Grading the Redskins-Colts game

QUARTERBACKS Shane Matthews didn't post spectacular numbers, but he got a win. And that's what mattered most. Matthews had a strong first half, dumping off passes when he needed to and hitting the intermediate passes when they were open. Matthews missed a couple guys deep, settling for dumpoffs, but that's his style. Matthews also avoided sacks, getting hit for only one because of a bad shotgun snap.

His touchdown pass to Darnerien McCants was pretty. Matthews also threw well on third downs. But he must knock down a deflected pass next time rather than catching it.

Bottom line: Veteran savvy is what this team needs.


RUNNING BACKS

Stephen Davis had lots of holes to run through against the Colts. Davis gained all 80 of his yards in the first half before leaving with a sprained knee. Davis forced the Colts to use an extra defender to stop him, helping the receivers. But Davis again lost a crucial fumble, leading to points for the opposition. And on one pass block, he went too low, allowing the blitzer to leap over him. Fullbacks Rock Cartwright and Bryan Johnson did well on their isolation blocks, clearing lanes for Davis. Running back Kenny Watson had a strong finish, with 10 carries for 43 yards on the final drive.

Bottom line: Davis started the Redskins off right; Watson made sure they finished right.

RECEIVERS

Derrius Thompson has developed into a decent receiver, with four catches for 63 yards. All of his catches went for first downs, two coming on third down and one on fourth down. Rod Gardner made a beautiful adjustment on one pass. He was leaning to his right, then lunged back to the left. Darnerien McCants ran a nice route on his touchdown grab. He also ran a solid route on a 32-yard play in the second quarter. Chris Doering caught a 33-yard touchdown pass, properly reading the defensive back on the play. Doering could have tried to outleap the corner. But he guessed that the corner couldn't get the ball, so he waited for it to drop into his arms.

Bottom line: Big catches; group helped by Colts using extra defender to stop the run.


OFFENSIVE LINE

Alex Sulfsted earned a game ball at left tackle, filling in for the injured Chris Samuels. Sulfsted was solid and, once he adjsuted to the speed, he was rarely seen. Which is a good thing. The Redskins didn't have to help out on his side as much as they had anticipated. Center Larry Moore, save for a  bad shotgun snap, was outstanding in opening running lanes. Guard David Loverne was solid, too. Guard Wilbert Brown rotated with Tre Johnson, who entered on passing downs. Johnson looks out of shape, but still managed to help. Teams with better tackles will take advantage of his condition, however. Tackle Jon Jansen was solid, though he had a false start penalty.

Bottom line: Balanced attack, veteran QB put line in position to succeed.


TIGHT ENDS

Walter Rasby is a rare tight end who can block from the slot. Rasby was asked to do this often and usually came through. Not many tight ends around the league are asked to do this. And Rasby had never done it before this year. But it gives the Redskins a different look on run downs and it works. Tight end Leonard Stephens caught one pass for 13 yards and appeared sound in his blocking. Zeron Flemister was inactive.

Bottom line: Rasby's versatility in blocking helps tremendously.


DEFENSIVE LINE

There's a reason the linebackers had a strong game. It's because no one was usually blocking them. And that's a credit to this unit, starting in the middle with tackles Dan Wilkinson and Daryl Gardener. Wilkinson didn't have a tackle and Gardener only had three. But they allowed the linebackers to combine for 21 stops. Gardener did have one stop for a one-yard gain. End Bruce Smith had one tackle, but applied decent pressure in a matchup versus solid tackle Tarik Glenn. Smith showed excellent pursuit when he stopped Edgerrin James for a three-yard loss on a screen. End Renaldo Wynn did a nice job at the point of attack and had a tackle for a one-yard loss.

Bottom line: Linebackers got the stats thanks to these guys.

LINEBACKERS

Jeremiah Trotter is finally starting to play the way he and the Redskins expected. Trotter isn't all the way there yet, but he's making plays on instinct, a sign that he's getting comfortable in the offense. Trotter is doing everything from blitzing to dropping deep into coverage. He bailed out LaVar Arrington at times when the latter missed tackles. Trotter was there to clean it up. Arrington had six tackles, two sacks and two passes defensed and is playing like a Pro Bowl player again. No one has his closing speed, especially when chasing linebackers. But Arrington was sucked inside on Peyton Manning's one-yard touchdown run. He also was flagged for offsides when he mistimed his jump over the line. Jessie Armstead was again solid and usually in the right spot. He also had a sack.

Bottom line: Starting to make the plays everyone expected.


SECONDARY

Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete, making his first start, made an impact with an interception and three tackles. Ohalete was solid and applied some pressure on a blitz. He anticipates well and makes plays no other safety on the roster can make because of it. Safety David Terrell jarred the ball loose on one hit, something he never did last year. He allowed a big third-down catch later in the game and too often is fooled on play-action throws. Corner Fred Smoot intercepted a pass and deflected a pass on a two-point conversion late in the game. Corner Champ Bailey was silent, though it's hard to understand why he wasn't on Marvin Harrison more. Every time Darrell Green seemed to line up against Harrison, which was often, the Colts went right at him, often with success.

Bottom line: Forced two turnovers and didn't allow many big pass plays against strong passing attack.


SPECIAL TEAMS

James Tuthill has saved the Redskins. He made four field goals and continues to shine, something few could have anticipated when the Redskins signed him. His kickoffs are solid, usually high and deep. Punter Bryan Barker dropped one punt inside the 20, but his long was only 40 yards. Not a great night for him. Kick returner Ladell Betts had a 60-yard return, providing a huge boost after a Colts touchdown. Jacquez Green loses too many yards on punt returns. He wants to score every time he touches the ball, but what this offense needs is good field position. And that means more straight-ahead returns. The coverage was shaky, allowing a 34-yard punt return and a another of that length on kick returns.

Bottom line: Major contributions to victory.

COACHING

Steve Spurrier apparently has learned his lesson and has tried to maintain a balanced attack the past couple games. It worked against the Colts, especially with Stephen Davis in the game. Spurrier kept the Colts off-balance with his play calls and clearly knew exactly where to attack. Davis wasn't often hit until he gained three or four yards. Spurrier's lone blunder came in the second half on the fourth and one from the 5. He says he should have run a different play. We know he's a risk taker, but the smart thing was to kick a field goal, putting Washington up by 19 points. Marvin Lewis' defense is starting to click. It's evident the players aren't guessing as much, resulting in fewer blown assignments. They also look more decisive.

Bottom line: Good game plan helps snap two-game losing streak.


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