I anticipated this game between two one-win franchises to be a less than thrilling affair. In fact, I opted to take my wife to Jo-Ann's Fabrics in Greenbelt while she and my cousin Adriane looked for stuff (I believe they called it "fabric") instead of watch every play. I apparently wasn't alone in this pregame assessment: Beltway Plaza was filled with burgundy and gold-wearing shoppers.
I managed to catch up on the action by slipping into Three Brother's Pizza, which had some of the Washington faithful slurping oysters and Coronas on barstools while cursing at the bar TVs. Funny thing was that many stores had the Redskins game on; sometimes it was just audio or, like Bootleg Hat Shop, flickering on 8" black and white TVs. Ah, feels like home.
Knowing that I'd miss some of the contest's play-by-play nuances, I sought to employ an official Redskin Review Game Tracker, who would study the game in my stead to highlight those critical moments that turned the tide for either team. Who did I entrust to bear this heavy load? My 10 year old sister-in-law, Valencia. Don't laugh. She knows the game. Well, she does now that I explained where the score was on the screen, what the CHI and WAS graphics meant, who had the ball, where they were going, why players pat each other's butts, and which one is not Ray Lewis. As I confidently handed the newly-ordained Game Tracker some scrap paper and a fuzzy-tipped Barbie pencil, I was saddened to learn from her that "Um, I don't write on weekends."
I say that all, then, to say that I didn't get to analyze as much on this game as usual. But a few things were clear to me from the partial 1st and 4th quarters I witnessed:
- Clinton Portis and the offensive line are finally performing up to task.
- The Redskins defense is a solid, real deal squad who dictate more than react. (That is, unless the other team is from Dallas, has no running back, and whose quarterback is 89 years old. In that case, let 'em score on a halfback option pass. That one still stings. But I'm not, you know, bitter or nuthin' about it.)
- Mark Brunell may want to invest in a good, comfortable seat cushion before November.
That's right, I now own a ticket on the Sit Mark Down Express. (No local stops.) It isn't the interceptions that turn me sour, though they be plentiful (3 INTs/5 TDs) and painful. It is the gametime ineffectiveness that I abhor. He has completed just over 50% of his passes, passed for more than 200 yards once (against the Cowgirls), and has a current rating (69.8) below Jeff Garcia (79.8), pine-ridin' Brad Johnson (79.5) and 'Frisco kid Tim Rattay (92.5). Aside from the Dallas game, Brunell has 492 yards in four games. In one game, against this same Chicago team, Daunte "Fantasy Dream QB" Culpepper put up 360! On Sunday, Washington needed President Clinton to put up more than 170 rushing yards, considering that against this 20th-ranked pass defense, Brunell lit the skies for a total of 95 yards.
An aside: anyone notice that our Big Three (Brunell/Portis/Coles) have provided touchdowns for the opposition against the Bucs, the Giants, the Ravens and the Bears? In those games, our offense scored 16, 14, 10, and 13 points. I'm no mathecologist, but with Brunell at the helm of the offense, we cannot afford to spot the enemy any points. Minnesota Vikings we are not.
Speaking of other teams, how 'bout that Pittsburgh rookie phenom Ben Rothlesiwhithgerberger? I caught the second half of his dissection of the Cowchip defense. Now THIS is a productive quarterback: 21 of 25 for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns. With the Steelers down 20-10 in the 4th period, facing multiple Dallas blitz packages, he scrambled for first downs, avoided getting sacked, and completed 11 straight passes (including a sweet, desperate option pass to a tight end). Big Ben is for real, and it made me long for the youthful energy of Patrick Ramsey. Yes, I know Ramsey is no Rothleshibeggarberger.
Now I know conventional coaching wisdom says to not bench a QB after they win a game. Coach Gibbs, I bow to your knowledge, but let me suggest that if any of the following occur against the Green Bay "Lemon Pants" Packers, please can convention and resurrect the Pharaoh:
- Zero offensive points in the first quarter. The Pack are 20th in overall defense, 15th against the pass. C'mon.
- A clearly quarterback-caused turnover. That's right, I'm giving Brunell just one.
- Three one-hop or way overthrown passes clearly not caused by unusual defensive pressure.
Now, if Brunell manages to get a pass into the end zone, then cool. Keep him in. (By my rules he would've stayed in against the Bears.) But a second evaluation should be done after the defense adjusts in the second and third periods. Sounds fair, right? I hope not. It's time to return to some balanced offense.
Since I can't give out a Hang Your Head Award this week, let me instead list some Teams That I Fear. These teams possess, in my estimation, the best chances of beating everyone else in the league. Every game against each other is Must See Football. They are, in no particular order: Indinapolis, New England, Minnesota, Seattle, and, um, the Philly Egos. I might even throw in the Jaguars, who posses The Quarterback Who Would Not Die, Byron Leftwich. Bet the Ravens wish they'd taken him when they had the chance, eh?
Portis running the ball = win. It's simple.
I again commend defensive guru Gregg Williams for his hyperaggressive blitzing in the 4th quarter. It is a thing of beauty to see linebackers up the gut one play, then a full-speed corner attack from the blind side on the next play. Hats off to rookie stud Sean Taylor for nabbing his first, and game-clinching, interception. If you don't have the Skins' defense in your fantasy league, shame on you.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Brunell and the passing game are just short of embarassing. Somewhere Art Monk, Gary Clark, and the rest of the Fun Bunch are rolling their eyes.
Sp. TEAMS: B (Believe it or not, I heard an interesting commentary about special teams on the fake Tony Bruno broadcast inside the Madden 2005 game. A "caller" noted how coaches always say their teams need to execute on all three fronts, yet put low draft picks and who-dat men on kickoff coverage. If it's equally important, why don't the best players cover kickoffs and punts? Don't coaches care about field position, or are they just protecting their Randy Mosses and LaDaininan Thomlinsons from injury? Inquiring minds want to know.)
COACHES: C+ (Okay, I'm making this and the Special Teams ones up. Somebody help me.)
FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES
Sweet mother of mercy. The Young Avengers looked to rebound from last week's subpar performance, and did so with vengeance. With Marshall Faulk still to play, my boys have dropped the hammer on the Predators. Actually, my opponent forgot to make his lineup legal, so I won by forfeit. But oh, what a win. Wisdom said bench Mike Vick and start the Jacksonville QBs, and they produced 37 points as a reward. Waiver Wire Wonder RB Mewelde Moore got loose for 109 rushing, 78 receiving, and my receiver combo of Marcus Robinson, T.O. and David Patten produced 213 yards and three touchdowns. Mmm, that's tasty. The Avengers, current champs of the Festivus Maximus league, are now poised to knock the very evil 4Gen Warriors from first place in our division.
Bye week. Skins win, 13-10. Just kidding. Hopefully during the time off, Gibbs can re-evaluate his passing attack and perhaps forge ahead into new waters with Sir Ramsey. Fred "Kamikaze" Smoot can take the week and sit in the sauna. Seriously, was it me or did he get hurt every time he made a tackle? Save some for November, man!
One final note: this week's Review is, officially, the first posted via web log. I hope to maintain this blog until either I get a paid gig or Blogger.com starts charging for the service....in which case the Redskins Review will live on in some other free means. Hope any first-time readers enjoy my thoughts and visit often.