On their 1988 hit single, New Edition posed a simple, yet provocative question: "Can You Stand The Rain?" 29 years later, during a deluge of precipitation and injury despair, the Skins answered that inquisition with a resounding "f**k no." Washington fell to 3-4 on the season and only a "win" versus San Francisco has kept them from full free fall. By the time you read this column, another offensive lineman will probably hit the injured reserve list.
It seems foolhardy to attempt a breakdown of a game where nearly 50% of the team was itself broken down. Last week we gave "injuries" a considerable slice, is it fair to use that as a crutch (pun intended) again? Who and what contributed to this particular loss, exactly? I'm glad you asked! Welcome to the seventh 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 loss)
-Jamison Crowder. Bartender, are you back? Nine catches for 123 yards was damn near Crowder's output for the entire season and he was able to do that in this game alone. Cousins hit him with a rare catch outside of the numbers in the first quarter that set up the Fat Rob touchdown.
-Ryan Kerrigan. Difficult to find a lot of standouts on defense as the Skins have now allowed an average of 30 points per game the last four weeks, but Kerrigan battled through a groin injury to rack up two sacks and draw a key holding penalty. Along with Preston Smith, he continues to play at a Pro Bowl level as an edge rusher.
-The rain. Here's the funny thing about inclement conditions: both teams have to play in it. The Cowboys lost a fumble on the first play of the game from the conditions, but still persevered. The Noah's Ark atmosphere was brutal for players and the dozens of fans who stuck it out at FedEx, but it didn't change the result.
Kirk Cousins: 5%
You would think with a nickname like "Captain" that Cousins would do slightly better on the seas of the storm yesterday, but alas. Kirk didn't have a bad game, just a typical uneven one. He has now thrown an interception in three straight contests, despite constantly checking down and neglecting downfield opportunities. The offensive line resembled The Walking Dead and many will point to that for the cause of his inconsistency. I leave you with an interesting note from Pro Football Focus: "Cousins was surprisingly better while under pressure, completing 7-of-11 for 112 yards and a touchdown compared to 19-for-28 for 151 yards when given time in the pocket."
Josh Doctson/Ryan Grant: 5%
Some of the warts that have appeared in Cousins' game can be attributed to the loss of Garcon/Jackson and their replacements, Doctson/Pryor/Grant. Pryor escapes this week's slices, as he only had one target. Doctson --aka the player I will defend with unreasonable blind loyalty, not unlike some media members with Kirk-- managed to catch his third TD reception of the season, but also had a back-breaking drop in the third quarter (3rd and 7 from the WAS 24, Cousins hit Doctson for what would have been about a 20-yard completion, and though it was slightly underthrown, Doctson has to make that grab). Ryan Grant later had a key drop in the 4th quarter, that while also slightly underthrown, needs to be grabbed for the team to succeed.
Jay Gruden: 10%
Injuries made it difficult for Gruden to game plan, especially with the losses of Paul and Reed, but Gruden continued his Andy Reid-like piss-poor clock management that has become infuriating.
Dallas' final drive. 1st and 10 from their own 25. 3:05 remaining on the clock. The entire world knows that Zeke Elliott will run the ball. He does and picks up three yards. CALL A TIMEOUT. Washington had all three of theirs remaining (miraculously had not wasted one on a challenge that they seemingly lose every time) and the two-minute warning on their side. Had Gruden called a timeout here, he would've saved 40 seconds of game clock. He did not. Dallas went on to get a first down two plays later, but the defense actually got a stop and gave the Skins the ball with 0:54 seconds remaining. That should have been 1:34.
Even with the driving rain and no timeouts, the Skins weren't exactly facing the '85 Bears on defense. A few first down pickups could have ostensibly led to at least a heave or two for the endzone. Jay had other ideas. The first play was a WR screen to Crowder, BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. Again, Washington had no timeouts. The best-case scenario, this play picks up 10-15 yards? Crowder was of course tackled, in bounds, after a pitiful four-yard gain and the next snap did not occur for almost 25 seconds. Kirk then threw a checkdown to Thompson in the flats that was deflected and pick-sixed. Were these plays Jay's fault or Kirk's? Or both?
Until the sense of urgency in the offense matches the situations they are thrusted into, it's difficult to see anything changing.
Run Defense: 10%
With Jonathan Allen out for the season and Matt Ioannidis breaking his hand, you can understand why the line didn't get its usual push. Dallas made no concessions on what their game plan was: run Wicket the Ewok..I mean..Ezekiel Elliott all afternoon. The most demoralizing scenario a team can endure is knowing what it is coming and not being able to do a damn thing about it. Dak Prescott only attempted 22 passes, so perhaps Manusky could have dropped the safeties into the box more?
Special Teams: 20%
Blocked field goal. Fumbled kickoff. Missed extra point. 30-yard penalty on a punt. The "not special in anyway whatsoever" teams really loused this one up. If you'll excuse me, I'll be doing the math on the outcome changing when it is 16-7 Washington instead of 14-13 for eternity.
No, that's not our injured list for the season, that is who was injured just on Sunday.
Jonathan Allen (why can't it be Bruce Allen injured instead?)
Listen, I said it last week and I'll keep trying to tell myself again: every team in the NFL has injuries. I can accept that. But, I dare say it is difficult to find a team with more starters and contributors injured than the Skins are at this very moment. It makes every breakdown and prognostication about the state of the franchise problematic. So as we prepare for a cross-country business trip to Seattle, get some stretching in, we may need you to suit up.
#SundaySlices will return following Sunday's imminent beatdown versus the Seattle Seahawks. If you have any slice suggestions, send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter.