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Wild Card Winners Show What Redskins Are Missing

January 8, 2018
12 teams make the NFL Postseason. Only one team ultimately wins the really “Big Dance” and while 11 teams will ultimately lose, for now, there are four winners after this past weekend’s “Wild-Card Round.”

For the Redskins, they were on a “bye” this weekend. Just look at it as a 35-consecutive week break.

Clearly, Washington has a lot of work to do, as everybody knows, after finishing (7-9) and missing the playoffs entirely for the second-straight year.

As I tend to do (and maybe you do as well?) every year that the Redskins do not make the playoffs, I look at what the teams that did make the after season party and more specifically, those that win in the postseason – have on their side – that the Redskins do not and what they might be able to do to fix it.

The four winners this weekend showed a moxie and poise that the Redskins so rarely show. That’s not in 2017. That’s been for a long time. The New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans are all moving on because they dug deep when they had to have it the most.

Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it is character. Maybe it’s just the way the ball bounces, but for whatever reason, I can point to specific examples of what these four teams did this weekend that you just don’t see from Washington.

Sorry. That might be harsh, but it also is the truth.

The Atlanta Falcons showed tremendous speed on defense, a vicious attack mentality when it came to tackling and excellent coverage in general to beat old friend, Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.

On a short week after a physical win over Carolina just to make the playoffs, and a cross-country flight, Dan Quinn’s team showed that they are much more about defense this year than the flashy offensive show that they rode to a near Super Bowl win last year.

If you watched the win for the Falcons, you saw Deion Jones patrolling and flying around (he also got away with a defensive pass interference late) and Robert Alford swatting around a deep pass along the sideline. You saw Keanu Neal laying the lumber. Brian Poole, a little known reserve corner playing an elevated role, whacking people in a lights out fashion, over and over again. A backup safety Damontae Kazee making huge plays on special teams and defense. Grady Jarrett doing a pretty good job controlling the run.

A team that won a road game with Adrian Clayborn having only one tackle. A team that has overcome a dip in dominance from Vic Beasley, despite a sack on Saturday night.

A Falcons team that got just enough from Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman on offense to finish off the Rams with a money eight play, 83-yard drive that took just over five minutes and expanded the Atlanta lead to the final margin of 13 points.

Oh, and then there was special teams. Atlanta forced a fumble on a kickoff return that led directly to a Freeman touchdown and recovered a loose ball on a muffed punt return that led to a field goal.

Falcons placekicker Matt Bryant connected on field goals of 54, 51, 29 and 25 yards. Could you imagine?

The Redskins special teams, as we pointed out in this space long before it became a popular criticism was brutal pretty much all year. There were limited moments of competency, but it was mostly a never-ending nightmare.

Never mind not having the speed and tackling ability that the Falcons possess along with the balanced attack on offense and the wherewithal to win on the road 3,000 miles away on a short week against the league’s # 1 offense, holding the Rams to 13 points.  

The Saints hung on for dear life and beat the Carolina Panthers for the third time this year. How did they do it? One big way was Ted Ginn catching an 80-yard bomb touchdown from Drew Brees.

The Redskins used to have this speed in the form of DeSean Jackson. They no longer have it.

The Saints finished off the Panthers with a monstrous pass rush and sack of Cam Newton by Vonn Bell on fourth down. Sound familiar? Bell finished off Kirk Cousins on a sack at the end of regulation in the Redskins choke job down in New Orleans. That was after a controversial intentional grounding by the Redskins. Oddly enough, the same script played out Sunday. Newton and the Panthers were also called for a disputed grounding call late on their final possession. It was on a 2 nd-and-10 from the New Orleans-21 with only a five-point lead for the Saints.

The Redskins so rarely come up with a monster defensive play when they absolutely must have it. And they don’t have a defensive back that can seal the deal like Bell can.

The Jacksonville Jaguars won their first playoff game in forever on Sunday, hanging on for dear life and defeating a very tough Buffalo Bills squad, 10-3.

Their defense has been largely dominant all year and when you combine that with an effective running game, you can win a lot of games. On Sunday, they did the bare minimum on offense (a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down) and also got a field goal right before the half.

The Jaguars won a game on Sunday that featured their quarterback, Blake Bortles, running for more yards (88) than he passed for (87).

The Jaguars defense forced two turnovers and allowed only 263 net yards of offense on 74 offensive plays run by the Bills. Could you ever imagine the Redskins defense being able to overcome the ineptitude of their own offense like the Jaguars did on Sunday? No.

And finally, the Tennessee Titans upset the Chiefs on Saturday in Kansas City, a place where the Redskins almost won in early October.

The Titans were down 21-3 at the half and shut down Andy Reid’s offense in the second half, allowing no points and 61 total net yards of offense.

Not only was their defense terrific and Dick LeBeau made all the correct adjustments with former Redskins edge rusher, Brian Orakpo, leading the way with 1.5 sacks but the Tennessee offense made some timely huge plays from Marcus Mariota and Eric Decker.

Then it was up to backup Derrick Henry to finish off the Chiefs and boy did he ever. Henry ran 23 times for 156 yards including a game-icing, back-breaking 22-yard run on 3 rd-and-10 to end the game.

I couldn’t fathom the Redskins going on the road, down by 18 at the half, staying patient with the run because it’s the identity of your offense, even with a backup running back and winning a game like that.

Washington would kill to have somebody as talented as Henry, who made it look easy. Again, Henry is a complimentary piece for the Titans offense.

I know it may seem like this is negative in nature and I suppose it is, but it just goes to show you why the Redskins have a long road to haul, even if they do the right thing and bring Kirk Cousins back. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN