The Fifth Quarter: Buffalo Bills
On many levels it was difficult to watch the Washington Redskins play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Aside from the obvious heartache that still surrounds the team after losing Sean Taylor earlier in the week, we had to endure a familiar pattern that has haunted the Redskins all year: play tough and get ahead, miss touchdown opportunities and settle for field goals, allow the other team enough breathing room to make a comeback, and the inevitable letdown at the end of a rough day.
On to the Fifth Quarter rankings, which are based on a scale of 1 to 5 Quarters:
For the second week in a row, the passing offense was the offense for the Redskins, and yet they consistently stalled whenever they got near the end-zone. As a result, the Redskins had plenty of long, sustained drives with scoring chances, only to come up short on almost every occasion.
Jason Campbell came hot out of the gates but cooled off as the game progressed — in part perhaps because of the pounding he received from the Buffalo defense. He finished the day with 21 completions for 216 yards and an interception. The interception and his fumble were Campbell's twelfth and thirteenth turnovers in just six games.
Pass protection was at its worst in weeks, as Buffalo found creative ways to disguise blitzes and overwhelm the Redskins' protection scheme. Not only did they end the day with three sacks and numerous hits and hurries, but they also recorded a safety, and an interception and forced fumble that led to Bills' field goals. Those eight points, which came as near-gifts from the Redskins’ passing offense, proved crucial in a game with such low scoring.
The team's generally poor running performance was mitigated by a few high profile plays, including the Redskins' sole touchdown and a crucial first down with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, guaranteeing that Buffalo would burn their timeouts giving their offense little room for error on their last drive. As nice as it was to see the Redskins perform in the clutch, the truth is that the rushing offense has ground to a halt over the past few games. Clinton Portis ended the day with a two yards-per-carry average (with 50 yards on 25 attempts), only four first downs, and a long rush of only six yards. Does this sound like the kind of running game that could propel a team into the playoffs?
Campbell had one nice scramble but was otherwise caught from behind early into his runs (he had four), and he was slow to get up after several rushing attempts. Santana Moss took a reverse and burned upfield with it for eleven yards and a first down early in the first quarter. Although Ladell Betts fielded a pass, he was not to be seen in the running game, which may have been a mistake.
As has been the case often this season, the defense fought very hard to keep Washington in competition.
Buffalo did not sustain a single drive for five minutes or for more than nine plays. (Contrast that to the Redskins, who had four drives sustained for more than nine plays and three for more than five minutes) Since eight points came from the Bills' safety and two turnovers that placed the Bills within field goal range, only nine of Buffalo's points were hard-earned on the Redskins' defense.
Fred Smoot had a monster game, with nine total tackles and several break-ups on passing plays. LaRon Landry has stepped up his performance and was in on many plays, recording eight tackles on the day. Reed Doughty, who will fill in for Sean Taylor for the remainder of this season, performed well but was by no means dominant.
In the end, the complete lack of a pass rush killed the defense — not a single player managed a sack, and there were scant few hurries or hits on the quarterback. The only other critique that one could level against the defense was that they couldn't stop Buffalo on their last-minute drive in the fourth quarter — even though Buffalo had no time outs.
Shaun Suisham went perfect on field goals yet again this year, although they were all near-chip shots, with two kicks under 30 yards and the third from only 33 yards. It's probably just as well that the attempts were short, though, as Suisham's lengths on kickoffs were probably at a season-low. Not a single kick went beyond Buffalo's 15-yard line, and only one kick reached the 30.
Derrick Frost's performance was fine, and the punt and kickoff coverage contained the Bills adequately. Rock Cartwright was. . .well. . .Rock.
The good news for the offense is that Randy Thomas is due to return in the very near future. His play could spark the offense — and especially the running offense — and help the Redskins do something with the ball once they are in the red zone.
This past week has been incredibly difficult, and it's impressive that the Redskins were able to pull together for today's game, as hard as it was to watch them lose it in the final seconds. With Sean Taylor’s funeral on Monday, they will have little time to recover as Chicago comes to Washington in only four days.
This article was released on 2007-12-03.
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