A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins' defense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 23-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
ROLB BRIAN ORAKPO: This was Orakpo's best game in weeks. He was stout against the run on the edge and gave former first-round pick LT Russell Okung all he could handle in the passing game. (Remember the Redskins in 2010 chose LT Trent Williams fourth-overall over Okung, who went sixth).
Orakpo's bull rush, in particular, was effective. He helped the Redskins get off the field on fourth-and-5 in the final minutes by bulling Okung back. He was low off the snap, rolled his hips after engaging on a seven-man blitz and got off the block to sack QB Tarvaris Jackson only 3.0 seconds after the snap.
Much is made of Orakpo's sack totals, especially against NFC East opponents, but, as he proved Sunday, he doesn't need sacks to impact the passing game. On first-and-20 from midfield in the second quarter, he got around Okung with a speed rush and forced Jackson to step up and reset. That disrupted the timing of a throw to the flat, and it bounced incomplete. He also broke up a quick screen by getting off Okung's cut block and jumping into the flight of the throw. It was reminiscent of how OLB Ryan Kerrigan intercepted New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in Week 1.
Orakpo also drew a holding penalty against TE Zach Miller and a chop block against T Breno Giacomini. The chop block was critical — with the Seahawks down 3 with 6 minutes to go, it pushed them from their 40-yard line to the 25 and set up an unmanageable first-and-25.
Orakpo set the edge several times in the run game, channeling RB Marshawn Lynch back inside to ILB Perry Riley.
RDE STEPHEN BOWEN: It's a bit awkward to have a defensive lineman on this list, considering the Redskins gave up 124 rushing yards, but Bowen got better as the game progressed. That was imperative, too, because NT Barry Cofield had his hands full with Seattle C Max Unger.
After CB Josh Wilson was flagged for a 44-yard pass interference penalty in the third quarter — I agree with FOX analyst Jim Mora that it was a bogus call — Bowen set the tone for that critical series. The Seahawks positioned RT Breno Giacomini as the tight end to the left of LT Russell Okung. When DL Darrion Scott penetrated between Unger and TE Zach Miller on a run to the right, Bowen got to Giacomini's play-side shoulder, got down the line and tackled RB Marshawn Lynch for 2 yards. The Redskins held the Seahawks to a field goal and kept the game within reach. He later swam through LG Robert Gallery — throwing Gallery to the ground with one arm, in fact — to stop Lynch for 1-yard on second-and-3 from the Redskins' 19 in the fourth quarter.
And with the outcome in the balance in the final minute, Bowen stunted with OLB Brian Orakpo and came free for a vicious hit on QB Tarvaris Jackson. Bowen attacked Okung's right shoulder and knocked him to the ground. When Gallery switched off to take Orakpo, Bowen had a free run at Jackson, who was intercepted by CB DeAngelo Hall to seal the victory. Bowen is lucky he wasn't flagged for spearing Jackson with the crown of his helmet. See for yourself here. But the hit helped the Redskins get off the field for the final time.
SS LARON LANDRY: Landry was the Rex Grossman of the defense, which is to say he overcame some negative plays with two positive game-changers in the clutch.
Landry was blocked in space on the Seahawks' first touchdown, a swing pass to the right that went for 20 yards. He injured his groin on the play, too, adding that to his list of ailments. But credit Landry for pushing through the injuries and positively impacting the game at the end.
Landry looked bad on the fourth-quarter third-and-6 when WR Doug Baldwin caught a pass over the middle, bounced off his hit and gained 12 additional yards. Landry knew it, too. He cursed himself about the play in the locker room after the game. He said he was indecisive – at first he thought he was there in time to go for the interception, and when he realized he wasn't, he didn't recover to make a quality tackle.
Landry did recover, though, to make two big plays. With the Redskins' down 17-14 in the final 8 minutes, he got them off the field by sacking QB Tarvaris Jackson on third-and-6. He came unblocked on an eight-man blitz.
More impressive was his coverage of Baldwin on third-and-11 from the Seattle 39 with less than 5 minutes to go. Landry was at the line of scrimmage as part of the Redskins showing an eight-man blitz. But Landry was one of two defenders who dropped into coverage. Here's the problem: He had to turn and run with Baldwin 32 yards downfield on a bum Achilles and bum groin – but he did it. Landry never turned his head to find the ball, and perhaps a better quarterback makes that throw, but he timed his hit on Baldwin well and forced a punt. Huge play.
NT BARRY COFIELD: Cofield has made steady progress at his new position, but Sunday's game was not another step forward. He appeared to have major problems anchoring in the middle against C Max Unger. Unger was the 49th overall pick out of Oregon in 2009 and apparently has developed into an exceptional NFL center after beginning his career at guard. His leverage and hands were extremely effective against Cofield. On RB Marshawn Lynch's 5-yard run to begin Seattle's second series, Unger got off the ball low and got his hands inside Cofield's. He pushed Cofield back 3 yards, which not only opened up the hole Lynch took but it also obstructed SS LaRon Landry's path to the ballcarrier.
There were a handful of similar plays on which Cofield was pushed back up to three yards. And when the Seahawks used RT Breno Giacomini as the tight end on the left on a third-quarter running play, Cofield ended up six yards in the defensive backfield. He appeared to lose a combination block by LG Robert Gallery and LT Russell Okung. Gallery initially got Cofield's shoulders turned perpendicular to the line of scrimmage; then Okung got into Cofield's right shoulder and didn't stop driving him out until Cofield fell over Gallery six yards back.
Cofield also missed tackling RB Leon Washington one-on-one in the hole on a first-down run late in the third quarter. He lined up shaded toward Gallery and engaged him instead of Unger off the snap. He shed Gallery's block by throwing his arms, but Washington ran through his tackle and got two yards instead of none.
Cofield, however, rebounded positively on the next play. Although he was blocked out of the ensuing run, he occupied Unger and RG Paul McQuistan. That allowed ILB London Fletcher and Landry free runs to the ball, and they stopped the play for two yards.
FS OSHIOMOGHO ATOGWE: Atogwe didn't move well, particularly in the second half. He's obviously injured. His movements aren't explosive and he doesn't change directions quickly. I think I could count on one hand the times he has separated an opponent from the ball this season. He's just not healthy.
Atogwe didn't get over to help CB DeAngelo Hall in time on WR Golden Tate's 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. As the single high safety, Atogwe drifted to his right when QB Tarvaris Jackson led him there with his eyes. When Jackson came back to the other side to hit Tate in stride, Atogwe was too far away to help.
The way Atogwe reacted on an eight-man blitz in the fourth-quarter leads me to believe he blew an assignment, but I can't say that for sure. On third-and-6 from the Seattle 24, the Redskins showed an eight-man front, and all eight players blitzed, leaving three in coverage against three wideouts. The problem was that TE Zach Miller also ran out on a pass route, leaving three Redskins to cover four receivers. Atogwe, who was lined up on Miller's side, took six steps toward the quarterback before reversing course and trying to find Miller. SS LaRon Landry got home for the sack, so it didn't hurt the Redskins. Watch the play for yourself. Again, I can't be sure what Atogwe's assignment was, but I strongly doubt the Redskins would intentionally leave a receiver unaccounted for.
CB DeAngelo Hall would have been on the game balls list if it weren't for one negative play – the fourth-quarter touchdown he surrendered to WR Golden Tate. He was tight in coverage all game, and his interception sealed it. He was right when he said last week that interceptions would come once the Redskins had a lead to protect late in games. Tate wasn't even close to being open on his in cut on the final play, but QB Tarvaris Jackson forced the issue and Hall easily undercut the route.
Hall broke up two passes in or near the end zone. One of those got the Redskins off the field on third-and-7 inside their red zone and held the Seahawks to a field goal. He might have had another interception on a pass Jackson attempted to throw away in the first half. Hall jumped for it near the sideline but couldn't bring it in waist-high. Perhaps the leap was unnecessary.
He also missed a tackle near the right sideline when he tried to hit the receiver out of bounds with his shoulder. It cost the Redskins a first down. Still, if Hall were in the front office, I'd hope he'd take it easier on himself after Sunday's game.
ILB Perry Riley continues to impress. He was credited with 14 total tackles, six solo – both game-highs. The Seahawks averaged only 3.0 yards on the 14 plays on which he was credited with a tackle, and they averaged only 1.6 yards on the last seven of those plays. Once again, he was decisive and quick to the ball, and his ability to elude linemen on the second level is an immense help in run support.
We're still waiting for Riley's first sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery/interception. Those will come over time as he gets more comfortable with his assignments.
I'm interested in asking about his role on the Seahawks' 20-yard touchdown. Seattle came out in the I-formation. RB Marshawn Lynch ran out to the right for a swing pass, while FB Michael Robinson ran to the left. Riley ran to cover Robinson while Jackson threw to the other side. But even after the throw, Riley kept running away from the play. Did he not realize where the ball was? Could he have recovered in time to help save a touchdown? The Redskins needed bodies over there because the Seahawks' play-call matched up well against the defense Washington had on.
One of the most important plays of Washington's comeback was P Sav Rocca's 51-yard punt from the Redskins' 16-yard line with 2:42 remaining. Washington was protecting a 3-point lead and needed to flip field position, especially after FB Mike Sellers knocked a handoff out of QB Rex Grossman's hand for an 8-yard loss on first down.
With the wind at his back, Rocca's punt came down perfectly at the left sideline, forcing dangerous return man Leon Washington to catch it just before stepping out of bounds. Referees helped the Redskins further by flagging Seattle CB Brandon Browner for a phantom personal foul against WR Terrence Austin. Both players engaged after the whistle, it appeared to me. It should have been a no-call.
The punt plus the penalty gave Seattle the ball at its own 18, a change of 66 yards.
OLB Brian Orakpo rushed the passer on 27 of 32 dropbacks. OLB Ryan Kerrigan rushed on 24.
Of the 29 dropbacks on which Orakpo and Kerrigan lined up on opposite sides, the Seahawks double-teamed Kerrigan four times and Orakpo twice.
That excludes the one dropback on which Kerrigan lined up at defensive end with Orakpo as the left outside linebacker and Rob Jackson as the right outside linebacker – an unprecedented alignment, I believe – and the two dropbacks on which Kerrigan and Orakpo both lined up on the left.
The Redskins' blitz was effective, particularly late in the game when it generated both of their sacks.
QB Tarvaris Jackson dropped back to pass 32 times. The Redskins rushed four defenders 20 times; five defenders five times; and six or more defenders seven times.
Against four rushers, Jackson was 10-of-20 for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception; a passer rating of 56.3.
Against five rushers, Jackson was 3-of-5 for 57 yards and a touchdown; a rating of 139.2.
Against six or more rushers, Jackson was 1-of-5 for 7 yards and two sacks.
Kickoff coverage usually is one of the Redskins' strong suits, but it wasn't on Sunday. Leon Washington returned the kickoff after the Redskins' first touchdown 35 yards. Rob Jackson was blocked to the ground on that play, and he took out Lorenzo Alexander and Darrel Young as he went flying. That opened a wide lane up the middle for Washington.
On Washington's 51-yard return to begin the second half, FB Michael Robinson blocked Alexander off his line and onto the ground. Washington then juked his way past WR Anthony Armstrong and raced upfield as WR Terrence Austin was sealed to the outside.
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