Out-Rushing the Redskins: A Week 8 Analysis

Given how well Robert Griffin III had played prior to the Steelers’ game against the Redskins, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had wracked up 255 yards in the first half against the defense.

Instead, that was the total amount of yards that the whole Washington offense managed, as Pittsburgh dominated in the 27-12 victory.

While I saw the passing game’s success against the league’s worst passing defense coming, I was blown away by how ineffective Pittsburgh’s defense rendered the Redskins, even with Ryan Clark leaving the game in the third quarter.

I believed that the type of quick passes that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan loved to call for RG3 would be devastating to the Steelers’ aging and injured linebacking corps.

Instead, Lawrence Timmons and especially Larry Foote did an admirable job of both containing these short strikes and holding Griffin to just eight rushing yards.

Safety Will Allen also submitted another impressive performance, leading the team in tackles, and his play has nearly made the team forget that Troy Polamalu has been missing for so long.

Sure, Dick LeBeau no longer has the ability to produce explosive big plays with Polamalu as a fifth linebacker, but he’s definitely been able to provide more pressure with the front seven knowing that the defensive backfield will be solid in coverage and make sound tackles.

As good as the defense was, I want to focus on the offense. There’s no doubt that the Skins’ defense isn’t the same without players like Brian Orakpo, or that its secondary barely has an NFL caliber starter in the whole group, but it was still encouraging to see the team continue their offensive momentum from the second half of the Cincy game.

What more can be said about Jonathan Dwyer? He’s breathed life into this running game by flashing the combination of physicality and quickness that a Steelers running back hasn’t demonstrated since the heyday of Jerome Bettis.

Maybe it’s a little early to start the comparisons to the Hall-of-Famer, but Dwyer has been crucial in helping the offense embrace Todd Haley’s philosophy after some public criticism of the new system. Now that Haley has an effective running game to work with, I’ve been shocked by how impressive his playcalling has been.

I think we started to see this evolution when Rashard Mendenhall returned in the Philly game, but if Dwyer can keep this momentum going, then the offense can be one of the better ones in the conference.

Big Ben also really deserves a special mention. People continue to overlook the guy as an elite quarterback, yet he’s fourth in the country in passer rating and in the top ten in yards, touchdowns, and yards per game. He’s thrown 14 TDs to just 3 interceptions, and is even taking fewer sacks than he did last year.

Part of that is due to the improved offensive line play of recent weeks, but he hasn’t done so much scrambling recently, leading to both fewer sacks and fewer turnovers. He’s still been effective at evading would be tacklers, but he just seems more comfortable and in control this year than in years past, and his comfort with his receivers seems like a big part of this as well.

Overall, this win was a huge one. Not only did it continue a winning streak, but it also was a much-needed victory to buoy the team through their tough upcoming schedule.

The upcoming road game with the Giants is going to be a tough one next week, and subsequent night games against Kansas City and Baltimore don’t provide much of a respite, even though they’re at home.

Even still, it’s good to be above .500, even if that changes next week, and this was a real statement game for both Dwyer and the defense that this team can be a contender in the AFC.

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