Week 5 Game Recap: Washington Redskins 19, Denver Broncos 21
What you need to know
The Redskins, coming off their first 3-0 start since 1991, had a very real chance to win this game, but in the end, their mistakes cost them. The Redskins also had a chance to tie the game after their touchdown with under two minutes remaining left them down by two. Brunell rolled left, and despite what appeared to be a clear lane into the end zone, attempted a pass that ultimately fell incomplete, ending any hope the Redskins had.
Santana Moss was the main focus of the Broncosí defense all afternoon, but was still able to post respectable totals. Moss, was often bracketed by two defenders, usually a linebacker and a defensive back. To free him up, imaginative shifts were used to confuse the defense. Although the holes were small, Moss was able to get open enough for Brunell to find him, especially on third downs where he caught three of his eight passes. As the game wore on however, Moss appeared to tire, possibly because of all the extra movement forced upon him by the Broncosí coverage scheme.
Other than Moss, the Redskins had other receiving threats open up to them that hadnít in the past. Chris Cooley had a career day, catching eight passes for 82 yards and a score. Cooley was employed in motion before the snap too, but his shifts were more mundane than those of Moss. Cooley was covered well by Broncosí linebackers most of the afternoon, but their tackling was horrid, and Cooley was able to break their attempted tackles and gain yards after the catch. Patten, who had been near invisible the first three weeks, caught seven passes for 63 yards. Many of his receptions were on hitch routes near the sidelines employed when the Broncos blitzed. Over the middle Patten had more trouble finding success and was unable to gain separation.
Clinton Portis, in his first visit to Mile High since being traded away after the 2003 season, enjoyed success but was unable to score that elusive first touchdown. He was able to gain over five yards per carry but was unable to break the long runs he has been known for. Late in the second quarter Portis was forced to leave the game with leg trouble, but he returned and didnít seem to be having trouble.
Mark Brunell had one of his best games as a Redskin, throwing for two scores and avoiding interceptions in the loss. He wasnít able to connect with Moss on the long ball, but the threat of it allowed him to connect with his receivers underneath the zone coverage. He targeted three different receivers 10+ times, and spread the ball around nicely, keeping everyone involved and also keeping the defense guessing. The offensive line kept Brunell from being sacked, although Trevor Pryce was able to get a few licks in. All told, Brunell played well, just not quite well enough to come away victorious.
The Broncosí running game will be as muddied as ever after this week. Tatum Bell received one more carry than Mike Anderson and did much more with his opportunities, breaking two runs for big gains that probably were the difference in the game. Both runs were a product of short yardage situations. The Redskinsí defense swarmed towards the ball and as a result, nobody was there to tackle Bell after he broke the first line of defenders. On all of his runs, Bell displayed more speed and more elusiveness than Anderson did on his. However, while Bell did much better statistically, Anderson did nothing to lose his job and was clearly superior in pass blocking. Bell may receive the start in future games, but as long as Anderson is healthy he will still get looks in this committee situation.
Jake Plummer had a terrible game but avoided the mistakes that could have cost his team a victory. The weather was poor all day as it rained and sometimes sleeted, and this affected Plummer more than it did his counterpart. His passes were often behind his receivers or overthrown, and on a couple of occasions he laid his receivers out, leading them right into a waiting defender. Ashley Lelie, despite catching his first touchdown of the season, displayed bad hands, catching only one pass out of eight targets. Plummer was also the recipient of a gift wrapped tuck rule. After having the ball slip out of his hands following a fake pump, he had to fall on it, giving the Redskins a safety. The play was eventually reversed because of the tuck rule. These points ended up being the difference in the game. Plummerís performance is magnified by the fact that the Redskins were playing the entire game with only two cornerbacks, after an injury forced Shawn Springs to sit on the bench with fellow starter Walt Harris. The Redskins were forced to use safeties and sometimes even linebackers in coverage, but Plummer was unable to take advantage.
The Broncosí defense, recently heralded by pundits all over the country, was unable to slow down a Redskinsí offense thought by many to be one of the worst in the league heading into this season. The only member of the front seven able to get pressure on Brunell was Trevor Pryce. With Champ Bailey out (the coaching staff feared the bad conditions could aggravate his injury) the Broncos started two cornerbacks in Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth. Williams did a good job matched up against Santana Moss at times, but at other times he lost track of where Moss was. Foxworth, who appeared to be alternating with Lenny Walls every once in awhile, didnít embarrass himself against David Patten. While they didnít play badly, another rookie cornerback did. Karl Paymah, in as a dime defender late in the game with the Redskins driving down by eight, was called for defensive holding on a fourth and ten play where Brunell was sacked by Pryce. After extending the drive with that move, Paymah decided to spear Santana Moss with the crown of his helmet after the play was over, costing his team 15 yards and putting the Redskins inside the 20 yard line.
What you ought to know
|QB Mark Brunell, Pass: 30 - 53 - 322 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 17 - 0|
Brunell had another good day passing the ball despite the horrid weather conditions. He surpassed 300 yards passing for the first time this season. He was able to utilize receivers other than Santana Moss better than any other game so far, connecting regularly with David Patten and Chris Cooley in particular. Santana Moss was once again his favorite receiver, targeted 14 times by Brunell. Cooley was utilized in motion regularly and worked free underneath and on swing passes to either side. Patten was utilized on a series of short hitch passes, taking advantage of clear blitzes. Moss was the main target down the field. Brunell seemed unaffected by the wet weather, and his precise throws kept the Redskins in the game. Most of his passes were to the left side, but that tendency wasnít keyed on by the Broncos. On the last play of the first half, Brunell displayed amazing arm strength on a play that didnít matter, throwing a Hail Mary to the back of the end zone some 60 yards away. He was also able to use his legs a little, scrambling for 14 yards on an important third down play. In the end, Brunell had his pass tipped on a two point conversion attempt that would have tied the game. It appeared that he had enough room to run the ball in, but he was focused on his receivers and may have missed that opportunity.
Portis had a good day running the ball, surpassing 100 yards for the second time this season, but failing to score a touchdown yet again. He had larger holes to run through in this game than previously, and he took full advantage. As the game progressed with the Redskins trailing, Portis displayed good instincts in his blitz pickups; giving Mark Brunell added time to throw. He left the game late in the second quarter because of a bruised leg, but later returned. On their first drive, Portis failed to handle a handoff from Brunell, and the play resulted in a fumble recovered by the Broncos that led to an eventual score. On the next drive, Portis broke a big gainer up the middle for nearly 30 yards, but the play was called back because of holding. Later that drive, Portis got first crack at scoring on first and goal from the two yard line, but was unable to plow ahead. On his teamís final drive, Portis caught a pass underneath zone coverage and was able to break a linebackerís tackle to convert.
|RB Ladell Betts, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)|
Betts was used less than in previous weeks, likely because Clinton Portis was facing his former team. He entered the game late in the second quarter after Portis suffered a leg injury. Most of Bettsí action occurred in the first half, and with the game in the balance, it was Portis on the field and Betts watching from the sideline.
Santana Moss was once again the Redskinsí main target. The defense was keyed to stop him, with two defenders responsible on many plays, usually a defensive back and a linebacker. The Redskins utilized motion before the snap to disrupt this bracketing of Moss, having him motion one way, then change directions a few times in an attempt to confuse the defense. This motion was particularly effective on a sprint out play by Brunell on third and short on the Redskinsí first scoring drive. Moss was not devoid of mistakes, however, dropping a couple of passes (one of which would have converted a first down) and also going off sides on one occasion. With the game in the balance late, however, Moss was at his best, converting two key plays for first downs. Moss was targeted on third downs in particular, with three of his eight catches converting on third down.
The Redskins made a deliberate attempt to get Patten more involved in the passing game and it showed. Patten was the target of a long throw for 38 yards that appeared to be a touchdown, but was eventually called back because of offensive pass interference, a dubious call at best. He was the target on a number of short hitches to take advantage of the Broncosí blitzing. In traffic Patten was much less effective, failing to gain separation and allowing defenders to knock passes away.
Thrash was used mainly on special teams and as an H-back blocker, as he motioned towards the hashes to chip blitzing linebackers. He only caught one pass on the day.
Cooley had a huge day receiving and recorded his first touchdown of the season on the final drive of the game. Cooley was utilized in motion, sometimes out of the backfield but mostly from outside the tackle, and this enabled him to find more space to the outside. The Broncosí linebackers were definitely aware of Cooley but that didnít make much of a difference, as Cooley used his body to shield defenders from the ball and was also able to break through would be tacklers after the catch. He was also used in the slot as a third wide out on occasion, but the majority of his catches came after motioning before the snap.
Royal failed to make an impact as Chris Cooley and James Thrash were used in his stead most of the game. He had an opportunity to catch a pass that would have led to an easy first down, but because of the weather conditions he was unable to hang on to the ball.
Sellers was only targeted once all day, but that was enough for him to score his second touchdown in as many games. It came on the same play as his score last week, on a bootleg left quarterback option. Sellers was covered initially, but the defender had his eyes on Brunell and Sellers was able to quietly slip away just enough to score.
Novak had a kick blocked for the second consecutive week, but once again it wasnít entirely his fault. The block came on a 38 yard attempt early in the third quarter. Given the distance the kick was low, but should have cleared the line had Broncosí defenders not been able to collapse the middle and time their jumps perfectly. Novak also made a 54 yard attempt with one second remaining in the first quarter, but his kick was called back because of movement before the snap and the score was nullified. Novak made his other two field goal attempts, from 36 and 34 yards, and converted his sole extra point attempt. His late onside kick attempt was unsuccessful.
The Redskinsí rush defense held up reasonably well against the Broncosí great rushing attack, but were gashed by two long runs by Tatum Bell that proved to be difference makers. The first occurred on fourth and less than a yard, and the second on third and five. The Redskinsí defenders swarmed the ball and consequently there was no safety deep to stop the runner if he got through the first line. Other than these two runs, though, the defense played well. Mike Anderson was held to three yards per carry, and at one point the Broncos recorded five consecutive three and out drives. The disgruntled LaVar Arrington did not play, as Chris Clemons and Warrick Holdman worked at outside linebacker in his place.
The Redskins played spectacular defense against the pass, allowing only 92 yards through the air. Early in the first quarter, the secondary suffered yet another injury, losing Shawn Springs. That left them without their two top cornerbacks (Walt Harris, Springs) and with only two healthy cornerbacks. Ade Jimoh and Carlos Rogers played well, and Pierson Prioleau filled in as the nickel corner and did very well. Unfortunately, the secondary failed to capitalize on Jake Plummerís poor accuracy, failing to intercept a pass for the third time this year.
|QB Jake Plummer, Pass: 10 - 25 - 92 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 4 - 0|
Plummer had a horrible day passing, but to his credit, he avoided turning the ball over. Despite facing a Redskinsí secondary missing its top two cornerbacks, Plummer struggled to hit receivers in stride all day long. His passes appeared to be affected by the bad weather as they wobbled in the air. Rod Smith was hit violently at least twice as he attempted to reach back and catch a pass thrown behind him. Plummer did have a nice touchdown toss over the defenderís head towards the corner of the end zone to Ashley Lelie towards the end of the first half to put his team ahead. In the third quarter, Plummer nearly cost his team two points when he fumbled the ball on his own five yard line, and kicked it back into his own end zone before recovering it for a safety. However, upon replay it was ruled that his fumble was in reality a ďtuckĒ and thus an incomplete pass attempt. With his team ahead, Plummer didnít attempt many passes in the second half, instead handing the ball off as the offense remained conservative in the bad weather conditions.
|RB Tatum Bell, Rush: 12 - 127 - 2, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)|
Bell broke two huge runs that sealed the game for his team and put the starting job of Mike Anderson in doubt. The first occurred on a fourth and one on the Broncosí first drive. Bell received the handoff and started to the left, juked away from Phillip Daniels, and raced 34 yards for the touchdown. The second occurred during the third quarter on third and five. Bell swept to the right this time, juked a safety and was gone 55 yards for a score. Other than these two runs, Bell had ten carries for 38 yards. Bell looked quicker than Anderson to hit the hole and more elusive once he got through it. Bell was also in the game on the Broncosí lone red zone drive which ended in an Ashley Lelie touchdown catch.
Anderson started the game but was replaced often by Tatum Bell in crucial situations. His longest run was only for nine yards, and on most of his attempts he was stuffed one or two yards downfield. Counterpart Tatum Bell showed significantly more speed and more wiggle on his attempts and was much more successful, a bad indication for Anderson owners. Anderson, however, was still very solid in blitz pickups where Bell has been known to struggle. The running situation in Denver has the makings of a full fledged committee.
Johnson was used mainly as a lead blocker. He did catch one pass but was immediately walloped by Ryan Clark and appeared to be in some pain. He wasnít used much as the Broncos mainly used one running back sets.
|WR Rod Smith, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (5 targets)|
Smith was a victim of his quarterbackís poor accuracy, catching only two balls out of five targets. On one of his catches he had to twist his body around and because of that, missed seeing an oncoming defender who proceeded to lay him out. Smith put his blocking on display on the second long run by Tatum Bell, helping to clear the way as he blocked a defender.
Adams was the third receiver and did well for himself, converting one short pass for a key first down. He didnít play much as the Broncos stayed in running formations most of the game.
Lelie had his first touchdown catch of the season on a toss towards the right corner of the end zone in the second quarter. He was able to out leap Ade Jimoh for the ball. That was his lone highlight, however, and his only catch in eight targets. To be fair, many of his drops were actually Jake Plummerís fault, as the signal caller displayed poor accuracy all afternoon. Lelie did drop some easy ones though. He did help seal the victory for his team, recovering the Redskinsí onside kick with under two minutes to play.
Putzier caught a short pass on the left flank and was able to break a tackle and gain 31 yards, setting up the Broncos second touchdown. He started ahead of Stephen Alexander but, other than that one play, didnít do anything.
Alexander was used mainly as a blocker in two tight end formations. His failure to catch any of the passes thrown at him was more a reflection on his quarterback, as the passes were not accurate at all.
Elam did not attempt a field goal but was perfect on all three extra point attempts.
The Broncos limited the holes available to Clinton Portis, but the holes were there. The linebackers had their hands full, as the game plan was to bracket Santana Moss with one linebacker and one defensive back as much as possible. Responsible for Chris Cooley as well, the linebackers were chasing men in motion all day. While Portis was unable to break any long runs for scores, he was able to consistently gash the Broncos for five and six yards a pop, averaging over five yards per carry for the second time this season. D.J. Williams had a good day, making seven tackles.
The secondary appeared disoriented by the constant shifts the Redskins employed, allowing Mark Brunell to throw for his best totals of the season despite pouring rain for most of the game. The Broncosí game planned for Santana Moss, double teaming him on most plays, but as a result they allowed David Patten and Chris Cooley to get open. Rookie cornerbacks Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth played decently, avoiding the big play but allowing openings underneath. Trevor Pryce was the only member of the front seven to consistently get pressure on Brunell, almost ending the game with a sack that was nullified by defensive holding. Rookie Karl Paymah, was also called for a 15 yard personal foul that extended the Redskinsí final drive. Paymah was playing as a dime corner and will likely be headed back to the bench when Champ Bailey returns. Bailey, who had practiced all week, was a late game scratch because the Broncos feared the bad weather would increase the chances of him re-injuring himself.