Redskins-Titans: 10 observations

LANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts and analysis after the Washington Redskins' 19-17 win over Tennessee:

  1. One win doesn’t solve everything for Washington, but it certainly helped to repair the damaged confidence in the locker room. Last week one player talked about how hard it was to not think something was going to go wrong when they reached critical junctures in a game. Some players at least started to expect bad things to happen. Washington did not play a great game Sunday, but it at least did things right down the stretch. The defense forced a three-and-out; the offense drove 76 yards for the game-winning points. “It only takes one win,” tight end Niles Paul said. “Hopefully we can keep carrying on and rack up a couple of them like we did in 2012."

  2. Washington still only converted 3-of-11 third downs. The Redskins struggled in the red zone, with Kai Forbath kicking four field goals of 31, 31, 27 and 22 yards. “We left a lot of points out there,” Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon said. “The game should never have been that close. ... We made it harder on ourselves.” Sometimes games where you struggle and still win can trigger something greater.

  3. Consider that they pulled their starting quarterback because he turned the ball over two more times and lost another defensive starter in Brian Orakpo to an injury. Yet they still found a way to win. That’s good. Or it could just be a sign that you played a team worse than you.

  4. We won’t know until later Monday what the prognosis is for Orakpo, but there was a definite look of concern on the faces of those who talked about his injury. Orakpo tore his left pectoral muscle twice, but this time he injured his right one. If he did tear the muscle, then this might have been his last game in Washington. It also would cost him quite a bit of money and, potentially, leave him in a one-year, prove-it type situation.

  5. Orakpo would be a loss, but how big of one? He just hasn’t made plays. And he hasn’t shown that he should be a player who commands north of $10 million per year. I wouldn't say Washington can’t win without him; it did so two years ago. I’ve never thought he was elite, but was always good. This year, as a pass-rusher, he’s looked like a guy who was once a power hitter who now has warning track power. He’s just not getting home -- his track record suggests he's capable of more. But his track record did not suggest he was a 15-sack guy. If Trent Murphy has to play more, it’ll help his development. There’s a lot to like about his game but it’s not as if he’s been flashing a ton in the first seven games.

  6. One thing I liked about Colt McCoy Sunday: Composure. His 36-yard pass to DeSean Jackson was nullified by a penalty, which could have destroyed this drive. Heck, it goes back to what I wrote in the first item. But, instead, McCoy completed a 10-yard quick out to Andre Roberts followed by another quick out to Jordan Reed and suddenly the Redskins were back in field goal range. A bad result did not lead to more bad plays.

  7. Those turnovers by Kirk Cousins certainly seemed to alter how Jay Gruden called plays. After Cousins’ fumble in the pocket, the result of being too loose with the ball as he stepped up, Gruden called three straight runs before the Redskins punted. On the next drive, when they faced a third-and-13, Gruden called for a shovel pass in the red zone. He wanted to make sure he protected the points, a wise decision. It was also smart of Gruden to bench Cousins. Turnovers kill the psyche of a team.

  8. Sometimes the growth of a player isn’t always noticeable. That was the case with Bashaud Breeland, who for the most part played a solid game. At times he was hoping Charlie Whitehurst would throw his way because of how he had played the comeback route. But because he had played it well, Whitehurst went elsewhere. Even against the run the rookie played well, learning a lesson from when he lost his gap against Arizona. “I was patient in my gap,” he said. “I just wanted to be more patient [overall]. That’s what was getting me in a lot of games on the deep balls, jamming too fast or on the comebacks getting out too fast. I wanted to slow the game down for myself and just play ball.” That’s what happened. And, on his interception, Breeland was where he needed to be when Whitehurst sailed his pass.

  9. So many good things happen when the Redskins take shots downfield to Jackson that I’m surprised they don’t do it a little more. Just look at Sunday: the Redskins threw the ball to him downfield three times and he gained 37 yards, drew a pass-interference penalty for 22 and caught another for 36 that was wiped out by a penalty. He separates and tracks the ball well.

  10. It’s funny because I think people forgot how fast Garcon was, but if you put on film from two years ago you wouldn’t have forgotten. But so much of his game has been shorter routes the past two years. I think Titans safety Michael Griffin underestimated Garcon on his 70-yard catch-and-run by taking a bad angle.