This had all the hallmarks of a really ugly game right from the first quarter. Grossman had one incompletion in his first two drives, Fred Davis in particular ate us up, and the Redskins running game looked good. A bit of a surprise, especially to those that believe this defense is elite (it's not), but not that shocking considering the weaknesses and strengths of this defense. We'll take a closer look at this during the coming week, obviously, but right now my first gut reaction is that Mike and Kyle Shanahan simply outschemed and outplaycalled the Seahawks, and this would show up again later in the game, exploiting specific weaknesses in lack of pass rush and difficulty against tight ends that have shown up all season.
Another big factor was missing Alan Branch. I'm not a big fan of Branch, but missing him made us much softer on inside runs. Seahawks tried to compensate by playing the linebackers closer to the line, but that meant our outside contain was weak and the linebackers sold out too hard on the run, and that lead to some really big runs and easy playfake completions, fairly uncharacteristic of this defense. Not so much about the importance of Branch as it was about a problem adjusting to this loss, at least until the third quarter.
This was an oddly chippy game, too. Even at the coin toss, the Redskins and Seahawks players were constantly jawwing at one another, the kind of passion you'd expect from a divisional game. And this was a pretty key game for two teams that have pretty much fallen out of relevance this season. Still, it was curious to see, particularly Redskins players getting in the grill of our smaller players (Leon Washington, Golden Tate, etc). The heated atmosphere contributed to a sloppy game between two pretty bad football teams, especially in the first quarter.
So, the defense had a lot of trouble with the Skins offense, but what about our offense? It, too, had its problems. Tarvaris Jackson looked troubled by his pec injury, particularly when rolling out, and got little help from his top receivers: Sidney Rice went out with what's likely a concussion (worrisome after a mild concussion earlier in this season), Mike Williams looked absolutely awful with multiple drops, and Zach Miller looked good blocking but had only one catch for 2 yards. Our depth stepped up, particularly the awesome Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate on a beautifully threaded TD throw, but Tarvaris ended up with all of 144 yards passing. While he didn't get much help, he did struggle himself, particularly in recognizing the blitz and getting into a proper flow of timing with his receivers. A really bad game after a number of good ones the past few weeks, but that's what Tarvaris' career has been like.
Fans of Greg Cosell will remember how he mused earlier in the season why Marshawn Lynch wasn't used more as a foundational back for the Seahawks. The easiest answer was "because the offensive line isn't very good yet", and that seems to be correct. With better blocking by our offensive line, Lynch has been easily the best offensive player on our teams for the past few weeks, and this game hung up 131 yards on 25 touches, about half of our total offensive production. And that's a big tip of the cap to our offensive line, who again played well for most of this game, especially Russell Okung (until he got hobbled late in the game, and looked significantly worse). Our offensive performance was based on this part of our game, and it did work until the fourth quarter.
The story of the game is mostly about mistakes. The Redskins produced 416 total yards versus 250 from the Seahawks, yet the score never became particularly lopsided. After their first drive resulting in a touchdown, the Seahawks ran up 17 unanswered points, and this was all about Redskins mistakes. After an excellent start, Rex Grossman went into the "chuck it deep" mode that has defined his career, and threw a pair of awful, awful TDs into tight coverage, one to Brandon Browner (leading to a screen to Lynch for a TD on the next play), one to Richard Sherman. Red Bryant blocked a field goal and a PAT that can at least be partially attributed to awful play by the line protecting the kicker. And last but not least, the Seahawks got a huge chunk of yardage (44) on a completely bogus defensive pass interference call on Josh Wilson covering Mike Williams. I don't think the Seahawks ever put themselves in place to win, as much as the Redskins (and bad calls) helped put us in place for the win.
Then came the second half, and the tale of two quarters. The Seahawks came out roaring in the 3rd, with Pete Carroll and our coaches again providing an excellent halftime adjustment. Our defense looked much sharper, especially against the run, and our offense absolutely enforced its will on the Redskins D up front, leading to nice time of possession and rushing stats. Closing the third and opening the fourth was a 88-yard drive lasting over 5 minutes that included 7 rushes and 5 passes, ending in a Golden Tate touchdown. At that point it was 17-7 for the Seahawks, and the game looked pretty well in hand.
But the Shanahans adjusted their offense, to halt our defense regularly getting to Grossman and causing errant throws in the 3rd. Quicker passes and good running led to a Roy Helu touchdown run (awful tackle by Cam Chancellor) with a blocked PAT (again, Red Bryant, pretty awesome), a 50-yard touchdown to Anthony Armstrong where Brandon Browner was completely beat, and a field goal within the two-minute warning to wrap it up. This was a bizarre turn of fortunes and one I find hard to explain indepth without a lot of footage analysis.
Neither team played a particularly good game, with a lack of production from the Seahawks offense and a qualitative collapse of the Seahawks defense, while the Redskins played sloppy, often undisciplined football. This one comes down to both our gameplanning/coaching and the players, so there's not really anyone to single out for the loss. But this is what happens with young teams, one week they look really good, the next they look really bad. The Seahawks aren't a good team right now, and this was a reminder.