Sunday, January 6, 2013

Redskins vs. Seahawks 2013 NFC Wild Card game: a running diary

Tough to think this is my first post of the RGIII era, but hey - better late than never, right?  Just crushed some buffalo wings from Tunnicliffs, I’ve got a Guinness poured and my couch is damn comfortable.

Redskins vs. Seahawks.  First home playoff game for the Burgundy & Gold since the 20th Century.  Let’s do this.


RGIII storms out of the tunnel and the FedEx crowd is bringing the noise.  Yeah, this stadium lacks character, Dan Snyder charges too much for parking, etc. - still a pretty tough place for other teams to play.

Never like taking a timeout that early in a game.  Hopefully that doesn’t come back to haunt these guys late in the half.

Mr. 626 absolutely pounding the ball right out of the gate.  Nice to see.  20+ touches, please.

Holy cow.  RGIII scrambling for a first down, Garcon contributing with a big reception, Royster with the finishing touch.  Couldn’t ask for a better opening drive than that.  Very, very impressive.  7-0 in favor of the B&G.

Just spotted a grown man in the crowd plugging his ears, and the game basically just started.  Gonna be a long day for those fingers.

Oh, weird... London Fletcher with a huge play in the first defensive sequence?  That guy is terrible.

Second possession for RGIII and company, and #10 looks to be moving pretty well.

For the love of God, please be OK, Pierre Garcon.  That looked pretty bad and more of an achilles issue than the busted toe he had earlier in the year.  That would be a big blow to the offense if he can’t return.

And Santana with another timely contribution!  Do it for 2-1, Tana Man.

Phew - #88 back on the field.  Dodged a bullet there.

RGIII taking some risks with the running game, but damn if that’s not a nice pick-up.  Joe Buck and Troy Aikman need to relax a bit with the “he doesn’t look nearly as good as we’re used to seeing” business.  Seriously, dude looks fine.

Man, Kyle is really mixing it up in these first two possessions.  Credit where credit is due - the OC has really brought his A game since the bye week.

Oh noes, that does not look good.  I’d be shocked if RGIII finishes this game.  Damn.

... and it doesn’t seem to phase the 22 year-old under center.  Touchdown, Paulsen!  Wow.  14-0 good guys.

Holy shit, this is kind of incredible.  Russell Wilson, you’ve got some work to do, bro.

The first quarter ends with some stout run defense from Haslett’s charges.  An occasional first down is fine - if these guys can continue to pressure Wilson and contain Beast Mode, I can’t imagine the Seahawks offense can keep pace with the hot start from the Skins.

So that kid who yells “Hey Rodgers!  Discount double check!” - that can’t actually be his voice, can it?  Sounds like someone took the sound byte from the original commercial of the fat bastard outside the bank and just increased the pitch.


And just like that, Wilson with a real nice run up the middle.  Shut that down, boys.

For what it’s worth, some solid officiating so far in this one.

Lots and lots of time for Wilson to explore his options.  No matter - nearly a sweet pick for Reed Doughty!  Man, that would’ve been awesome.

Funny, didn’t Dallas score a touchdown last week with the play clock at :00?  Yeah, they did, but guess what?  Tony Romo really enjoys throwing horribly-timed interceptions.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there.  Back to the game...

FedEx is rocking hard right now - Wilson forced to burn one.

‘Hawks held to a field goal.  14-3 B&G.

Niles Paul and Jordan Crawford are so much better than Brandon Banks it’s ridiculous.  Shit, I think I could return kicks better than Banks.

Apropos of nothing, Dr. James Andrews looks totally old school.  Love the long coat and cap... very 70s.

RGIII looking very gingerly after handing the ball off.  I’ll say it again - I don’t think he finishes this game... and I absolutely hate myself for typing that.

Good God, the battles going on between the Skins’ receivers and Seattle’s secondary are insane.

Hey, we couldn’t expect the Redskins to score a touchdown on every drive, could we?  

Gotta be impressed with that scoop-and-run from Marshawn after the Wilson fumble, regardless of who you’re rooting for.  Huge play for Seattle.

And now the Seahawks are moving the ball seemingly at will.  Adjust, Haslett.

Damn, Michael Robinson scores an easy TD for the visitors.  Washington’s lead is cut to 4 points with about 5 to play in the second.

Come on, fans... don’t heckle an injured kicker as he limps off the field.  That’s messed up.

Interception.  No bueno.

Goddamn, I don’t know who is covering Garcon, but maybe the refs could throw a flag and prevent some of this post-whistle nonsense?

DeAngelo has really made me happy recently, for what it’s worth.  Keep getting under their skin and someone’s stack is bound to blow... just hope it’s not #23.

Why is Doug Baldwin so wide open?!  Adjust, Haslett, and don’t make me say it again.

Hockey fans know how big of a difference there is between the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The intensity is, um, intensified and games are generally just that must more physical.  I didn’t watch every minute of the weekend’s other 3 games, but this one is noticeably more insane than any regular season tilt I can recall.

30 seconds before the half and a big third down coming up.  Hold ‘em to a field goal here, boys... please.

Thank you, shitty FedEx Field turf!  Golden Tate seemingly has enough momentum to get a crucial first down but stumbles as he tries to make a cut.  Nice.

Punter is kicker.  Finkel is Einhorn.  Laces out!

Oh, that was actually their kicker.  Rats.

Halftime.  Redskins 14, Seahawks 13.  I said it heading in and I still believe it - this is going to be a close one and will go down to the wire.

The Skins need to start spreading the ball around on offense like they did on the first two drives, and the defense has to adjust a bit to stop Russell Wilson from having open lanes to scramble.  Haslett has done a damn good job the last few weeks coming out of the locker room with a renewed focus - fingers crossed that continues.


Man, I haven’t had nerves heading into a second half like this in I don’t know how long.  Right now my stomach feels like an over-stuffed vacuum cleaner bag and my butt like an about-to-explode bratwurst.

Nice kick, Forbath.

Contain at the initial point of contact, boys!  You cannot let Marshawn get loose in the open field like that, lest you want to see a long TD run and another nut-grab endzone celebration, and I certainly don’t.

Nice grab by Tate.  Geez.  I don’t like this momentum swing even a little bit.

And Beast Mode runs it down to the 2.  Fuck.

Lynch coughs it up at the 1 and the Skins have it!  Holy crap.

Tana, baby.  Would’ve loved to see a first down celebration circa 2007, but hey, just keep doing what you do, boy.

Two strong runs from FroMo after the Moss first down.  Continue.

Seriously, are these refs not watching the abuse Garcon is taking?

Huge third and long here... and incomplete.  Come on, defense, force a three-and-out here or something.

Fuckin’ A, man.  Stupid penalty leads to a huge run up the middle from Wilson.  Do something different moving forward, please, I’m begging you.

Big-time third down stop!  Thank you.  Offense, if you could produce some points here and eat up some clock, I’d really, really appreciate it.

Holding, Marcus Washington.  Oh, wait.

“Why aren’t they showing more ads for that new celebrity high-dive show?  That looks incredibly entertaining!” said no one ever.  Seriously, ever... that show looks fucking horrific.

I am not liking the way the Redskins are playing right now, I’m not going to lie.  They can’t do anything.  Dare I say Cousins might be a better option down the stretch?  

Nice boot, Sav, and way to pump him up when he came off the field, Rex.

And at the end of the third, the score remains as it did at halftime.  I’m only 33 years-old and in relatively good health, but I’m not sure I’m going to survive this one.  If my heart explodes, tell the world my story...


Who chews more gum, Pete Carroll or Danny Smith?  Discuss.

“At this point, RGIII has been a non-factor in this game,” says Troy Aikman.  Oh, you know, except for those two really solid drives he conducted to start the game and put up 14 points.  Fuck these announcers.

You know who’s really stepped it up the last few weeks?  Reed Doughty.

Uh, yeah, RGIII looks really, really gimpy.  Do not want.


Make that catch, Hankerson!  Sheesh.

10 tackles and 2 sacks for Doughty.  Great stuff.

Alright, boys, just under 9 minutes to play.  3rd and 10.  Make something happen here, get the ball back and put together a big drive.

NOOOOOOOO.  Shit shit shit.  That was too damn easy.  Love the blitz call, but Miller was left with nothing but room to run.  Unreal.

Unfuckingbelievable.  Beast Mode just absolutely shattered DeAngelo’s ankles, busting the right side wide open and barreling his way into the endzone.  I’m starting to feel slightly nauseous.

And with confirmation from the referee on that Marshawn TD, we start to hear what I assumed would be a pretty big Seattle contingent in attendance.

2-point conversion good.  Situation bad.  Seattle takes the lead, 21-14.

This drive will determine whether or not the Washington Redskins 2012 campaign ends today.

... and RGIII is sacked for a 12-yard loss.

... and RGIII fumbles the next snap, lays in a heap and Seattle pounces on the ball.  Game  over.

Ok, I am going to say this right now.  With what we learned today about the Baltimore game and how Dr. Andrews never OK’d RGIII’s return, Cousins should’ve been brought in earlier in this game without a doubt.  Now we’re looking at not only the end of the season, but a potentially career-altering injury.  Mike Shanahan, you are the head of this team.  You should not have sat silently while your most prized possession and the future of this franchise absolutely put his health at risk.  Fuck, man.

Alright, a quick 3 and out from inside the 5 yard-line and the Skins will escape this nightmare scenario allowing only a field goal.  This game isn’t over quite yet.  Seattle 24, Redskins 14.

If KC1 can rally the troops and at least make this respectable, his trade value is going to be off the charts.  Nice start...

So Hankerson couldn’t make an in-stride catch across the middle but just made a highlight-worthy, feet-dragging sideline grab?  Makes sense.

How is there no interference call on that Moss incompletion?! Seattle’s secondary getting a lot of leeway from these refs.  Christ Almighty.

“And on 4th down, it looks like the offense is going to stay out on the field.”  Oh, you think?!


Everyone knew this game wouldn’t be easy.  Seattle is legit and has been all year.  Still, you’d think deciding to keep RGIII in the game for as long as they did will be the biggest story heading into the ensuing DC-area media shit-storm.

Final score: Washington Redskins 14, Seattle Seahawks 24.

I has sad.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An open letter to fans of the Washington Capitals

To whom it may concern:

Do you care? I mean, do you really care? If you go to a Capitals game and they lose to, say, their biggest rival, does it matter to you at all? Because it matters to me, and unfortunately, I think I’m in the minority.

Let me explain.

The Caps are experiencing some turbulence right now, there’s no doubt about that. It’s been a bumpy few weeks, and the team’s fortunes will continue to ebb and flow as they adjust to the management style of their new bench boss. If you expected Hunter to return to Washington and the team would immediately start putting together 4, 5, 6-goal games, you obviously haven’t been paying attention. It’s a work-in-progress, and patience is key.

For what it’s worth, I think last night’s game was a good one, with the team showing marked improvement in their defensive end, especially with regards to back-checking. They played smart, extremely physical hockey and were done in by a weak shot that somehow made its way by (through?) Tomas Vokoun. A game like that is to be expected against Pittsburgh, however, and if the team came out flat, we’d have a much bigger problem on our hands.

My issue does not lie with the team itself, but rather you, John Q. Ticketholder. Getting back to my original query, do you really give two shits whether the Caps win or lose? Or do you go to games, rock the red, unleash the fury, etc. because it’s the cool, trendy thing to do in Washington these days?

Things have changed dramatically over the past 4 years, since the miraculous season-ending run to make the playoffs after Boudreau’s Thanksgiving weekend hiring. You all have come out to the Verizon Center in droves, and while it’s evident the fan base has become increasingly more passionate and knowledgeable since that 2007-2008 season, it seems pretty clear that most people don’t actually care.

Sitting in Section 114 last night, I witnessed a really disheartening lack of passion from the majority of those around me.

Imagine the scenario: the Caps are down a goal to their biggest rival (part of arguably the best rivalry in the sport), the fury has already been unleashed (a few minutes prior) and there is a defensive-zone faceoff coming after a lengthy TV timeout. There are about 3 minutes left in the game and players from both teams are milling about to stay loose.

Sensing an uninterested and unenthusiastic crowd, I stand up and, from the depths of my throat, encourage others to do the same. To get pumped up for a huge draw, for the final minutes of an intense, passionate game, for their damn team. The response? Lackluster at best.

A few people stood and cheered, and I was happy about that, but the majority looked at me as though I was asking them to stand in front of class for that presentation they didn’t prepare enough for. It was, in my opinion, an absolutely pathetic display of fandom and one that irked me to no end, until the end of the game and well on my way home.

Look, I know Caps games are fun. They’re the place to be (and be seen) in DC sports right now, and for good reason. But think about what you’re doing. You’re there to support the guys on the ice, and during lengths of poor play, don’t you think they’d be appreciative -- and maybe even dig deeper within themselves for the final minutes -- if people got out of their seats and cheered without being provoked?

Unleashing the fury, while a solid tradition, is relatively worthless in retrospect. What happens the second after the fury is unleashed, even when it’s a tie game and there are fewer than, say, 2 minutes in the game? That’s right, everyone sits back down and the decibel level drops.

Is it that hard to get pumped up without having the PA tell you to be pumped up? Or do you simply think that it’s not worth it? Trust me, it is.

Players respond, and while it’s unfair to expect people to go ape-shit the entire game, I think the lack of passion shown in the final minutes of a tight game, against the best team in the conference -- the team’s biggest rival -- is very telling.

It bothers me, frankly, and it should bother you too.

Why? Because I care.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A classic weekend in enemy territory

Just before the official Winter Classic announcement was made and it became a realization that the Washington Capitals would visit Heinz Field on New Years Day, my brother had the brilliant idea to book hotel rooms in the Steel City to increase our odds of actually attending the game and, you know, having a place to lay our heads. 7 months, countless hours scouring the internet and numerous e-mails pestering friends with hey, know anyone looking to get rid of tickets?, it finally came to be...

On Friday morning, we left downtown DC and were on our way through Central Pennsylvania for the mother of all weekends. Caps vs. Pens, Ovie vs. Sid, Boudreau vs. Bylsma. 24/7. Bad blood, the rivalry, etc. There's no way it wouldn't be glorious, is there?

So the weather stuck a little wrench in the spokes? Really, it made the whole experience that much more memorable. Nevermind the fact that a night game would make for a bigger spectacle and provide a primetime showcase for two of the NHL's best teams. It also meant a better viewing experience for fans in attendance and a more gradual (i.e. intense) build-up from Saturday morning until the puck dropped.

A few rain drops never killed anyone -- and thankfully, all ACLs remain intact for both teams -- so the weather was a mere footnote.

As for the overall experience, let's take it from the top...

At the end of the last episode of HBO's 24/7, a camera dollies down one of the concourse tunnels and the view opens up to Heinz Field and all its hockey-transformed greatness, creating both an incredible setting and a giddiness for anyone lucky enough to be attending the game. Chills ran down my spine as the day had nearly arrived -- less than 3 days after the final credits rolled, we'd be sitting in the stands for a tradition unlike any other (with apologies to The Masters).

Leaving Chinatown at about 10am on Friday, and after a quick stop in Bethesda to drop off the dog, we headed up 270 for what ended up being an unbelievably easy drive. Perhaps the highlight of the trip, which most on the road that day will tell you, was the astonishing number of Capitals fans spotted along the way. I knew that it was inevitable we'd see cars with Virginia, Maryland and DC tags, but the amount of Caps flags, jersey-wearing drivers and high-school-like painted rear windows was pretty awesome. Breezewood, the mother of all Pennsylvania rest stops, was littered with Backstrom, Semin and Ovechkin jerseys, a great and reassuring sign that those making the trek would have plenty of company at the big game.

Arriving in the Steel City just after 3pm, we drove through the Winter Classic banner-lined streets and arrived at the Wyndham Grand downtown, a quick walk across the river from the stadium and a hotel mobbed with fans of both teams. Crosby and Malkin jerseys hung in some windows, while Caps gear adorned others. We had to expect that the city would be buzzing for the weekend's festivities, but it still was an unbelievable site, as essentially everything going on had something to do with the NHL. It was, in short, a hockey fan's paradise.

Let's Go (Little) Caps!

After checking in to our room, a few of us made our way to a rink adjacent to the stadium to watch the Little Caps play the Mario Lemieux-coached Little Pens. Watching a bunch of 14 year-olds who have more skills now than I ever did -- or will -- was both depressing and awesome, and while the team from Washington falling to their rivals from the Keystone State was a bummer, it was also a pretty cool way to kick off the weekend.

Back to the hotel, it was nearly time to get ready for New Year's Eve. I wish I had a better story to tell from this night, as those that were able to get into the Hofbrauhaus surely do, but it was a great evening nonetheless. We dined at Nakama, a killer Japanese steakhouse on the Southside, and more than a few times during the meal the ridiculously packed restaurant echoed with chants of "Let's Go Pens!" and "Let's Go Caps!", each one louder than the last.

Dinner ended, and while we worked on a game-plan as to where we'd ring in 2011, we were informed by someone on the inside that the Hofbrauhaus was one-in / one-out, meaning our group of 30+ people would have no chance at gaining access to what I've heard was a red-filled great time.

With little time to dilly-dally, we made an executive decision to begin walking and simply jump in to a bar that would accommodate us all. That bar would end up being Finn McCool's, a rather generic pub, but one that served its purpose; we did some shots, slammed our beverages of choice for the evening -- in my case, Captain & Coke -- and greeted the New Year with much merriment.

As closing time approached, we poured out into the Pittsburgh night and began looking for transportation, which, as it turns out, was harder to find than Sidney Crosby's moustache. So we walked, and walked, and ended up walking some more until we convinced one taxi driver to take a few of the girls in our group back to the hotel. A friend and I continued our journey on foot, ducking down barren streets and under gigantic overpasses before making it back to the Wyndham about 30 minutes later. Not the greatest accommodations for the amount of people the city had to expect, but all in all, it could've been much worse.

Saturday morning brought a new day, one in which severely cloudy skies could not dampen the excitement surrounding the lead-up to the game. As my wife and I were dehydrated and hungry, we decided to walk a few blocks to Market Square, which, according to my iPhone, would have plenty of healthy and nutritious options. I've heard great things about Primanti Bros. sandwiches, and while roast beef topped with fries would've been a most splendid treat, the amount of people waiting was too much to bear.

After much deliberation, we headed across the plaza to Breugger's Bagels, which had only 3 people in line -- one in a sweet Langway jersey! -- and prepared our stomachs for the long day ahead. Walking out of Bruegger's into a nearly empty square, a rather pretty blonde woman in her mid-30s approached and asked where the closest Macy's was. I said we were from out of town, to which she replied "me too... I'm married to one of the Capitals." Really. Do tell.

"My husband is John Erskine."

Nice. Erskine, he of the Rupp-beating, handlebar-toting variety, was married to a woman who appeared to be just as cool as he is. After explaining that "the wives went out for New Year's Eve and all those bitches are still asleep," all she wanted do was shop because "the rest of [her] family was at practice and she didn't want to watch that shit." Oh, and she also said her husband "looked like an asshole" with that handlebar moustache.

See, HBO audience? Not only do the coaches and players have foul mouths, but their wives do too!

At the risk of digressing -- and becoming entirely too long-winded -- it was getting dangerously close to go-time and we had to head back to rest up for what would prove to be a very exhausting -- yet unbelievably fulfilling -- evening.

Crossing over to the dark side.

Shortly before 4pm, the troops from the Wyndham gathered their gear and headed out into enemy territory. While there were certainly plenty of Penguins fans that were fine with the site of red-clad legions entering the Heinz Field parking lots, there also existed much good-natured animosity.

As we snaked behind the Hyatt and into Gold Lot 4, we were greeted with a thunderous round of boos and more than a few people telling us what they thought of everyone's favorite Russian-born Washingtonian. Most of it was in good fun, and I personally didn't see one fist thrown or serious confrontation, so kudos to everyone involved for remaining civilized.

I can only imagine what a scene like this would've been like in Philly.

Settling in to the tailgate nearly 3-1/2 hours before the game meant plenty of time to relish in the scene and observe some great moments. A few of my favorites (from both sides of the fence):

-- While our particular group of Caps fans was totally surrounded, we still had probably 100+ red-rockin' faithful making sure we wouldn't go quietly into the night. Plenty of insults were hurled our way, but the responses were always equally as boisterous.

-- The Pens tailgate next to us had two awesome additions: 1) a street hockey goal set up with three pictures (targets) dangling from the crossbar, two of Sid and Ovie shaking hands and one of Ovechkin's toothless grin; and 2) a hockey stick with 4 shot glasses attached a la the skis you used to see in movies like Hot Dog. Before the puck dropped, a group of fans stood in the back of a pick-up and must've done 10 shots a piece. Hey, whatever it takes to erase the memory of losing the Winter Classic at home, boys... I hope it worked.

-- The group of Pens fans next to us also had one thing that was interesting, sure, but I just can't see the point. Much like Caps jerseys that say "Crosby Sucks," I think spending money on a customized jersey only to ridicule someone or their team is lame. These particular fans had a red Caps sweater with the number 8 and DOUCHEBAG on the nameplate. Really? Don't you have better ways to spend that money you've earned by working so hard at Sheetz?

Just a small portion of our group.

-- OK, I'll admit… while I love Bruce Boudreau, the guy is a pretty damn easy target for ridicule. The footage of him with BBQ sauce on his face alone is priceless (and was mocked pretty aggressively at the game), but perhaps the best sign I saw at the tailgate was one of Boudreau's mug next to a Haagen-Dazs logo and the words "I SMELL FOOD" in big, bold letters. If there was any reason to make fun of Bylsma, I'm not sure anyone could come up with something that would top BB's obvious love of all things consumable.

After a great tailgate that featured lots of laughs, plenty of cheers and good-natured ribbing, it was time to start walking. Heading towards the lights of Heinz Field and knowing that we were about to watch the Washington Capitals play hockey outdoors was pretty amazing. So much so that I must've said "this is so frikking awesome" 20 or 30 times, but hey, I had enjoyed a few cold ones... can you blame me for being excited?

As we entered the gates and made our way to the club level, wiping the smile off my face would've taken a Herculean effort. Nothing anyone could say or do would've taken away the high of getting to our seats and seeing what had been 7 months in the making.

When both teams made their way out of the tunnel below us, watching the boys in the crisp white sweaters and beautiful red pants strut out to a crowd of nearly 70,000 was a site and sound to behold.

Just after this was taken, our camera was dunked into a 20 oz. cup of beer. Seriously, full submersion. We saved the memory card, but the camera was put to rest.

It was officially time to get the Winter Classic underway and play some damn hockey, and play some damn hockey they did. After a scoreless first period that featured plenty of drama, the stage had been set for a final two frames that would surely be as intense as any these two teams have played. Neither was as sharp as it usually is, but that almost added to the atmosphere. It was good old-fashioned, rough-and-tumble, body-banging hockey at its finest.

Behind Knuble's poke-in, Fehr's pair and Varlamov's stellar play between the pipes, the Washington Capitals emerged victorious. The boys from DC won the Winter Classic at the hands of their biggest rivals in front of a primetime audience on New Years Day.

If anyone honestly thinks that the winner of this game wouldn't be insanely pumped, they simply don't have much common sense.

Was it the prettiest game the NHL has seen? Of course not. Will it erase the 6-2 drubbing in Game 7 two years ago and the years and years of heartache the Pens have caused the Caps dating back to the early 90s? No. Hell, it wasn't even the best Caps / Pens game I've been to (that belongs to the Super Bowl Sunday thriller in DC).

It was, however -- and pardon my Boudreau-isms here -- a fucking blast. It was the fucking best experience I've ever fucking had at a fucking hockey game in my life. The guys in white shrugged off a 1-goal deficit, played with fucking courage and had fucking fun out there.

After the game was over, an eerie silence fell over the Pittsburgh faithful, and I'll be honest, it was one of the greatest non-sounds I've ever heard. The walk out of the stadium was full of C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS chants. Sure, more than a few Pens fans asked, to nobody in particular, how many Cups the Caps have won, but at that moment it didn’t matter. The Caps owned this day and nothing will ever change that.

Joining tens of thousands of other Capitals fans as we took over whole sections of Heinz Field was an experience I can't imagine will ever be replicated. Between the 2nd and 3rd periods, with the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead, I made my way up and down our empty row and high-fived as many Washington fans as I could reach. The game wasn't over yet and I probably looked like a bit of a dick, but it was a risk I was willing to take. The camaraderie was too strong to pass up an opportunity to bond with people I'll never know.

I was told to "sit the fuck down" and "shut the fuck up" by some middle-aged guy that probably hated the fact that he sat in the rain to watch his team lose, but hey, them's the breaks. I stood my ground, got plenty of support from the surrounding Caps fans and the visiting team prevailed, so all is right with the world.

The season series is now tied at one apiece, with two epic battles already in the books. The Caps and Pens meet twice more in the regular season and could, potentially, meet in the playoffs for a rematch of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. Regardless of whether or not that comes to pass, the decision to have these two face for the marquee match-up and a chance to show the world what the NHL has to offer was a no-brainer.

It was a brilliant experience and one I'd do over a thousand times if I could.


A few more random notes from the weekend:

1. I drove right by the Fairmont on the way to Market Square on Sunday morning, and the Caps just happened to be leaving their hotel and loading up the team bus. As we approached, I rolled my window down as Mike Knuble walked by about 2 feet from my driver's side. I tried my damndest to yell out "K-NOOOOOOOBLE!", but with all the cheering and jeering I'd done the night before, it barely came out. He looked at me, said "hey" and kept walking (probably fearing for his life).

2. I also saw a few guys waiting to load the bus and Boudreau waddling around in his sweet red throwback varsity-style jacket. Again, I love the guy... but he could clearly stand to lose a few pounds.

3. Downtown Pittsburgh is an absolute ghost town on Sunday mornings, which is actually kind of sad. Market Square, which was understandably pretty dead on New Years Day, was much worse on the 2nd. The only place open was Starbucks -- no Bruegger's, no Dunkin' Donuts, no Einstein Bagel. Do people not go out to eat on Sunday mornings in the Steel City?

4. About the whole "rivalry" thing...

While I've only read one Pittsburgh-based reaction to the game -- and it was a blog, so take it for what it's worth -- it's amazing how idiotically some people react to scenarios like this weekend's. There is no doubt that the Capitals and Penguins are the best rivalry in the NHL right now, and any Penguins fan making fun of the Caps for celebrating the way they did is bitter, plain and simple.

Obviously a win like Saturday's will never get "Ovechkin," "Green or "Laich" engraved on the Stanley Cup, but who cares? It was the biggest game of the regular season on the biggest stage, and the Capitals reacted as any of the Penguins would -- with unbridled joy and enthusiasm.

If the Pens had come back and emerged victorious, you better believe they would've gone on and on about how the Caps can't win under pressure, how much Ovechkin sucks, etc. It certainly wouldn't have been "just two points" to any of the Penguins faithful, that's for sure.

I may be naïve in saying this, but I think Caps fans that made the journey to Pittsburgh would've left the weekend feeling as though they were part of something great, regardless of the outcome (assuming it wasn't a blowout). I know that's the way I feel, and no Pens fan trying to rain on the Caps parade is going to change that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A fresh start does not always equal a good opportunity

There has been a lot of talk this week about the short leash quarterbacks are now being given in the NFL, what with multiple "starters" being benched just one or two games into the new season. Many teams that missed out on the playoffs last year -- and even some that reached the postseason -- put a new set of hands under center to spark the franchise, create more offensive opportunities and, ultimately, increase their win totals from a year ago.

One such team, the Oakland Raiders, brought in veteran quarterback (and former Redskin) Jason Campbell, essentially promising fans that things were heading in a more consistent and stable direction (but let's be honest... after drafting JaMarcus Russell, more stability isn't exactly difficult to accomplish). Unfortunately, Campbell played poorly through the first 6 quarters of the 2010 season and has been benched in favor of the quarterback who finished the season last year, Bruce Gradkowski.

New scene, same result. (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty)

I'm not sure why I've been a Campbell apologist for the past however-many years, but really, has any other quarterback in the NFL been treated more poorly than him? The former Auburn standout learned 8 different offensive schemes in a span of 8 years (dating back to college), sat patiently while the Redskins wined and dined Mark Sanchez in 2009 and Sam Bradford earlier this year, and was told this spring that he'd have a chance to remain the starter, only to learn that a blockbuster deal to bring in Donovan McNabb was in the works (all while playing in front of one of the worst offensive lines in football).

Campbell was hurried, hit, sacked and thrown around so often during his tenure in Washington that it's a minor miracle that he's even still playing. He was knocked out of a game against the Bears 3 seasons ago not once but twice, the second time for good (making way for Todd Collins to finish the season).

Does Campbell have the skill-set to be a good quarterback in the NFL, assuming he has a decent offensive line and more than a split-second to make decisions? Sure. He may not be a franchise-savior, as he still lacks that certain confidence and ability to adapt that all great quarterbacks have, but he's absolutely worthy of being given a shot.

Unfortunately, it looks like Al Davis disagrees, and it turns out that not only is Campbell relegated to back-up duty, but he's now being told that he can't speak to the media. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think JC has been dealt a really bad hand since entering the NFL, and being such a nice guy, it's hard not to feel just a little bit sorry for him.

On the flip side, it's nice to know that for all the criticism the Redskins deal with, there's an owner in the league who is more impatient and about ten times more bat-shit crazy than Dan Snyder.

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.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Redskins 14, Lions 19

Let's see... where to begin?

Should I start with the horrendous play-calling? The inability to punch the ball in from the 1-yard line? The defense -- you know, the one that was ranked 4th in the league last year and that was "upgraded" in the offseason -- allowing the lowly Detroit Lions to drive the field at will?

No, forget all that. Let's start with the end result and work our way backwards, shall we?

Yesterday at about 4:15pm, the final whistle blew in the Motor City and the Washington Redskins -- after a week of intense scrutiny that you think would've offered some motivation to step it up -- became the ultimate punchline.

I can see the answer on Jeopardy! now:

On September 27, 2009, they became the first team to lose to the Detroit Lions in over 21 months.

Yes, the Detroit Lions. The only team in the history of the league to lose all 16 games in a regular season. The team led by a rookie quarterback who threw 5 interceptions in his first 2 starts. The team whose estimated attendance yesterday was barely over 40,000, which meant local TV wouldn't even be offering the game to its viewers.

For the majority of teams in the NFL, a trip to Michigan has meant, for the better part of the last decade, an all-but-guaranteed W. For Washington -- and the fans of the Burgundy & Gold -- yesterday's contest meant a chance to right the ship, to prove to everyone that last week's disastrous performance was an anomaly, that there's no way the team was that bad. Most importantly, perhaps, it meant a chance to quiet the media shit-storm that erupted after barely squeaking by an abysmal St. Louis team at home.

Image courtesy The Washington Post

Unfortunately -- for Jim Zorn, Dan Snyder, Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis and the rest of those "on the hot seat" -- those chances are all gone now. The aforementioned media shit-storm has just been upgraded from a we-can-ride-this-thing-out Category 3 to a full-blown, board-up-the-windows-we're-getting-the-hell-outta-here Category 5.

Nobody is safe, or at least they shouldn't be.

Maybe there's a reason Jim Zorn hadn't reached the position of head coach -- or even offensive coordinator -- anywhere else in the league yet. Don't get me wrong -- heading into this season, I was willing to give Synder the benefit of the doubt, and I was also willing to give Zorn at least a second campaign to prove that Dan's decision was a wise one.

Three games into the second year of his headset-wearing career, however, and I'm afraid we've all seen what Jim Zorn is capable of. Never mind the fact that some guys are missing their blocks, that Campbell isn't getting enough time in certain situations, that veteran players are acting as though the pressure of the NFL is a new, tingly sensation.

No, this falls on Zorn. We've all heard the audio -- or read the transcript -- of Sonny calling out the head coach after last week's questionable option pass on 3rd and goal. We know that Zorn would've (apparently) taken his quarterback off the field had he defied orders, and we know that he stuck to his guns on whether or not he thought that was the right call for the situation.

And therein lies the problem.

Jim Zorn does not adapt. He thinks every play he calls is the right one, regardless of whether or not it works. He is confident -- hey, I'll give him that -- that if executed well, each time he dials something up, Shaun Suisham should be getting ready to trot onto the field for an extra point try.

Very rarely -- if at all -- does Zorn accept blame and say "you know what? I probably shouldn't have done that."

Take the final play of yesterday's loss, for example: after the Lions called timeout (essentially giving the Redskins the gift of being able to draw up a play for one last shot), Jason Campbell threw a short pass and left it up to the rest of the offense to try and lateral their way 40 yards down the field and into the endzone.

Why not throw the ball deeper down the field? Did Zorn really think, after not being able to move the ball all that well throughout the game, that they'd be able to miraculously weave in and out of a defense that was as desperate to stop them as they were to score?

It simply doesn't make sense, and, unfortunately, that's just the tip of the play-calling iceberg.

Going for it on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line on the team's opening possession? I'm fine with it. (No, really... I understand the need to get the proverbial monkey off your back, so for some reason I can accept that decision.)

Why not give the ball to Mike Sellers, though? Did everyone inside the organization forget that The Caveman is pretty good at running people over? If there's one thing that Joe Gibbs learned early in his second stint, it's that Sellers is pretty good in short-yardage situations.

Watching these first few games, it's as though Jim Zorn writes a script before each game and, despite the circumstances, never strays even a hair from that script. When you coach a good team and you're working with a clean slate -- i.e. the game scoreless or tied early -- you can afford to be proactive. When the opposing team successfully defends 3 downs deep in their own territory, however, the ability to react is much more valuable.

Zorn needs to take a deep breath, see what is and isn't working and plan accordingly. He can't simply sit there and say "this play was a beauty in practice, so it's certainly going to get us 6 now."


Ok, so now that we've established -- or rather, I've established -- that "Coach" Zorn's ability to adjust on the fly is suspect at best, let's discuss a couple of other things:

First, it's hard to fathom a Redskins defense allowing 381 yards to an offense that, leading up to yesterday's game, could've been labeled "work-in-progress" at best. Missed tackles, blown coverage, not nearly enough pressure on the quarterback; these things were supposed to be points of emphasis in the off-season for Greg Blache & Co. They were exposed early and often yesterday, however, and it appears as though gaping holes exist throughout what once was considered the team's biggest strength.

Second, it's hard to really argue against Jason Campbell's production so far this season, statistics-wise, but unfortunately, passing yards don't always equal success. While he's done a semi-decent job of marching down the field, that certain something is seriously lacking when it comes to finishing what he and his supporting cast start.

Very rarely does Campbell seem comfortable, and it's pretty clear that Zorn does not trust him enough to open up the passing game. Now, more than ever, I'd like to see deep balls thrown in the first few plays. Santana Moss proved yesterday that he still has a step on a lot of defensive backs, so why not try and take advantage of that? It's time for the training wheels to come off, I say.

It’s been hard enough to root for the Redskins over the past 15+ seasons, what with the revolving door of coaches, quarterbacks, high-priced free agents, etc. Now, after yet another big off-season in which Washington supposedly improved, it appears as though the team is headed for another lengthy, disappointing campaign.

Is firing Jim Zorn the answer? Probably not, but I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t lose an ounce of sleep if that’s what Dan Snyder chose to do. Something -- anything -- to light a spark in that locker room.

Sure, the season is still very young, but it’s not like those wearing the Burgundy & Gold are showing any indication that they’ll be competitive this year. Until they do, the benefit of the doubt is gone. Fans in Detroit used to regularly show their disgust by wearing paper bags over their heads during games. Sadly, I think it’s time for the FedEx faithful to consider doing the same.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A quick word on the man under center

Before I go any further, a disclaimer:

I pay very little attention to the NFL preseason. It's just what I do. Watching highlights to get updated on injuries and subsequent roster moves -- that's fine. Dissecting every play and analyzing performances post-game, however, is a waste of time.

With that out of the way, it's time to get ready for another NFL season in our nation's capital, one that will undoubtedly come with the freak-outs and head-hunting that has become standard during the Dan Snyder era. Unless you live outside the Beltway or don't pay any attention to professional football (or both), you've already witnessed public overreaction number one.

Jason Campbell, the incumbent starting quarterback for the burgundy and gold, went 1 for 7 on Saturday and there already exist writers calling for back-up Todd Collins to be the starter. Personally, I think that's bat-shit crazy.

First of all, like I mentioned in the disclaimer above, it's only preseason. I'm not a client of Elias Sports Bureau or rely heavily on any of these so-called historical trends, but how many teams have stunk up the joint in preseason and done well when the games actually matter? Quite a few, I'm sure.

During Joe Gibbs's second tenure in Washington, when the team went 0-4 in the preseason after winning a playoff game the year before, people kept saying "don't worry... the last time the Redskins won the Super Bowl, they went 1-3 in the preseason and looked awful."

You know what happened next? The Skins sucked. Went 5-11.

So yeah, I guess that's not a good example.

Point is, preseason games hardly matter. Starting units get very little playing time, players take chances they wouldn't normally take, and everyone walks away happy if they do so without the help of a team of trainers.

Jason Campbell will undoubtedly be the Redskins' starting quarterback this season, so he may try some different looks and techniques when he has the opportunity to do so at game-speed but without the pressure of a potential regular-season loss. I know that sentence is a bit confusing to read -- it was to write -- but the bottom line is that he'll be fine.

The good ol' boy from Mississippi -- the one with the support of an entire locker room -- still has some serious potential. I keep backing him and, frankly, will do so until further notice. Believe me, you'll know it when I jump the U.S.S. JC -- I'm going to do a jackknife from the lookout tower and make quite the splash.

Campbell may not be great this year -- only time will tell -- but he certainly won't stink like he did for a very brief spell against the Steelers. The former Auburn standout will be a slightly-above-average quarterback with a better supporting cast than he had last year, which will make the Redskins a better team than they were a year ago.

Like the always-eloquent Ron Burgundy says, "it's science."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Redskins 10, Ravens 24

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. November was a crazy busy month for me, and, well, the Redskins have been sucking it up lately. It’s easy to rant about what goes wrong, but it’s much more fun to write about a team when they’re doing well.

Anyway, there have been a lot of things floating through my head since Sunday night’s debacle near Dundalk, so I figured it was time to put those things on the interweb. Below are some of my thoughts on the current state of the Burgundy & Gold -- take them for what they’re worth (not much, I’m sure)...

01. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I think Mike Wilbon is exactly right in his assessment of the Redskins’ offensive production. To put it bluntly, the offensive line stinks. Watching the game against Baltimore, the difference between the time that Jason Campbell was getting and the time that Joe Flacco was getting was astounding. My doubt of Campbell’s ability to make smart decisions is growing stronger by the week, but part of me feels that a huge part of that has to do with the pressure he faces whenever the Skins are up against a semi-decent defense.

Sure, JC’s accuracy has been questionable and his targeting of receivers before the marker on big 3rd time plays is infuriating, but how confident and relaxed can you be when it’s almost as common to get sacked as it is to have good protection? Take one look at Campbell during the last 5 games and you will see someone completely flustered -- with no time to view his options and the inability to make a few completions and get into a rhythm, a quarterback is essentially useless.

Original image borrowed from the Washington Post

02. People keep praising the Redskins defense for keeping the team in games, but let’s be honest: they still haven’t quite held their own against even mediocre offenses. As much as Baltimore has improved their point production this season, they still have a rookie QB under center. If a defense can put any kind of pressure on a rookie QB, they should be able to force him into some poor decisions. Unfortunately, that rarely happened on Sunday. Flacco threw an interception, but it was more LaRon Landry jumping on the pass than poor execution.

On the ground, the Redskins run defense did a pretty good job putting the kaibosh on McGahee, McClain and Rice. On the biggest plays of the game, however -- the McClain TD, the bomb to Mason -- the flaws of Greg Blache’s troops were painfully exposed.

03. Speaking of that long touchdown pass from Flacco to Derrick Mason, am I the only one that thinks Carlos Rogers could’ve had a better shot at breaking up that play? It looked to me like, after he realized where the ball was, he went after Mason’s body instead of trying to break up the pass. If he focused on playing defense instead of putting a lick on Mason (more on that in a minute), I honestly believe he could’ve prevented the biggest play of the game.

Rogers has had a pretty decent season, all things considered, but he is still insanely far from being a reliable cornerback. A few great plays every other game do not a solid defender make -- sorry.

04. Back to the “putting a lick on Mason” comment...

I love LaRon Landry, I really do. I think he has the potential to be a great safety in the NFL, and the thought of him and Sean Taylor in the backfield nearly brings tears to my eyes.

I have an issue with the way Landry plays sometimes, however, and that issue is this: I think he goes after the hit far too often. I like a good bone-rattling tackle as much as the next guy, but fundamentals should absolutely always take precedence over a chance to make the highlight reels. Watch Baltimore’s defense (and Pittsburgh’s a few weeks ago) and you’ll see guys like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis break up beautiful passes by lunging hands-first, not helmet-first. I hate giving the Cowboys any credit if at all possible, but watching Terrance Newman make a great play on Sunday by doing exactly that was sweet (even if it did make me puke in my mouth). Focus on the ball first and foremost -- if you can’t break up the pass, go for the jugular.

05. I hated seeing Clinton Portis on the sidelines for almost the entire second half, especially after hearing that he thought he felt good enough to continue getting 20+ carries. If Jim Zorn is trying to make an example of CP, he needs to take a step back, put the coaching hat on the rack for a minute and think about what’s best for the team. You don’t bench one of the leading rushers in the league in a must-win situation, regardless of whether or not he’s able to practice.

There is a fine line between discipline and smarts, and if Portis was healthy enough to be out there, I think he deserved that shot (especially considering the beating he’s taken this year by putting his entire body into every play).

06. Speaking of Zorn, is it unfair to start questioning whether or not he’s the man for the job? Please note that I said “start questioning” and not “question” -- there’s a big difference. Before you go and get snippy, please allow me to explain...

First of all, Zorn is not a very good playcaller. The man who was lauded early in the season for taking chances and getting creative does neither of those things anymore, even though they could potentially cause a spark and get this reeling team back on track. When you’re on a 4-game shnide (let’s just include the Seattle win for the sake of argument), you need to start becoming more aggressive. Throwing downfield once or twice a game is absolutely pathetic, especially when there is all this talk about increasing point production being a huge priority. West Coast Shmest Coast -- you aren’t going to win many games by dinking and dunking the ball 4 yards at a time.

Secondly, the communication and game management of this team in the past 6 weeks has been nothing short of embarrassing. Calling a timeout after a delay of game penalty? Absurd. Punting on 4th and 2 or 3, in the opposition’s territory, with a little over a minute to go in the half (when you’re down by 14)? Un-fucking-believable. It’s time for Mr. Zorn to start shocking people, and I don’t mean by benching the star running back.

Lastly, one of the comments I made after Zorn’s debut against the Giants in Week One was that he looked completely terrified on the sideline. Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that he may’ve looked worse against the Ravens. Nearly every time the camera showed the coach, he was standing there silent, staring onto the field as though he had no idea what to do next. He wasn’t talking into his headset, wasn’t conversing with other coaches or with any of his players – he was simply standing there. With about 30 seconds on the clock before halftime, he couldn’t wait to get off the field and put on that nice, comfy wool hat.

Just before the Randle El touchdown, I’m pretty sure I saw Zorn say “what do we do now?” What do you do now? Your team is down by 14 points in the fourth quarter and you’re playing in a game that you absolutely must win. In other words, Einstein, you go for it.

Who knows -- maybe the pressure of being a head coach is getting to him, and he’s finding that he isn’t mentally tough enough to lead an organization. I have no doubt in my mind that Jim Zorn is a good motivator. Early in the season, when the Redskins were doing well, Zorn seemed to have all the right things to say in both good situations and bad. Now, though, it seems as though he’s keeping things “medium” just a bit too much. The last thing this team needs is another passive authority figure, one who deflects blame and doesn’t light a fire under his team’s collective ass.

07. If it’s 4th and 5, it’s cold as balls and the wind is howling, the ball is on your opponent’s 30 yard line and you have an unreliable kicker, do you go for the first down or attempt a 48-yarder?

08. Ryan Plackemeier is clearly nuggnuts. Looks like the guy is stashing a 20-piece in his cheeks, for crying out loud. Maybe if he laid off the barbecue sauce, he’d be able to get punts off quicker. Just a thought.

09. One of the few bright spots on Sunday, I think, was the play of Mike Sellers. Not only is Sellers looking like he could be a legitimate Number 2 back in this league, he also showed more passion than the rest of the offense combined. He fought his guts out -- excuse the Gibbsism -- and wanted everyone else to do the same, regardless of how low morale was. Sellers doesn’t have the physique or stamina to be a starting back in this league, but I’d love to see what he could do with more than 10 carries in a game.

10. The Redskins, after starting the season 6-2 and sitting very comfortably in second place in the toughest division in the league, are now 7-6 and staring at a brutally-long offseason. They’d have to run the table from here on out and get help from a slew of other teams to make the playoffs, and I just don’t think it’s going to happen. There are too many questions and too few answers on both sides of the ball.

So what do we do now? Do we watch the remaining few games in the off chance that our beloved team will provide a third holiday-season miracle in 4 years? Or do we reduce the stress in our lives by focusing our attention elsewhere? One of the first little tidbits I wrote about the Redskins last season was their amazing ability to toy with my emotions. Never has it been more evident than this year. It’s one thing to be a fan of a team like the Bengals or Lions, both perennial losers who very rarely show any signs of progress. It’s another to be sucked in year after year, only to have your hopes dashed midway through the season by a lack of effort and some serious underachieving.

If the Washington Redskins lose the last 3 games and end up 7-9, so be it. But if they do it without taking chances, without playing smart football and without displaying an outrageous amount of passion, it’ll leave a really bitter taste in my mouth, one that might be a little too hard to rinse out before the 2009 campaign.