ReFo: Lions @ Redskins, Week 3
At least it wasn’t as bad as the first two weeks for the Redskins. Despite falling to 0-3, they were actually pretty competitive in their game against the Lions, with a much improved defensive performance. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t quite improved enough as Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett will surely be looking at statistics such as their 12 missed tackles – 11 of them against one player – as to why they failed to stop Matt Stafford and the Lions when they had to. With their second-year quarterback still fighting back from an ACL injury, the first three weeks have been a worst-case scenario for Washington after the team made a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2012.
Conversely, the Lions are off to a 2-1 start, and are now one of just five NFC teams above .500, though they’ll likely be looking for areas to improve in – the running game being one of them after averaging less than 3 yards per carry. This was an exciting game with some notable performances on both sides.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Bouncing off Bell
With Reggie Bush out, Joique Bell saw his largest workload of the season with 20 rushes, and though his overall grade of +0.0 doesn’t necessarily reflect it, he was pretty impressive. What stood out is his elusiveness; on average he forced a missed tackle roughly every other time he touched the ball, with six avoided tackles on the ground and another five in his four catches in the passing game. Where his negative rushing grade comes in is that he tended to force his missed tackles in chunks, with some of them being more an indictment of poor defensive play by Washington than anything special from Bell. And as his 3.2 YPC on the ground suggests, he often didn’t do much, merely taking what was there and not necessarily fighting for extra yards. He also struggled in pass protection, giving up two pressures (one of them called back).
Nevertheless, plays like he made on Detroit’s second drive at 8:33 of the first quarter or his touchdown run at 5:20 show that along with Bush, the team has a pretty potent duo in the backfield; a big reason they’re above .500 and set up well going into Week 4.
Suh Too Much
It probably seems redundant to talk about the play of Ndamukong Suh every week, but it’s difficult to ignore him. His +2.9 was the defense’s highest grade and one of just two grades in the green. Suh had an exceptional day making life rough for Washington RG Chris Chester (-4.2), who couldn’t keep up with the defensive tackle’s speed or power inside, whether it was getting stood up at the POA in the run game or allowing pressure on RG3. Suh’s now at +11.6 on the season and after six pressures, his Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 13.2 is the highest among the league’s defensive tackles. We’ll be watching him closely when he faces rookie Kyle Long of the Bears next week, and with Long playing very well so far it should be a competitive matchup.
Cornerback was a position of question coming into the season for Detroit, and so far the trio of Rashean Mathis, Chris Houston, and Dwight ‘Bill’ Bentley have held up well enough to see the team at 2-1 going into Week 4. However, the group hasn’t had the toughest schedule in terms of opposing quarterbacks. Even against an off RG3, each player graded at -1.9 or worse, with 21 catches allowed on 32 combined targets. Positively, all three showed some play-making propensity, each getting their hands on the ball at least once, with Mathis in particular looking impressive a couple of times coming off of his man to play the ball (see 2:39, 4Q). However, they also collectively allowed too many easy gains, which against a sharper quarterback could have been more damaging. With a tougher slate coming up on the schedule, it will be interesting to see how the group performs.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Standouts on the Dline
Despite some awful play behind them, that didn’t stop Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen from each putting forth an impressive performance this week, particularly in run defense, where they were instrumental in holding Detroit to just 2.7 yards per carry. Bowen (+3.1) in particular bounced back after a rough start to the season, routinely victimizing Lions guard Rob Sims, getting past him for four stops with Sims besting him just once all game. As usual Bowen was a non-threat as a rusher with one pressure, though with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo on the outside, he’s not expected to do much there.
At the nose Cofield came in at +3.7 and brought Dominic Raiola back down to earth after Raiola’s +4.0 showing against the Cardinals. Cofield got past the Lions’ center for four pressures as a rusher and twice more for stops in run defense. An impressive performance on a defense that looks devoid of play-makers at the moment, though Cofield is arguably as close as it gets given he’s one of two Redskin defenders with a positive grade on the season (+5.2).
Not a very ‘safe’ display from Brandon Meriweather (-3.0), who was part of a much improved overall effort, though not one good enough to pull out the win. In coverage, where the bulk of his negative grade came, he allowed four of five passes into his coverage to be completed, including the touchdown to Calvin Johnson that put the game away for good. None of his plays in coverage were terribly egregious, even the touchdown, but Meriweather didn’t really do much to slow down the Detroit offense, despite a team-high nine tackles. He did help thwart a touchdown pass with close coverage on his single positive play, though it helped that the pass was slightly overthrown. A pair of missed tackles didn’t help his cause, and on his only notable play in run defense, Meriweather was run over at the goal line by Joique Bell (5:20, 1Q).
RG3 Getting There?
This was a mixed performance from Robert Griffin (-2.6), though as his grade suggests he probably did more harm than good in keeping his team competitive. He made some throws that suggested he was back to his 2012 form, such as at 9:15 of the fourth quarter, when he made an absolutely perfect pass to Aldrick Robinson. On the other hand, he looked completely off at times, such as at 4:53 of the 2Q, where he had Pierre Garcon downfield on a post, but from a clean pocket just threw it into the ground 5 yards short on a play that was only roughly 30 yards downfield. There’s also the problem of his recklessness and carelessness with the ball (he fumbled twice). On a number of plays he held onto the ball far too long, inviting unnecessary hits, with his unwillingness to give up on the play – not always a bad trait – resulting in a couple of awful decisions, including on his second quarter red zone interception to Chris Houston.
Pressure wasn’t always the culprit, as Detroit got to him on just 29% of his drop-backs, though they held him to a 22.6 QB rating and -3.3 grade on those plays. Griffin was also bad when executing a play action fake with a 4.9 YPA and sub-50% completion rate on those plays, a surprising fact since he was one of the league’s best QBs on PA a year ago. It’s still early for the Redskin QB after missing the offseason, though at 0-3, Griffin and the rest of the team might have dug themselves too big of a hole to get out of.
– The Redskins ran the ball 22 times (including scrambles), but averaged 5 yards per carry on those plays, led by Alfred Morris, who gained 73 yards on his 15 carries.
– Both Robert Griffin and Matt Stafford rank in the bottom third in deep ball attempts, at 9.3% and 7.4%, respectively.
– Linebacker Nick Barnett graded at -2.0 in just eight snaps.
PFF Game Ball
This one goes to Calvin Johnson, whose touchdown late in the fourth quarter helped seal the game for Detroit.
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