Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Week 5: It Was the Best of Halves, the Worst of Halves

Washington 10, Baltimore 17

This is when it’s hard to be a Redskins fan. In the days following a heartbreaking, jaw-dropping Sunday choke, Washington faithful have to cope with the annual, awful truth:

The Redskins ain’t that good.

That’s right, I said it. Bad English and all. Oh sure, we didn’t have a monumental collapse versus Baltimore as, say, Green Bay did against Tennessee Monday night. (48 points allowed at Lambeau?!?) And yeah, we don’t lose 10 games every season, as the Arizona Cardinals. And our fans haven’t had to wear paper bags (et tu, Saints?).

For Redskins fans, it is the untapped, unrealized potential that every year leaves us disappointed. This organization continues to headline offseason transactions, free agent acquisitions, and on-paper rankings. The Washington organization, according to Forbes, is the most valuable in the league. Yet, come week five, playoff dreams are hard to come by.
Moreover, we must endure endless taunting from fans of nearly every team…this year even the Raiders and Texans can point and laugh. Cornerback Fred Smoot recently said that in the NFL, “nobody fears us.”

Our perennial problem is imbalance, and nowhere else was this clearer than Sunday night against them Ravens. Washington provided a dominating defensive effort, wussy offensive display. Add in a special teams gaff and voila—big loss on the national stage to a very beatable team.

Hats off to Baltimore, who did exactly what everyone expected them to do and still won. Their formula is well known, simply executed, but devastatingly effective: stifle their offense, run Jamal Lewis. That’s it. Sure enough, the Ravens defense allowed 107 yards of Redskin offense and scored on a forced turnover while Jamal eventually ran for 116.

For 30 minutes there, I (and most people in the state of Maryland) thought this game was essentially over. Baltimore “quarterback” Kyle Boller threw three first half interceptions, Jailbait Lewis managed only19 yards on the ground, and the Skins eked out 10 points. An improbable Washington shutout (when was the last time we saw that in the regular season?) was on its way.

Can you imagine the scene at halftime?

Coach Billick: Son, you’re killing us out there. We will lose if you keep throwing passes.
Kyle Boller: You…you’re…gonna bench me?
Billick: Don’t be stupid. I want you under center. Just hand off to Jamal. I’ll tell you when you’ll try another pass.
Boller: Handoffs for two quarters? Why don’t you just have Kordell Stewart do that?
Billick: (clearly annoyed) Because we trust him even less than you.

And so it was. Boller threw, by my count, three second-half passes. Three. And he still managed a one-hop pass. But who needed an air game when THE REDSKINS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY COLLAPSED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THEIR MEDIOCRITY INTO A FLAMING BALL OF FAILURE, NOT UNLIKE THE HINDENBURG.

In a close, defensive contest, it can take but one play, one player error, to turn the game. I nominate, for this week’s Hang Your Head Award, to Washington running back Ladell Betts. The name may not be familiar, but everyone with ESPN knows his number: 46. That was on the jersey of the player who watched Ravens safety Ed Reed, at warp factor five, run by on his way to sack Mark Brunell in the third quarter. Everybody misses a block, sure, but this was a monumental mistake.

Brunell had actually called the right play, rolling to his left. Reed came from the right side, and Betts was right there to protect the blind side with a block, chip, or even by putting a hand on Reed. He did none of the above, and Reed stripped Brunell and recovered the fumble. Here’s where you really earn a Hang Your Head Award: Betts was the only player (because he watched the whole catastrophe) with a good opportunity to tackle Reed once he gained his bearings and streaked toward the end zone. If Betts makes this tackle, the Ravens take over, the fresh Redskin defense takes the field, and probably give up a field goal. Betts failed us a second time, and The Worst 3rd Quarter In A Long Time officially began. Sir, hang your head.

Not to toot the ol’ horn, but I told the Skins to watch out for this. Avoid sacks, I said. Find the hot reads, I said. Score twenty points, I said. Against the Chiefs, Jamal Lewis stood on the sidelines and could only watch in the fourth quarter. In our game, he was between the tackles, wearing down our linebackers and secondary. The Skins’ defense was impenetrable in the first half, and I enthusiastically applaud their valiant effort. In my humble opinion, the only difference between them and us defensively was the Ed Reed play. But with no special teams and offense support, the D had to eventually break. Alas.

So here we are again, another week, another offensive display by the offense. Lots of love to Laveranues “Rock Me Tonight” Coles, who got open for three catches for 25 yards. Note to Laveranues: if you’re going over the middle, go ahead and catch the ball. You’re going to get hit anyway. It’ll hurt but y’know, that’s what you’re paid to do. Speaking of paychecks, former president Clinton Portis can now officially give back half of the last four games’ salary. He hasn’t earned it.

Mark “Hambone” Brunell…man, I’m trying to fight for keeping him as starter. I really am. He looked uncomfortable on nearly every pass, and launched the only highlight this season for Deion “Look Ma!” Sanders. Bench him? Do we summon the Pharaoh? Is the high-priced experiment over?

I’m certain that someone’s going to complain about falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe, fake Deion reverse by B.J. “Wholesale” Sams. Actually, I thought it was a brilliant call, perfectly timed, and produced a game-altering triple play: it scored seven points, the woeful Ravens offense stayed off the field, and the pressure immediately shifted to the inept Redskin offense. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Redskins fans hope against hope that the season can be turned around. After the week 7 bye, we play some beatable teams: Green Bay, Detroit, and Cincinnati. Then things get ugly: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Gigántes de Nuevo York, then Philadelphia. After a gimme game against San Fran, we face the Cowchips and Minnesota. I ain’t Nostradamus, but unless Coach Gibbs and company can right this $1 billion sinking ship, we’re staring down a 7-9 season.

And that is the reality of being a Redskin fan.


Defensive guru Gregg Williams has more than earned my respect. His squad did exactly what this team asked them to do, in the end only surrendering three points. They kept Jailbait from breaking anything decent until the second half. Their shoulders were simply overburdened by the offense.


Mark Brunell didn’t make the necessary hot reads, the receivers rarely got open, the running game was a joke. Perhaps Mr. Portis really is a product of the Denver coach Mike Shanahan’s system…

OFFENSE: Z – (That’s “z-minus.” Last time I gave these to a squad was October 16, 2001. Michael Westbrook and Tony Banks were on the team. Shudder.)
DEFENSE: A- (I do hope this game doesn’t begin locker room division…)
COACHES: B (The plan looked good on paper, and for 30 minutes I was calling the coaching staff geniuses. “Can it be that it was all so simple then…”)


The Young Avengers took a big L this week to the Untouchables, no thanks to Michael
Vick’s continuing slump. Big Wes suggested I tell him to make less commercials and concentrate on not getting sacked. The big pickup for the Avengers was Minnesota RB Mewelde Moore, who earned 182 total yards. Everybody else gets the gas face. Thankfully, Terrell Owens comes back from a bye…


The 1-3 Bears welcome us Chicago. Something tells me it won’t be NFL Primetime’s Prime Cut. Who’s quarterbacking the Bears—Wade Wilson? Ricky Schroeder? Bueller? Bueller?

I’d say more, but I can’t get out of my head the image of Deion Sanders showboating his interception. Curse you, Deion. Curse you and your seed.

Skins win, 16-10.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:08 AM

    You may be a little hard on the centenarian. He probably has seen so many better games that the current crop brings out the worse in him.