Tale of the Tape: Patriots and Redskins

Derek Havens
December 14, 2011 at 09:00am ET

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Each week, I have decided to do a new post called "Tale of the Tape" a few days after the previous week's game. Sometimes, it is beneficial to let the emotion and high or low wear off to offer a more accurate analysis. This entry will include several thoughts and insight on the game.

The New England Patriots traveled to the Nation’s Capital to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday, resulting in a 34 - 27 Pats victory. Here are a few thoughts and game analysis left over from the contest. 

- Three minutes into the game (12:06), the Redskins were backed up at their own 4-yard line. With Washington's left tackle Trent Williams suspended for the rest of the season, back-up Willie Smith was in his place to defend quarterback Rex Grossman's blindside. Former Redskin Andre Carter ripped around Smith with a swim move and blasted Grossman causing a fumble. Vince Wilfork got to the ball at the bottom of the pile, resulting in his first career touchdown and the Patriots took an early lead 7 - 0.

Rookie tackle Nate Solder has been tremendous throughout the season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Washington's rookie running back Roy Helu had success early, displaying his dangerous skill set from the very beginning. He finished the game with 27 carries for 126 yards. The Patriots defense has been shaky this season, but their run defense has been solid. With the Denver Broncos on the schedule next week, New England's rush defense will need to be ready as the Tim Tebow led option offense is averaging a league leading 156.2 yards-per-game.

- Rob Gronkowski had an unbelievable game. Six catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns has almost become the norm for the potential All-Pro tight end. The second-year man out of Arizona made a few outstanding plays on Sunday; Including a diving catch followed by him breaking two Redskins tackles as he tip toed down the sideline.

Aaron Hernandez also had a solid game at FedEx Field, adding another 84-yards off 5 catches. The Patriots have arguably the best tight end duo in the league right now. At this point in the season, the two have combined for 119 catches, 1451 yards, and 18 TD’s.

- Defensive end Mark Anderson played 20 snaps in the first half and only nine in the second half. The career sub rusher played standing up as an outside linebacker role, in nickel and dime defensive packages. In the second half, New England went with their base defense this season, a traditional 4-3 look. Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who only played seven snaps in the first half, played 20 snaps in the final 30 minutes of the game. If I had to guess, I would say Bill Belichick made a defensive adjustment because of Washington's early rush success.

- The most embarrassing play I have seen in quite some time for an NFL defense, was at the start of the second quarter. Washington was at mid-field and ran a reverse from RB Helu to WR Brandon Banks. As Banks comes around to the left side, he throws the ball approximately 38-yards to WR Santana Moss. Patriots safety James Ihedigbo caught up to Moss, as the pass was a bit short, but could not make the tackle. Mathew Slater, who made his second straight start at safety for the Patriots, ran over to make the tackle and tripped over Ihedigbo. Poor tackling, bad angles and inexperience really hurt the New England secondary on this creative trick play.

- Thanks to Chad Ochocinco, there have been several Patriots players playing poorly that have had the spotlight taken off them; one of which is defensive lineman Shaun Ellis. The former Jet made his way into the Patriots base defense for the first time in weeks, but still only played 12 plays the entire game. In previous games, Ellis has only played goal line defense reps. Considering the eleven -year veteran will make about 4.5 million this season, that's an expensive price to pay for virtually no production.

- Devin McCourty has struggled all season, and Sunday's game was no different. The second-year cornerback was in coverage on Donte Stallworth's 51- yard completion in the first quarter, was later called for pass interference on third-and-18, and also lost Redskins WR Jabar Gaffney in zone coverage on a 9-yard touchdown pass. McCourty almost had his first interception of the year mid-way through the second quarter, but Andre Carter's personal foul call negated a great read by the pro bowler.

He did, however, finish the game strong after a rough first half. I do not want to say his struggle are injury related, because he was in the game and has played mediocre all season, but he still does not look healthy to me. Hopefully, he can build off his second half momentum for the rest of the year.

- Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are one of the most feared outside linebacker pairs in the NFL, but the Patriots' offensive line had a great day. Orakpo and Kerrigan each finish with only one tackle and one quarterback hit, but no sacks. Rookie left tackle Nate Solder was matched up against rookie LB Ryan Kerrigan for the majority of the game and played exceptional. Matt Light was on the left side, but had to face pass rushing terror Orakpo. While Light did have one holding call, the Patriots tackles played great and helped Brady stay upright.

- New England’s running game needs to produce more. I do not expect the team to put up big numbers on a weekly basis, they are a passing team after all, but they need to have more of an impact in the playoffs. For the second straight week the team struggled to run the ball, totaling only 79 rush yards on the day. Danny Woodhead had one of his better games on the year, with 41-yards off eight carries. I know New England uses a committee approach, but one of the team's running backs needs to gain some momentum as the weather gets colder.

- With 6:30 remaining, a very heated sideline exchange between Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien ensued. After Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake in the redzone, you know he was upset because he holds himself to such a high standard. He might appear to harsh on some of the guys around him, but he also pushes them to a higher level of play.

I loved what O'Brien did in that situation though. The offensive coordinator is often over looked between Belichick and Brady, but he held his quarterback accountable in that situation. O'Brien showed Brady, as well as everyone else, it doesn't matter who you are, even MVP quarterbacks are held to the same standard. The best part, however, was the resolution. Emotions run high on the field, but all people involved handled it well and moved on after the game.

- With :22 seconds left in the game, the New England defense had been pushed deep into their own territory. Defensive captain Jerod Mayo went four years without making an interception, but he now has two in the last two games. Mayo and LB Tracy White saved the Pats at the end of the game.

As Redskins WR Santana Moss caught a pass over the middle, White hit Moss as he tried to bring in a third-down pass. As the receiver bobbled the pass, Mayo swooped in to intercept it. While the defense has given up yards this season, they have been solid in the redzone and made a play when they needed to most.

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