Redskins eliminated from playoff contention with loss

Scot McCloughan was fired by the in March, a move that ended a brief run with the team that began with optimism and ended under a cloud of rumors and suspicion.

McCloughan is no longer tied to the ‘Skins, so why not do something with what we presume is a sizable amount of team merch? McCloughan’s visual trademark with Washington was a camouflage Redskins cap, and that’s one of the items he’s now put up for auction on eBay.

After the Panthers placed and then suddenly rescinded their franchise tag on Norman, the All-Pro signed a five-year deal with Washington, becoming the most valuable cornerback in the league at $15 million a year. Norman’s absence in Carolina’s secondary was immediately felt at the start of the season, most notably against the Falcons during Julio Jones’ 300-yard game, and has haunted Ron Rivera and cheap jerseys and throughout the year. Meanwhile, the corner is having quite a nice season in Landover — he’s the 18th-ranked cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus — and is proving wrong those who suggested he was a product of a Carolina game plan that kept him away from top-tier wideouts.

Of course, Norman has a massive chip on his shoulder, saying earlier this week that he’s as eager to match up against his former team “just as much as I’m looking forward to being Santa Claus.” Whatever that means. We expect the quips to keep coming on Monday night and to see some fireworks from both sides when Norman lines up against Kelvin Benjamin, and Carolina’s receiving corps.

People should not be diving off the Wentz wagon. The rookie sensation had the Eagles within 14 yards of a game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds to go before Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan blew by third-string offensive tackle Matt Tobin for the sack-fumble. Should Wentz have anticipated the rush? Perhaps. It did not come from his blind side. But at that point, the team needs a touchdown, has no timeouts left and receivers aren’t breaking open. Quarterbacks can probably get a break for holding the ball a little longer there in search of the big play.

Redskins offensive line coach Bill Callahan is a savant. Some of the running plays drawn up for Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson were basically unstoppable — even for a very good Eagles defensive line. People forget that, over the last seven years, his hands have been on some of the most effective running games in football. His last three stops? The Jets from 2008-11 with LaDainian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. Then, it was on to Dallas with DeMarco Murray. Of course, talent has something to do with it, but don’t count out some fantastic design.

Cousins was in line to play hero, but he couldn’t finish the script. The Redskins quarterback bounced back from a scattershot first half to make some big throws during Washington’s second-half 10-point comeback. Down three with 2:12 to go, Cousins started off hot too, completing four consecutive passes for 32 yards to get the ‘Skins into opposing territory. But on the next play, Cousins, hurried by pressure, pump-faked and then threw a late pass over the middle intended for Pierre Garcon but intercepted by Rodgers-Cromartie. The pick was Cromartie’s second of the game and killed Washington’s playoff hopes.

Aside for the Redskins missing the postseason, Cousins will be kicking himself over Sunday’s performance. In line for a nine-figure deal before the final quarter of the season, Cousins’ first half and final turnover on Sunday will surely affect negotiations in the offseason. While he did lead the Redskins (8-7-1) to the precipice of another playoff appearance and set franchise records with a top-five offense, Cousins’ crucial errors in two home losses down the stretch will linger in the memories of Scot McCloughan, Jay Gruden and Dan Snyder.

Newton’s early-season plea for protection on helmet-to-helmet hits resurfaced in the second quarter. After a sliding Newton took a blow to the head from Chris Baker outside of the pocket, it was the quarterback who was flagged for throwing the ball at his prone opponent after the play. It can certainly be argued that offsetting penalties were in order considering the landing spot of Baker’s hit. Dean Blandino, NFL senior vice president of officiating, explained in September, though, that Newton’s posture dictates his protection. When he’s scrambling and tucking the ball, he has to learn to slide earlier to give the defensive player a chance to pull up and avoid contact. By the time he began his slide, contact with Baker was imminent. Expect Newton’s protection to remain a storyline going forward.

The Panthers can help decide the NFC South champion with bouts versus Atlanta and at Tampa Bay, but their own playoff odds are so faint as to be almost non-existent. In addition to winning out, they need the Saints to beat the Bucs, the Falcons to beat the Saints, the Lions to beat the Packers, the Bears to beat the Vikings and the Redskins to lose one remaining game and tie another.

Consider everything the Redskins did well in this game. The Redskins rolled up 505 yards on the Cowboys’ defense and only punted once the entire game. Washington dominated time of possession and out-gained the Cowboys by 152 yards. Kirk Cousins, continuing his incredible run of form lately, led the Redskins to touchdowns on his final three drives. Yet the Redskins never even got the ball with a chance to take the lead in the second half because Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys’ merry band of offensive linemen don’t allow comebacks.

The game essentially ended well before Prescott’s third down toss to Dez. Washington missed two field goals in the first half and went 0 for 2 in the red zone. They left points on the board and spent the rest of the afternoon chasing. Show one crack in the armor and the Cowboys’ offense will bulldoze through on the way to another victory.

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