Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Catching Up: On beating one Texas team and losing to another

It's been a while since I've written anything Redskins-related, but with a new season and a number of new faces in Washington, it's time to offer some thoughts on the current state of the Burgundy and Gold.

First things first:

Beginning the season with a win, especially when it comes at the expense of the beloved Dallas Cowboys, is certainly a good thing. No NFL team wants to start digging itself out of a hole fresh out of the gate, so regardless of whether or not Week One's triumph was an attractive one is irrelevant.

Sitting atop the NFC East at any point during the season is a plus, so let's look beyond the questionable Wade Phillips decisions and the lack of offensive production of the Redskins and simply enjoy a division win, something that never occurred during the 2009-2010 campaign.

Chances these guys have any ties to Dallas? I'd say 1-2%. (Larry French / Getty)

Sure, the new regime could've made a better impression, but for all the so-called weapons Dallas has in its arsenal, I'd say Washington did a pretty good job considering the circumstances. Donovan McNabb, the newest in a long line of DC saviors, did little to prepare for the Week One challenge (what with his tweaked ankle in the preseason), so there was sure to be plenty of rust early on.

On the defensive side of the ball, Washington -- despite a new coordinator and even newer scheme -- did what it's done pretty consistently over the last few seasons, which is fly all over the field and wreak havoc on the opposition. A lot of emphasis has been put on creating more turnovers, and while the DeAngelo Hall strip-6 was perhaps more the fault of a bone-headed play by Tashard Choice, it nevertheless put much-needed points on the board.

Despite the win, two major concerns were brought to the forefront: 1) the lack of offensive production and 2) the propensity to leave gaping holes down the middle of the field, allowing speedy receivers space to make catches and keep drives alive. These things must be worked on, or the Redskins will continue to be in close games throughout the season (unfortunately, something they've been used to for years)...

...which brings us to Week Two:

After watching highlights of Arian Foster absolutely shredding the Colts defense, I will admit to being extremely nervous heading into the second game of the season, this one against the Houston Texans. We all knew that Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson made beautiful music together, so for Gary Kubiak's team to add a powerful running dimension could only mean big things for the former AFC South also-rans (pun intended).

Alas, Indy's run defense will never be mistaken for a serious asset, while Washington has always fared relatively well in terms of containing powerful downhill threats. Jim Haslett's boys did contain Foster, but once again, the liability of allowing receivers like Johnson and Kevin Walter space ended up being quite the sore subject.

Let's rewind a bit, though, shall we?

The Washington Redskins, for all the ups and downs they've had over the last decade-plus, have rarely put on a passing display like they did on Sunday against the Texans. Donovan McNabb was firing on all cylinders, hitting receiver after receiver for the first three quarters and scrambling to make plays when necessary. I like Jason Campbell and think he was dealt a really shitty hand, but the decisiveness of McNabb is a very, very comforting sight after years of watching JC throw the ball out of bounds at the slightest hint of pressure.

Original image borrowed from the Washington Post

After building a 27-10 lead, it was impossible to not have visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, thoughts of a beautiful 2-0 start and a chorus of media types pronouncing the Redskins back from the dead. After all, a 2-0 start would've put the team halfway to its win total from last year, which is both incredibly awesome and seriously depressing.

And then it happened. The offense sputtered, the defense drifted off into an afternoon snooze and the Texans began utilizing the weapons that gave them the most potent passing attack from a season ago. Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter began catching the ball seemingly at will, while Larry Johnson used his breathtaking speed to run 10 yards in the opposite direction. Things were not looking good.

27-10 became 27-17. 27-17 became 27-20. The incredible buzz that was surging through the stands of FedEx Field was fading. Blown 4th quarter leads happened too often in the past, but this team was different, wasn't it? The Redskins are now led by Mike Shanahan, a man notorious in Denver for running the football. The clock was begging to be killed.

While the running game remained suspiciously absent, the Redskins did find their groove again, and it seemed to happen just when they needed it most. A late drive down the field led to what should've been a put-this-game-just-out-of-reach field goal. No way Houston makes up a 10-point deficit with 6 minutes to play.

And then it happened… again. Why do the Redskins always seem to be on the wrong end of these types of plays? A botched hold last week and a blocked field goal this week? Fred Davis, you magnificent bastard -- if you're put in that situation again, you hold Bernard Pollard and you hold him good. Whatever you do, don’t let him get by you.

But let him get by Davis did, and all of a sudden the Texans were right where they wanted to be. Down by 7 with just over 6 minutes to play, they essentially controlled their own destiny, at least in terms of being able to tie the game...

... and then they went 3-and-out and the Skins got the ball back. And then THEY went 3-and-out and gave the Texans the ball back. With 5 minutes to play and up by 7 points, Kyle Shanahan drew up 3 consecutive pass plays and killed just over 1 minute and 30 seconds. Unbelievable.

We all know what happened next, so there's really no need to talk about it. What I will talk about instead is what went wrong.

1. On 4th and 10 from the Washington 34, with just over 2 minutes to play, someone other than Reed Doughty needs to be on Andre Johnson like white on rice. Or someone in addition to Doughty. Whatever it takes for that guy not to catch the ball.

2. Why, why, a thousand times why are these guys getting so much space in the middle of the field? Joel Dreessen, who had approximately zero catches before the overtime play, wasn't given a ton of room, but enough for a 28-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal. I love LaRon Landry's renewed position and the opportunities he's been given to go after quarterbacks, but in a situation like that, can't the Redskins maintain a stronger presence in the secondary?

3. Seriously, what happened to the running game? I realize Clinton Portis had a boo-boo, but why not give the ball to Mike Sellers and let him pound the ball to get some time off the clock late in the game? Sure, LJ had a whopping negative 7 yards on 2 carries, but he's still an option, after all (or the Skins shouldn't have kept him on the roster) -- part of me thinks he'd at least be able to get a few yards when they needed little more than to keep things moving.

4. Bless Joey Galloway's heart, but a 38 year-old receiver isn't going to be able to continue making plays like he did on Sunday. He would've been a superhero had he caught that bomb in the endzone, but I have a hard time believing he'll burn a ton of secondaries in this league. Devin Thomas, it's time for you to step up and be the receiver the Skins drafted you to be.


Time to move on and focus on St. Louis. Enough talk, DeAngelo -- just go out and beat people. Don't allow big plays on the other side of the ball, stop making excuses and just win games. This one is ripe for the picking, but if history is any indication, it's certainly no gimme.

The Redskins need to come out focused, fierce and ready to take names. I believe the offense is ready, and for the first time in a long time, it's the defense that may be the liability. It's time to put up or shut up, and fortunately, I think the 2010 Washington Redskins finally have what it takes to put up.


1 comment:

  1. Love that this is back buddy. I will say that although I was let down after the game, I wasn't all that surprised, nor was I all that irritated. We're a completely new team, new dynamic, new management, lots of new players, new schemes. It's going to take a while to gel. This is a 3-4 year rebuilding process. Yes, we have some old farts as our WRs and our RBs, but Allen has a plan. I know he does. He needs leadership by age for now. We'll draft younger and younger as the years pass. We'll get to where Houston is right now, young but experienced, and explosive as all hell. If people are expecting miracles this season and a 10-6 playoff team, well, sorry folks, keep dreaming. Have a lot of work to do.