With a 38-21
thumping of the sad-sack Cleveland Browns, and the simultaneous thrashing of
the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins have surged to first place in the
NFC East with just two games remaining.
This is a stunning turnaround for a team that just
five games ago was 3-6 and had a 1% chance of reaching the post-season. Now,
the Redskins have control over the outcome of their season. If they win their
remaining games, they will appear in the post-season tournament for the first
time since 2007.
The Skins managed the win in Cleveland despite the
absence of rookie star Robert Griffin III, who was sidelined with a knee injury
sustained in last week's win against Baltimore. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins gave
a stellar performance in his first start — leading Washington to 38 points on
Kyle Shanahan proved today that he's a first-rate
offensive coordinator. The game plan was outstanding, the offensive design was
excellent, and Cousins was a second rookie ready to play when called upon. This
is not a case of the kid getting a job due to nepotism and then riding daddy's
reputation. The offense belongs to Kyle, and with competent play from the
quarterbacks, it's proving a challenge to stop.
While the defense did succeed in controlling the
Cleveland attack for the most part, I'm not ready to proclaim anything solved.
The secondary still got torched for a big play, and it was Cleveland — one of
the league's worst offensive units.
Another note for concern: injuries along the
offensive line. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus had to leave the game with a
concussion, and center Will Montgomery was having his left knee examined on the
sideline. If there's a bright side, it's that these were the weakest performers
on the offensive line. Still, any injury up front is a concern.
The biggest question in looking at the next two
weeks is the status of Griffin. He prepared all week as if he would start, and
was clearly disappointed not to be on the field. Should Washington roll the
dice on Cousins for a second straight road game to give Griffin another week to
heal? If it was my call, I'd wait and see how Griffin feels later in the week,
and I'd want to hear what the doctors say. While I want to be in the playoffs
now, Griffin is the team's future and it would be foolish to jeopardize that
Something else to note is that Washington's
offense was successful this week despite no read-option stuff and limited use
of the pistol set. Griffin's running is a major weapon and should not be diminished,
but it would be interesting to see what he could do with the kind of game plan
Shanahan crafted for Cousins.
But all of that is for later. For now — let's
celebrate. The Washington Redskins are atop the NFC East standings in December!