Long before the rumors of tax evasion, the urban legends of "hating white people" and the halfhearted show appearances, singer/rapper, Lauryn Hill was a star. At the beginning of the hook for her 1998 smash hit, "Los Ones," she succinctly stated "you might win some/but, you really Lost One..." Fast forward 19 years, and Ms. Hill could reeducate the masses about the Washington football team. Following an absolutely winnable, yet devastating loss to Kansas City, the Skins are left with far more question marks than exclamation points and the final play punctuated the gut-wrenching L.
With the crowd at Arrowhead mostly dulled and subdued, the injury riddled burgundy and gold had every opportunity to take down the NFL's final undefeated team. Having so many chances to claim victory, but ultimately gripping defeat, there is certainly some blame to be had. So whose fault is it, exactly? I'm glad you asked! Welcome to the fourth 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.
-Chris Thompson. Seven touches. 27 yards. Why was one the league's top yard-gainers frozen out of the offense? Only Jay Gruden knows for sure, but it is very difficult to blame someone for a loss when they barely touched the ball.
-Gamblers. Listen, you may be an avid gambler and know about lines and odds , or you may be a casual fan and not care at all. But, just know this: having betting tickets on the Skins (seven-point underdogs; lost on the final, meaningless play) or the under (the point total for the game was 48. It was at 43 on the last play...ended at 49), were about as bad of bad beats that a gambler can endure.
-(Captain) Kirk Cousins. It would be completely unreasonable for anyone watching that game to think that any quarterback in the league could've have played much better situationally than Kirk. He was only asked to throw 24 times --Kansas City's ball-dominant offense saw to that-- but, he was decisive and accurate. His scrambling improvisation was impactful and his final throw to Josh Doctson was...well, we'll discuss that later. Side note: I'm no expert, though I do send expert-level gif tweets during all Skins games, but I'm pretty sure your QB is not supposed to lead the team in rushing two out of the first four games.
The NFL: 5%
I absolutely despise the "refs are out to get us!" conspiracy theory salvos, but... Let's just say every 50/50 call did not go in our direction. The Skins came in as one of the least-penalized times in the league and while many calls were justified, the borderline ones may not have been. Also, not sure the gluttony of injuries was the field or the league's fault, but eff Goodell, they were Monday night.
Samaje Perine: 5%
The first of three players in the pie that I absolutely cape for, Perine had his worst outing as a pro in his short career. Being a patient runner is completely admirable and advantageous when you're Leveon Bell, far less so when you are not. In very limited work Perine was able to make cuts, but rarely delivered the bursts through the gaps that were necessary. His fumble in the fourth quarter was unacceptable. Need a lot more from the rookie, "Sooner" than later.
The Injury Bug: 10%
"Bug" is probably not a strong enough noun as Washington experienced an injury tidal wave that wiped out a multitude of starters, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Shoutout to Trent Williams who was still performing at a high level and protecting Kirk's blindside, despite a nasty knee injury. The news on Norman bears observing for the immediate future, but at least the bye week buys the beleaguered squad some valuable time.
Terrelle Pryor & Jamison Crowder: 10%
The lion's share of this slice is for Crowder. Pryor scored on a saavy push-off touchdown reception and while that was great, he also alligator-armed his way to another inconsistent performance. If #11 was third or fourth on the depth chart, these ailments could be digested far more easily. As for Jamison, the bar manager apparently forgot to place the order. For what feels like the fourth straight week, Crowder found himself highlighted on the side of a milk carton in the "missing" box far more than the stat sheet. Whether it's a matter of him no longer getting open (possible), Kirk simply not seeing him underneath as much (possible, not likely) or Gruden not scheming for him because of his ball control and consistency issues (most likely), the third-year slot man HAS to begin producing again for the offense to hit optimal operation.
Josh Doctson: 10%
I'm not only a card-carrying member, I am also the president of the Josh Doctson Stan Club. His drop on the penultimate drive of the evening was heartbreaking, plain and simple. The degree of difficulty and body contortion he completed with ease goes to show the amazing athleticism he possesses, but that drop. Man. No words. My feeling is that he's beating himself up over this far more than my Redskins text threads and social media ever could and I expect a monster return to action in week 6 (I hope).
Preston Smith: 10%
Another of this author's favorites had an extremely problematic Monday evening. Perhaps horrible at coloring as a child, Smith had a nightmare time staying within the lines during the contest. He jumped the snapped offsides three times, with all three leading to first downs. He generated a formidable pass rush, but much like the rest of the defense, was held in check the entire second half.
Bashaud Breeland: 10%
Don't think for one second that this means I don't want the front office to do everything in their power to re-sign him next year, but this game will not be involved in his agent's salary pitch. Another yellow hanky magnet, Breeland was mostly watchless, delivering penalties at the absolute worst time and down situations. Momma said there'd be days/nights like this.
Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky: 40%
I have no problem raining down blessings and praise when times are good and I have even less of a problem pointing out when times are piss-poor. Jay Gruden is a really good NFL coach. I truly believe that. He got beat by a better coach this evening. Whether it was personnel decisions --again, Chris Thompson only seven touches/Grant outsnapped Doctson-- or clock management, the coach with the more famous brother was not at his sharpest. With seconds left in the first half, Gruden chose a field goal over a 4th and goal from the one and a half yardline, closer than a two point conversion. He should've gone for it. Trust the math. But, that was not the most important decision of the game. Let's break down the final offensive sequence for the Skins (I'm deleting the lateral/fumble disaster from my memory banks):
1st and 10 from the KC 30. Kirk scrambles for eight yards. This was a play after he scrambled for 15. Kirk was completely intuitive and reactionary in a good way Monday night. Regardless, there were under two minutes left after. The next play was crucial and in my opinion, was the most important of the game.
2nd and 2 from the KC 22. Gruden calls an off tackle run play to Thompson over the right side for no gain. OK. Look, "second and short" is about the best distance in football to be. It opens up the entire playbook. Maybe Gruden was trying to run clock. Maybe he saw something on film with gaps in the left side of KC's line. Maybe he had remorse for not letting one of our most dynamic players in Thompson touch the ball more. Whatever he felt, his intuition to run a handoff in that down and distance at that spot on the field with that amount of time proved to be foolhardy.
3rd and 2 from the KC 22. "The drop." Some fellow second-guessers I was watching the game with hated this play call. "We only needed two yards!" "Jordan Reed was open!" Both valid. Both wrong in this case. Emotional fans usually cannot mentally grasp the notion of the "process being more important than the result," but this was an expert-level play call by Gruden and execution by Cousins. The play was there, Doctson simply came up short. Burning a timeout before this play, you know it's the look that they wanted and they got it. The result sucked, but the team was in the best possible position to win. Hard to be upset at that.
Then there's defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky. A stalwart of previous #SundaySlices, Manusky's defense was more triage tent than full squad, but the NFL does not allow the luxury of excuses. The defense's calling card this season had been generating pressure while only rushing four and locking up in man coverage with safety help. It was a formula that had been glorious to watch during September and was in full effect in the first quarter Monday night. At some point, however, Manusky either saw something he wanted to exploit, was fooled by Reid, or let hubris get the best of him and decided to constantly blitz and play a zone shell. With the Chiefs primarily working the middle of the field with Gronk wannabe Kelce, wide receivers Wilson and Conley, tapioka pudding-boring, Alex Smith was able to pick apart the defense. As the injuries mounted, the Skins continued to apply blitzes while leaving non-starters in precarious positions. Add in the undisciplined penalties and lack of containment on Smith runs to the outside, what was displayed was the worst defensive performance since December of 2016.
#SundaySlices will return, following the bye week, against the San Francisco 49ers. If you have slice suggestions, send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter.