#SundaySlices are one of my favorite, and quite frankly, easiest columns to compose. The Skins game ends, I know who won or lost and I break down approximate contributions of players and staff toward the result. Simple. Winning in the NFL is hard and no opponent should be taken lightly, BUT...if ever there were a need for quotation marks around a "win," it would be Sunday afternoon's escape by Washington. Writing solely about the positives is tricky when there are also so many glaring negatives.
Keeping the "par" in the NFL's currently abundant parity, the Skins have positioned themselves as a "good enough" team, winning three of their first five with flashes of playoff pedigree. Like streetball legend, Billy Hoyle, once said: it's better to look bad and win than to look good and lose. So who contributed to the winning, exactly? I'm glad you asked! Welcome to the fifth of sixteen #SundaySlices recaps, where we cut up the game to assign fame and blame, based on the outcome, into delicious pie chart form. Try not to make a mess.
(These are the players/coaches/etc. who are not in the pie, because they did not contribute to the win).
-Special Teams. It hasn't happened yet, but it will: Washington will lose a game because of special teams. When you were a kid you may have played a game at the pool where you held your breath for as long as you could underwater. That's basically me now, every time I see Jamison Crowder fair-catching a punt. Tress Way kicked his way to a putrid average of 30.5 net yards on four punts, including one garbage touchback that gave the Niners great field position for their final drive. Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point, and while I never wish injury upon players, exploring other options may be ideal long term.
-The running game. Get you a man or woman who loves something that doesn't work as much as Jay Gruden loves this run game. 94 yards on 33 carries, including one attempt by the third-string tight end. Outside of the Rams game, which increasingly seems like an outlier, Washington has not had a rusher go over 50 yards in any contest. Chris Thompson is indispensable in this offense, but his 16 carries for 33 yards was simply not good enough for an every down back.
-Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Jamison Crowder. Between the two of them they received 10 targets, notching six catches for 38 yards. Vernon Davis got 51 yards on one play. While Pryor's lack of experience and trouble adapting to the offense can be more easily explained, the disappearance of Crowder as an explosive slot receiver is baffling. The defense of the Niners is in no way elite, yet 2/3 of the starting receivers couldn't make a dent in the stat sheet. This simply won't be acceptable on Monday night in Philly.
Kendall Fuller: 5%
If you create a turnover to end the game, you get a slice of the pie. Thems the rules. Also, contributing two pass breakups and playing as an outside corner and nickel specialist makes this second-year player very valuable (thanks again, Scot!)
Ryan Grant: 5%
Ever since the hey days of The Posse, Skins fans have been searching for the next sure-handed, excellent route running, consistently open on third down wide receiver, in the mold of Art Monk. In Ryan Grant, we have found...that he is not Art Monk. But, he's probably a lot better than we think. Him and Kirk clearly have chemistry and despite my jokes at his expense all preseason, he's been an integral part of the team's success this season.
Quinton Dunbar: 5%
Dunbar, along with Zach Brown (of course), led the team in tackles on Sunday. He also defended two passes, but his most importantly, he didn't get beat. With Josh Norman out and Breeland hobbling, Dunbar was asked to be a lockdown cornerback and he responded with one of the best efforts of his career. The former wide receiver has found his new calling.
D.J. Swearinger: 10%
For years the pervasive joke about Washington was that when it came to signing free agents, they had the wallet to get it done, but rarely the scouting to find value. Swearinger is value. Once again earning his team captain "C" patch, Swearinger continued to direct traffic in a young and inexperienced secondary, and set the tone with hard hits and caveman, fist-slam celebrations.
Brandon Scherff: 15%
Many an eyebrow were raised when the Skins selected an offensive guard in the first round of the 2015 draft, but this season, Brandon Scherff has solidified himself as perhaps the best at his position. Watching him kick out and pull and crack back and steam roll all over the field never gets old. When you see a long screen play for Thompson, there's a 99% chance you're going to see a #75 jersey in the secondary de-cleating someone.
Chris Thompson: 15%
The principle recipient of Scherff's downfield demolition is definitely the scintillating Thompson, who again topped the 100-yard mark in receiving. His chops as an every down runner may not be at their peak, but this offense simply does not go without him in the pass. No one will confuse him with Clinton Portis, but Thompson has also improved as a blocker, delivering chips and double-teams to help keep Kirk upright.
Matt Ioannidis: 20%
Unless you went to Temple or are Scot Mccloughan, you were probably unfamiliar with Ioannidis coming out of college as a fifth-round pick in 2016. With this year's rookie stud, Jonathan Allen, getting injured, Ioannidis had maybe his career finest afternoon on the line. Defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, has clearly found a player he can work with, and the second-year lineman has gotten snaps as a tackle and end. Ioannidis has been an absolute beast at the point of attack and that pressure up the middle will be essential versus nimble, but inexperienced passers like Wentz and Prescott on the horizon.
Kirk Cousins: 25%
This was the quintessential Kirk game. Perfectly orchestrated drives with decisive and accurate throws, a maddening overthrown interception, an absolute laser to set up a run after the catch, a two yard flick that turns into 50 yards, a read option that he ran into the endzone with ease, it had it all. Detractors, such as myself, have mostly been silenced since week one and it's very hard to not be excited by the results. One of the rubs with Cousins will always be consistency. He's put together stretches, like in late 2015, where you would place him in the upper echelon of signal callers, and he's also put together stretches, like late 2016, where he would make such unforgivable late game mistakes that you would create new obscenities to scream out. This Kirk is ideally and hopefully the "real" Kirk and if that's the case long term, I'll gladly eat my humble pie.
#SundaySlices will return following Monday night's showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. If you have any slice suggestions, send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter.