Monday, November 15, 2004

Week 10: ...but on the bright side...

Washington 10, Cincinnati 17

I sat in Suite 338 of FedEx Field for three quarters of Sunday's game, mentally preparing to write a nightmare Review in light of the horrific, strangely familiar gameplay by Washington. To that point, my dread was warranted: Redskins fans begged, nay, demanded nine minutes into the game that Patrick "Pharaoh" Ramsey replace Mark "Retirement" Brunell at quarterback; when their wish was granted, the slow-motion train wreck continued, this time with a different engineer. The Redskins' top-ranked defense allowed 17 first half points and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis seemed content to simply run out the final 18 minutes or so. Things were grim.

Suddenly, the offense seemed rejuvenated. In those final minutes of the third period, Washington went no-huddle, and Ramsey helped author two first downs on one drive--we'd only gotten two total up to that point--that brought Washington to the Cincinnati 29. Unfortunately, soon-to-be-kicking-for-the-Rhine-Fire Ola Kimrin shanked a 47 yard field goal. But something positive seemed to be working for the Skins. In fact, with the defense appearing to pitch a second-half shut out, Washington might make the score respectable.

After allowing just one first down (via penalty), the Redskin defense got young Pharaoh the ball back at the Washington 20, and for the final ten minutes of this game, the fans got exactly what they had been screaming for since the Green Bay game: hope. Mixing in a few runs by Clinton Portis, Ramsey took to the air, finding Coles and Clinton and pushing the ball into the Bengals red zone. Were it not for (yet another) drop by Coles in the end zone, this would have been the best drive of the Skins' game. Kimrin tapped in the easy field goal to make the score 17-3. Those fans who hadn't left in the early third period sensed that Gibbs had finally made the right choice.

The Washington D produced a quick three 'n out, and when Ramsey got the ball back, the offense mixed in no-huddle and went to the air, and Ramsey snuck a 9 yard touchdown to tight end Chris Cooley (Chris Cooley!). The 15,000 of us left in the the stadium went just short of bonkers. Sure, the Skins would need an improbable onside kick recovery, followed by a touchdown, produced without any remaining time outs, to send the game into overtime. But I don't believe I was alone in feeling that the late-game excitement was more for Washington's brighter future with this kid Patrick Ramsey under center.

So yeah, we lost to the Bengals, and probably began "Taps" for our playoff hopes. (Sure would've been nice to squeak this game and the Packers games out, considering how the Sabado Gigante is faltering.) And yep, our defense finally looked vulnerable. And yes, Ramsey was visibly rusty in the first half. I'll also agree that Ramsey was close to making two other interceptions during his play. But seeing a Redskin quarterback post more than 200 yards in one game has been a luxury we haven't enjoyed much this year. And hearing Chris Cooley and other receivers in post-game interviews describe how hard the passes hit their hands sounded like sweet music.

I can't help but wonder how this season might've turned out if Ramsey had been given the opportunity to take every snap this season, facing the weaker part of our schedule. We'd certainly have more than 1400 yards (157 yards per game). And we might've actually given our defense a rest, instead of relying on them to hold an offense to less than 14 points for us to win.

The reality is that Coach Gibbs has finally admitted that the Brunell experiment is an utter failure, and that the future of this franchise is in the hands of Sir Ramsey. At the risk of redundancy, let me say that I stand and applaud the decision.

Oh yeah, if anyone should Hang Your Head, it should be Coles and Gardner, our so-called receiving corps. I was unable to track down the drop statistics for these guys, but I was certain that, combined, they let five catchable passes fall. Some were for third down completions, but others failed to serve an even more important goal: confidence for their new quarterback. Hang your head, fellas, but know that you'll be needed more in the final six games than in the first ten.

Aside from some second-half heroics, it's tough to say much worked well for Washington. Defensively, Fred Smoot and the secondary were beaten like a rented mule for much of the first half, missing open-field tackles of Bengals receiver Chad "Lookitme!" Johnson and allowing Chad "Triple-word score" Houshmandzadeh to earn seven catches on the day. If there be a bright spot, it's that the defense decided that they would not allow any more points by Cincinnati in the second half. For my dollar, if a defense can do that for thirty minutes, they've done their job. It's up to the offense, then, to put up the points.

I can only shake my head at the idea that Clinton Portis gets the ball 17 times against the worst rushing defense in the league. I fail to see how you don't attack a weakness, even if it's ineffective 30 minutes in. The Skins didn't wait that long, passing the majority of the first quarter plays. Clinton still ended up with over 80 yards on the day; he should've had 130. And let's not forget how abysmally poor Mark Brunell's numbers were before being benched: 8 attempts, 1 completion, 6 yards, one interception. I think it's safe to make some vacation plans with the family for next Fall, Mark.




Sp. TEAMS: C (Was that Thrash/Betts reverse supposed to fool someone?)


The Young Avengers appear to be in perpetual freefall. Last week we managed a meek 78 points, losing to Teddy Tax's subpar 85 point total. Throughout the Skins game I kept an eye on other NFL action, and was pleased to see my Steelers defense total four turnovers and four sacks while my wideout Brandon Stokely hooked up more than 120 yards and two touchdowns. Even ol' Marshall Faulk got over 100 yards rushing. Surely I would win. Not so. I forgot that my opponent, the Daemons, had the Peyton Manning and the improbably successful Bears defense starting. Those two positions produced an astounding 93 points alone. The Daemons finished the day with 164 points, and with Terrell Owens still to play, I'm sitting at 122. With my brother Roy's team chalking up another win, he will likely sit one game behind me in our division. Cruel, cruel fate.

The Philly Egos welcome the Skins to Lincoln Field. I intend on spending all week dreaming of ways that Washington will win this game against a likely 9-1 team. Any suggestions would be welcome. Nonetheless, I'm picking that with a balanced attack, Portis gets 100 and Ramsey passes for two touchdowns. Skins win, 24-21.

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