Reporting Grant Paulsen
Alfred Morris isn’t running into a rookie wall. He’s just running through defenders.
Morris carried the ball 22 times for 124 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt while leading a rushing attack that racked up 207 yards on the ground. Morris’ two biggest games of the season (120 and 124 yards) have both come against the Giants, and he’s now surpassed the century mark in three of his four NFC East performances.
The rookie tailback — on pace to post the Redskins’ third most prolific rushing season in team history and the eighth most productive rushing season by a rookie in league history — is tied for third in the NFL with 1,106 rushing yards. The workhorse sixth-round pick has carried the ball 20, 24 and 22 times in Washington’s three games since the bye week, all wins. The Redskins’ first 1,000 yard back in four years, Morris has now rushed for 100 yards in five of Washington’s last nine games.
Pierre Garcon makes a difference.
The Redskins are 5-1 when Pierre Garcon plays and 1-5 when he doesn’t. But forget about that stat. Just watch the games. Washington’s offense is different when he’s on the field. He’s explosive and he makes plays after the catch. He bobs and weaves through traffic with speed and elusiveness that the rest of the Redskins’ wide receivers don’t have. Garcon also possesses a tackle-breaking physicality and defender-attacking mentality that his teammates seem to feed off of.
Still not fully healthy, Garcon’s amassed 192 receiving yards and two touchdowns while playing through pain over the past two weeks. Garcon caught the eventual game-winning touchdown with 11:30 to play on Monday night, posting new season highs with eight catches and 108 yards in a game that saw him contribute a clinching first down catch on Washington’s final offensive drive.
Perhaps the most stunning statistic about Garcon’s performance? Robert Griffin attempted 21 passes on Monday and over half of them (11) were intended for Garcon. In fact, one of Washington’s three scoring drives was a five-play series that saw the 26 year-old targeted four times.
The defense made adjustments.
The Giants converted 8 of their 10 third down attempts in the first half while compiling 273 yards and scoring 13 points. Then New York moved the chains on just one of its five second-half third down attempts. The result was 117 yards of offense, just three points and a squandered fourth quarter lead.
What did Washington do differently? Stephen Bowen said the Redskins were able to get more pass rush on third down in the second half. London Fletcher attributed a portion of the improved pass rush to Rob Jackson, who was used more on passing downs than he has been in recent weeks. Jackson registered the Redskins’ only sack (on a third down). He also tallied a quarterback hit and an additional tackle-for-loss.
Robert Griffin continues to avoid making costly mistakes.
Griffin has thrown just four interceptions through 12 games. The only other NFL quarterback who can say that this season? Tom Brady.
And even though Griffin wasn’t asked to do a ton through the air on Monday night: He only attempted 21 passes while throwing for just 163 yards and a touchdown, it’s still impressive that he doesn’t seem to ever make the rookie mistake that all of his first-year peers do. He’s not forcing balls into traffic or trying to fit a pass into a window he shouldn’t. He’s not being confused by disguised coverages or failing to see linebackers playing passing lanes underneath. These are the types of things normal rookies struggle with.
Griffin also did a nice job deciding when to run and when to take shots throwing the football. His 72 rushing yards (on five attempts) were an impressive follow-up to an 89-yard rushing performance in New York in October. So much for the whole “the Giants have seen him once and will shut him down the second time around” thing.
The Redskins were far from perfect.
If Lawrence Tynes makes the first-half field goal he pushed wide, New York probably beats Washington. If the Giants don’t commit nine penalties, New York may beat Washington. But Tynes didn’t make the field goal and the Giants were undisciplined throughout the contest.
The Redskins dropped a couple of passes early and had a brutal time trying to cover New York tight end Martellus Bennett (5 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown). The Giants moved the ball up and down the field with ease in the first half and if it weren’t for Washington’s defense proving stingy enough to come up with a few stops in the strikezone (inside of 30) and redzone, who knows how the game would’ve turned out.
The Redskins aren’t going to win many games when they lose the time of possession, turnover and yardage battle. The Redskins probably won’t have much success in games when their opponent plays a half at an 80% conversion rate on third down. But on Monday night, Washington was able to overcome all of those deficiencies to beat a first place team. Pretty impressive.