For 45 minutes, the Washington Redskins (2-5) played nearly a flawless game at Mile High against the Denver Broncos (7-1) in Mike Shanahan's return to Denver.
Leading 21-7 late into the third quarter, the 'Skins were doing just enough offensively, and defensively to slow down the high octane attack of Peyton Manning and Co.
38 unanswered points (31 in 4th quarter) later, the Broncos had completely shattered Redskins fans' dreams of an upset win.
Here's five things we learned after yesterday's game:
1. The Redskins' defense is more than capable of performing at a high level.
The much maligned Redskins' defense (29th overall) was expected to get thrashed by the Broncos record-setting offense. 45 points and one might say, "what the heck are you talking about?" but anyone watching yesterday must agree that the defense wasn't the problem.
Through three quarters the Redskins still had a lead 21-14 and had two turnovers to boot off the impeccable Peyton Manning. Led by CB Deangelo Hall, (who is having an all-pro caliber season) and his pick-six early in the 2nd half. Also, LB Ryan Kerrigan had a strip-sack of Manning leading to an Alfred Morris touchdown to put the 'Skins up 21-7.
The offense and special teams broke down late in the game leaving the Redskins defense on the field far too often and with short fields to defend. You can only give Manning and Co. so many opportunities before he exploits it, as he did in the 4th quarter. But the 'Skins defense gets a pass from me.
2. The Broncos' defense is only going to get better and better and better.
Everyone agrees that Denver is likely a SuperBowl bound team this season. Through the first few weeks of '13, the defense had been the only weakness. Giving up nearly 400 yards per game in the air it appeared that it would be the only thing holding back John Fox's squad.
The return of LB Von Miller makes the Broncos that much more dangerous and his impact was felt yesterday (sack, fumble) and he was flying all over the field. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a pick-six of backup QB Kirk Cousins but his coverage was lights out all day long.
As long as Miller continues to get in game shape, the Broncos could be a very potent defense and thus making them the best team in the league. This is something to continue to watch. DC Jack Del Rio is a huge asset for them as well.
3. QB Robert Griffin III might be doing more harm than good for the Redskins offensively right now.
Let's face it, it was RGIII's worst game as a pro so far in his young career. He looked out of sync with recievers, settled on his first read(s) too often and wasn't decisive either on the run or in the pocket.
It was concerning to say the least and his play has D.C. buzzing about possible problems within the context of the offense set up by OC Kyle Shanahan. After watching some of the film, I have to admit the blame has to be on RGIII. Not discounting the drops from his guys yesterday, (Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, etc) RGIII simply looked like a rookie caught up in the limelight.
The loss of an entire offseason of real prepartion and work, not just rehab has hurt Griffin more than any of us can truly know. The fact some are calling him a backup caliber QB with some running skills is beyond ludicrous but perhaps our expectations must be muted. He had a magical rookie season and this looks like a regression back to the mean. I will not lose faith or give up on him just yet.
The kid is too good to not learn from these hard times and I think at the end of the day, games like this will only make Griffin better in the long run. Be patient Washington.
4. Broncos' RB Knowshown Moreno is THE guy for the Denver backfield.
Moreno's play on Sunday was underrated as ever. He runs tremendously hard and is proving his worth as a former 1st round pick a few seasons ago.
He had minor success running yesterday but was a huge asset in the passing game for Peyton Manning catching 6 passes for 89 yards.
There was questions regarding who would be the bellcow for the Broncos out the backfield in '13, and Moreno has hit the ground running with every opportunity to put a stranglehold on the starting tailback gig.
5. RB Alfred Morris deserves better.
Morris finished the day with 17 carries for 93 yards and a TD against the Broncos Sunday. He was on his way to a monster game when all of a sudden the Redskins decided to throw the football on nearly every down, even when tied at 21-21 in the 4th quarter.
It made no sense, even analyst Troy Aikman who did the game was openly wondering where is Alfred Morris,"Why isn't he on the field?", etc.
OC Kyle Shanahan has done this too often in his time in D.C. He abandons the run game for his play action passing attack when the running game IS what the 'Skins do best.
They were keeping Peyton and Co. off the field and when he turned to the passing game, the entire contest unraveled for the Redskins. If that doesn't tell you something, I don't know what will.
Morris is the ultimate team guy but even I would be frustrated at his lack of use late in games. He is the type of runner that thrives on a tired defense in the second half of game and Morris clearly was establishing his will on the game.
The "Butler" is a true feature back that deserves better from his coordinator and head coach. When he gets 20 or more carries the Redskins are 10-1 or something to that affect. Hello?!?! Get him the damn ball more.