Growing pains are inevitable with young or new players at any level. In the NFL those pains are visible to everyone. And yesterday in Cleveland, Washington experienced those pains in a bad way in their 34-20 defeat. When Washington made mistakes, the Browns capitalized on them quickly. These pains are going to be expected, however that does not take away from the fact that the loss still hurts. Here are my takeaways from the game.
Scott Turner- The offensive play calling this game was excellent. When Washington wasn’t turning the ball over, the offense had great play design and attacked the vulnerable points in the Browns defense. This was easily the best called game Turner has had this season. Turner gave his offense a chance to win this game.
Montez Sweat- When Chase Young went out early in the game, Montez Sweat took the reigns on the defensive line. Sweat was everywhere causing havoc on the defensive line yesterday with four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. Sweat has plenty of talent and the better he plays, the better the defense will be.
Defensive Line- Montez Sweat played well but so did his defensive line counterparts. Led by Jonathan Allen the line combined for 5 tackles for loss and the 2 sacks. Already known as the best unit on the team, the line showed its depth with the losses of Chase Young and Matt Ioannidis during the game, and still made an impact.
Dwayne Haskins- There was some good in the play of Dwayne Haskins, but primarily this is was bad game from Haskins. The story of his day can start with the stat line of 21 for 37 for 224 yards with two touchdowns. However the three interceptions he threw were turned into 21 points by the Browns. That alone is the difference between 1-2 and 2-1. Haskins made some good throws and good reads, the first touchdown from Inman for example and his play in the third quarter, however the interceptions were really bad and stymied the offensive momentum. After the game Coach Rivera said he is sticking with Haskins which is the right move. Haskins’ response to this game will show more growth than anything else.
Tackling- The defense yesterday was often put in tough spots because of turnovers by the offense. However that does not excuse the missed tackles by the defense. Often the defense could limit things to a punt or a field goal, but missed tackles led to touchdowns. The secondary had a few missed tackles that led to touchdowns and runs by Nick Chubb. This must be addressed to limit scoring.
Turnovers- Winning the turnover battle is critical to winning football games. In addition to the three interceptions that were thrown by Haskins, two fumbles by Haskins and Antonio Gibson compounded the issue. Meanwhile on the other side the defense could not force any turnovers to assist the offense in short fields. The one game Washington won they won the turnover battle, the two games they lost they did not. Sometimes it is just that simple.
Holding Leads- Washington scored first on a solid drive by the offense. The team then proceeded to give up 17 straight points. Then Washington roared back to take the lead 20-17 with 13 straight points and solid defense. Then the Browns scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to secure the win. Young teams are up and down but learning how to win takes time. It takes focus and execution to secure wins and Washington will have to learn this.
Injuries- In comparison to other teams, Washington has been able to stay fairly healthy. They are starting to get some nicks to players. Chase Young and Matt Ioannidis both left the game with injuries yesterday, to add to Brandon Scherff being put on IR. Hopefully Young and Ioannidis can return quickly to the fold.
NFC East- Washington lost their game but the rest of the division isn’t doing too well either. The Cowboys took a loss on the road to the Seattle Seahawks to fall to 1-2. The New York Giants got destroyed by a depleted San Francisco 49ers team to remind winless. Philadelphia actually did the best of the division and tied with Cincinnati Bengals to become 0-2-1. Regardless of the struggles of Washington they are technically in first place in a division where anything can happen.