I saw it all, but still can’t believe any of it.
Last Sunday, Washington went into Seattle, where the Seahawks were 37-6 since 2012. The Redskins won 17-14 with four backup offensive linemen, including T.J. Clemmings, who apparently didn’t get the memo that 37-year-old Seahawks defensive end Dwight Freeney has quite the spin move off the blind side.
The Redskins also won without Jamison Crowder, Jonathan Allen, Jordan Reed and many more banged up players.
They were outgained in yardage, 437-244. They trailed with 90 seconds left. They averaged 2.2 yards per carry with their leading rushing gaining 20 yards.
But Seattle did turn the ball over four times, commit 16 penalties and watch hopelessly as Blair Walsh yanked three field goal attempts wide left in the first half.
With the Vikings traveling to Washington on Sunday, I looked for a play to feature from this game. After watching Kirk Cousins get sacked six times — three of which were Clemmings’ fault — I had to keep reminding myself that Washington actually won the game.
However, for a large chunk of this game, the story was a Washington defense that was taking it to Seattle with excellent pressure and coverage. Until later in the game, Washington did an excellent job taking away Seattle’s top two receiving targets, which it appears is one of its strengths.
According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins rank fourth in the league in defending their opponent’s No. 1 receiver and sixth in the league in defending its No. 2 receiver. No. 1 receivers gain an average of 47.4 yards per game on 7.2 targets, while No. 2 receivers gain 19.1 yards on 3.6 targets.
Of course, the flip side of that is Washington is much weaker when it comes to defending tight ends and running backs. The Redskins rank 29th against tight ends (79.6 yards on 7.5 targets) and 21st against running backs (37.8 yards on 7.8 targets).
A good illustration of these statistics is how the Redskins have defended the Eagles in their two meetings this year. Receiver Alshon Jeffery had five catches for 75 yards in the two games, while tight end Zach Ertz had 13 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Somewhere, Kyle Rudolph smiles.
For this week’s featured play, I’ll focus on what the Redskins can do well when it comes to defending a No. 1 receiver. Both of their interceptions last Sunday — one by nickel corner Kendall Fuller and one by linebacker Will Compton — came when Russell Wilson was rushed and fooled by the coverage while throwing toward Baldwin. Baldwin ended up with seven catches for 108 yards and a late touchdown against a blown coverage — by far the best by a No. 1 receiver against Washington — but the five targets he didn’t catch resulted in two interceptions and three incompletions.
THE PLAY: Late first quarter, third-and-4 from the Washington 49.
The photo above is from this play. It’s the conclusion of the play, which resulted in Fuller notching his team-leading third interception of the season.
Seattle lined up with two receivers right, two receivers left. Wilson was in the shotgun with a running back to his left. The Redskins countered with four down linemen and Compton in the A gap between the center and left guard. Zach Brown, a ridiculously fast linebacker, is off the line of scrimmage showing a coverage look.
At the snap, the four linemen, Compton and Brown all rush. Wilson gets pinned in the pocket and rushes the throw to Baldwin. By that time, Fuller already knows where the ball is going and has made his jump. Baldwin waits for the ball, but Fuller times it perfectly, slamming into Baldwin and knocking him to the ground just as the ball arrives.
That’s how you win games you have no business winning.