- Minnesota and Philadelphia.

All that said, Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats pegs this week's matchup with the Jets as basically a coin flip. Burke's numbers give the Jets a 51% chance of winning, which is about as close as his predictions get. This week's biggest favorite according to Burke is Philly with a 70% chance of beating Seattle.

This is a case where I disagree with the numbers. Yes, the Jets have been a disappointment this season, but they're still in the AFC playoff race and they'll come to Fed Ex Field desperate for a win. That desperation will turbo-charge the Jets effort and focus, which I think will ultimately trump what I expect to be a solid effort from the Skins.

The good news for Washington is that they're making progress as the season winds into its final month. The bad news: it's too little too late. The team has major personnel needs that must be addressed in the offseason. But that's a worry for another day.

Here are 5 items about the team that warrant attention during today's matchup with the Jets:

  1. Grindhouse -- Roy Helu was excellent in his first week as the team's feature back. He should continue in that role the rest of the season. Looking at the reputation of the Jets defense vs. the Seahawks might lead to the notion that running the ball might be tougher this week. Actually, Seattle has the league's 2nd toughest run defense (according to Advanced NFL Stats) -- the Jets rank 14th.
  2. Aerial Attack -- Running the ball will be important, but not because a strong ground attack wins games. It will matter against the Jets because Rex Grossman is better in play-action passing. Look for Washington to run play-action to take some deep shots for big plays against the Jets.
  3. Don't Be Fooled -- The offensive line's "improvement" is superficial at best. Grossman was sacked just once last week, but that's a credit more to Grossman and the play-calling -- he was hit 9 times by Seattle defenders. And, while Helu's overall numbers impressed, 28 yards of his rushing total came on a single play. The team's running success rate was just 32% -- well below the league average 42%. Success rate is more important than rushing yards because it's a measure of the team's ability to advance the ball on the ground. Washington needs better play from its line. That probably won't happen on any consistent basis until next season when the team has had a chance to upgrade the personnel.
  4. An Interception Waiting to Happen -- Take Grossman's propensity for turnovers and mix with two ball-hawking corners and an aggressive, blitzing defense. The likely result: turnovers. If Washington hopes to win, Grossman must play against his career-long tendencies.
  5. Depleted Secondary -- Washington's defensive backfield has been a problem all season, and now they're without Laron Landry yet again. This figures to be an opportunity for Jets QB Mark Sanchez to have an outstanding game. Thankfully for the Skins, no one has any idea what Sanchez will do.

Prediction

The Jets are in a must-win situation to avoid the embarrassment of missing the playoffs despite preseason Super Bowl hopes. Their aggressive, ball-hawking defense will likely bring out the worst in Grossman -- probably in the form of a couple interceptions and a fumble. Washington will continue showing signs of life on both sides of the ball, but they won't be able to overcome Grossman's miscues.

New York Jets -- 27

Washington Redskins -- 20