Robservations: Week 15

This week’s Robservations are coming a little later than usual, but it’s not without purpose. In fact, I almost wanted to wait even longer, but I think doing it a day later than usual is probably the best move. 

This has been a wild week for the Football Team, and no, it’s not all entirely about what happened on the field. The 20-15 loss to the now 10-4 Seahawks (who are now first in the very tough NFC West) was a heartbreaker, but not a death sentence for Ron Rivera’s group, who needs just a win against the Panthers and a Giants loss to the Ravens for his team to officially lock up the NFC East crown. We’ll get into the game specifics soon enough, but first we have to talk about the very thing that’s made me hold off on this blog. You know what it is by now, it’s the Dwayne Haskins strip club scandal that has swept this pretty much drama-free team into a whirlwind of questions concerning its former first round quarterback. 

Haskins’ decision to go out after the loss with strippers without wearing a mask has completely taken over the D.C. news cycle this week. So much so that Rivera’s visible frustration at the constant media questioning over it seems like it has affected the team a great deal. The way I see it, it’s the exact type of bad publicity this team didn’t need, especially late in the season and especially with Alex Smith’s health still in question. Haskins not only got fined $40,000 from this, the most anyone has gotten fined for a COVID-related offense, but also got stripped of his role as a team captain. 

This is not a good look for Haskins, who not only played poorly in a pretty important game, but also showed the exact type of immaturity that his doubters have been pointing to since he was drafted. There’s a chance Haskins will be needed this week in an absolute must-win game, and I really don’t know what to expect. Will he finally play up to the raw potential he’s occasionally shown? Will he have the same respect he had with his teammates before this incident? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s just a really bad situation. 

Before I rant too much on the matter, let’s get to the nitty gritty on this Seahawks loss, starting with the performance of Haskins. 

Let’s talk about Dwayne Haskins (again) 

This section will be completely dedicated to his on-field performance, which was about as disappointing as it gets. I said last week that this could be a make-or-break game for Haskins and his future with the Washington Football Team. Now that I think about it, it could very well be the same for his future as an NFL quarterback. It wasn’t a terrible performance by any means, but was rather the exact type of performance we got from him when he was initially the starter earlier in the year. 

My biggest hope with Haskins was to see real development from him on the field as a response to his benching. He went eight games without an appearance on the field, and I wanted to see if his grasp on the offense as well as his ability to read the defense pre-snap improved over that time. After all, it was pretty hard to get a good read on it with Geron Christian and Wes Martin starting. This line he had this week is much better than the one we started with, but he still struggled in that department. 

He generally got the ball out quick to Logan Thomas and J.D. McKissic so we didn’t see him take too many hits, but the two biggest sacks he ended up taking were back-to-back losses on a potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Ironically enough, they were the two times he absolutely needed to check it down. The line didn’t hold up for him to be fair, but I look at the second one (a third-and-15 situation) and I see two check down options that can at least pick up a few yards and create a manageable fourth down situation. The team had a timeout to spare, and it ended up being wasted on the sack, which all but ended Washington’s comeback bid. 

I also wanted to see better decision-making from him, especially on passes down the field. He’s a fairly conervative passer that relies on his checkdown read more often that not, but those few times he does take a shot down the field past 15 yards was where I really wanted to see improvement. I saw no improvement. This was really a big opportunity for him too considering Seattle had the worst pass defense in the league going into the game. His two interceptions were atrocious big-play attempts that still make no sense to me.

 The first one was a back breaker early that ended a promising drive and resulted in a Seattle touchdown. The second one was also a drive killer in Seattle territory and was a horrendously underthrown deep ball to a heavily covered Cam Sims in the third quarter. 

I really needed to see something, anything from Haskins in order to keep the hope that he could eventually be ready to lead this team down the line, but I just didn’t see it. Depending on Alex Smith’s decision to keep playing or not, it appears Washington is going to have to absolutely address the quarterback position for the future this offseason. 

Seattle’s run game killed our shorthanded linebacker group 

This one is pretty hard to be mad about because from the get-go it felt like an uphill battle with Kevin Pierre-Louis and Cole Holcomb both out and Shaun Dion-Hamilton getting hurt in the middle of the game. That left fifth-round rookie Khaleke Hudson and 37-year-old Thomas Davis to step up to the plate. 

I liked the selection of Hudson because of his experience in the viper role with Michigan which made him responsible for blitzing the passer, defending the run and dropping back in coverage, but I knew going in that a starting debut against a Russell Wilson-led offense would be a tough task. I’ve already written my opinions on Thomas Davis playing this year. I love having him on the roster, but every single time I see him play this year I gag a little. He’s just way too slow to play the position.

These two and Jon Bostic just could not handle Chris Carson or Carlos Hyde on Sunday, with the two combining for 118 yards rushing, 50 of which came on Hyde’s touchdown to make it a 20-3 game. 

It’s hard to be too mad because the defense as a whole eventually locked things down and gave the offense a chance at a comeback, but the run defense this week reminded me a lot of this team’s struggles early in the year. Hopefully with a healthy Holcomb and Pierre-Louis we won’t be seeing these kinds of issues against Carolina, but Seattle’s run game was the driving force to their offensive success in this game, and I wonder how different things could have been had we been completely healthy in that department. 

WFT: A second half team through and through 

Despite all the negatives I’ve pointed out about this game, we somehow still found ourselves with a chance to win it late. It’s become a common theme of this season that we’re just not very good in the first half, but something just clicks all of a sudden after halftime. I don’t know what kind of adjustments this staff makes every week that gets this team to fight their way back into the game, but whatever they are, keep doing them.

Even at 20-3, I still didn’t really feel worried that the game was going to get completely out of hand. It’s such a strange feeling because the offense wasn’t playing well, Seattle’s run game was killing us on the other end and our offense could barely string together enough first downs to keep the defense off the field for longer than a few minutes. There’s no reason this team should have clawed its way back the way that it did. 

I have to tip my hat off to another classic Montez Swat moment, as Sweat managed to once again force a tip drill that resulted in a Da’Ron Payne interception that led to a McKissic touchdown. The stars on this defense just seem to show out when we need them, and Sweat once again made a huge impact play that could have potentially been the turning point in a comeback win. 

It’s hard to be mad at this team for this loss because they did show the same resilience they’ve shown all season. It’s actually inspiring football even when it’s not the prettiest football, and I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. 

The off-topic section 

Sorry it took me so long to mention, but merry Christmas everyone. I actually love this time of year, mostly for the excuses to watch that Jim Carrey Grinch movie and NBA basketball, but there’s one thing that really, really bugs me about this season and it’s the commercials. 

Seasonal commercials are just the worst. It usually hits me around Black Friday, but once I realize that I have to sit through these absurdly cringey holiday ads I just lose it. There’s always one new commercial that stands out from the pack as pure, unadulterated garbage though, and this year it goes to that fucking John Travolta-starring Capital One series. Believe it or not, Capital One, I really didn’t ask for John Travolta to play Santa, I really didn’t need that in my life. 

There’s this one that I saw a few days ago with Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson and they’re basically both just riffing about nothing and collecting a paycheck, and the commercial has the audacity to reference Pulp Fiction twice. Why? Who asked for that? Who decided that was a good idea? 

I love Pulp Fiction, but I don’t need to see Travolta, dressed as Santa Claus mind you, dancing around like in the 50s-themed restaurant scene with Mrs. Claus. Oh and SLJ wearing a “Happy Holidays…with cheese” shirt? Aha. Wow. Real cool, Sammy.

I could go my entire life not seeing this ad ever again and consider it a good life. What a terrible idea. 

That’s all I’ve got for you. Hope you all enjoy this holiday season, I’ll probably be drinking and live tweeting some NBA basketball on Christmas Day so feel free to follow me on @RFletcher_VT for that and also more off-the-cuff Washington Football thoughts. Happy holidays, and I’ll see you all next week.

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