Monday, December 27, 2004

Week 16: Hang. Your. Head.

Washington 10, Dallas 13

You had to see this coming. If you're a fan of the Redskins or Cowchips, you had to see this coming. Why? Because it's happened before, and the year was 1999. Washington had built a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter, only to allow them to tie and watch Troy Aikman find Raghib Ismail behind the entire defense for a 76-yard, overtime touchdown.

I spoke with my cousing Angie, a Cowchip-lover, who confided that late in the contest she was prepared to accept a rare loss to the Redskins. Surely the decrepit Vinny Testaverde couldn't muster a winning drive in 1:30, without timeouts, against the second-ranked defense in the league who had sacked him five times that day (including twice on their previous possession). No way would Dallas convert a desperate 4th and 10 and then score for almost 40 yards out. What a completely improabable scenario.

But then when it happens, right before your eyes, you can come to but one conclusion of this so-called rivalry:
you can change the players, you change the coaches, heck, you can change the salaries. But you cannot change the outcome.

As the Thing used to say, "whatta revoltin' development."

I'm not one to point fingers (okay, pointing fingers is pretty much what the Redskins Review is about), but I need to feel better after this loss. So who should be pointed to, shamed and told to Hang Your Head?

...Antonio Brown for his fumbled punt in Washington territory late in the fourth quarter, that, but for a defensive stand, could've cost the game?
...Patrick Ramsey for a subpar passing day (19/29, 158 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), lofting passes high and rarely throwing deep?
...Pro Bowl-bound Marcus Washington, whose offsides penalty on Dallas' final drive granted a free stopping of the clock?
...Sean Taylor and Shawn Springs for letting a wide receiver run free to the end zone at the end of a game as if Dallas would throw the ball anywhere else?
...the offense for reverting to midseason form, producing a pitiful 10 points, and failing to earn one measly first down to run out the clock?
...the entire Washington defense for allowing the Cowgirls to move the ball, without timeouts, 75 yards in 55 seconds with only four completions?
...Coach Gibbs for allowing players to continue wearing incorrect socks? Former Redskin Brian Mitchell, on the SBC/Comcast SportsNet Sports Nite Post-Game Show sponsored by Tischer Acura of Laurel, Maryland, noted that team unity is suffering because Gibbs isn't demanding that players like Taylor and Portis conform to league and team uniform standards. All I can say is that players wear "uniforms" because--surprise!--they're supposed to be uniform. (This only annoys me because, honestly, we lost.)

Frankly I don't know who should run extra laps this week. I will ease up on my criticism of the defense, if only because they were again called upon to win a game that should have been a Redskins blowout. But for the love of Darrell Green, even if defensive coach Gregg Williams called for a Prevent package, there's no way that Dallas wideout Patrick Clayton (his face now in the Hall of Great Cowchip Wins) should get four yards behind the safeties. This is why, coincidentally, they're called safeties. Even if Sean Taylor is keeping a wise eye on a possible jump ball to Keyshawn Johnson, the defense still should have had 8 men (in a Quarter defense) in the secondary to cover, what, four receivers? Sheesh.

As much as I abhor quoting Dallas fans, I must communicate Angie's final words to me as kicker Jeff Chandler's 57 yard attempt fell short: "we may stink, but y'all smell worse." I dunno if that's true, but I know it'll take a long time to wash the funk out of this loss.

OFFENSE: D (It's like watching two middle-aged housewives jousting on American Gladiators. But without the unintentional comedy.)

DEFENSE: B (I was this close to giving them an A+. But four plays later they get dropped more than a letter grade.)
Sp. TEAMS: B+ (Punter Tom Tupa is perhaps the only player happy with this season's offensive ineptitude.)
COACHES: C (Gibbs and company gotta lotta 'splainin' to do. No way should we have been swept by Dallas this year.)

As reported last week, the Young Avengers were bounced from the Festivus Maximus playoffs on account of Pittsburgh's defense getting rolled on by Eli Manning and Terrell Owens pulling up lame. Fortunately, my arch-rivals, the BlackBirds, were simultaneously dismissed by last year's rookie sensation Juggernauts, piloted by D-Trux. The Juggs met Shirtless Wes' 4Gen Warriors, and that game's coming down to Monday Night Football. This year's rookie sensation is the waiver-wire-wonder Roy's Boys, and they've won their second-round playoff game already. (Who the $#%%# is Lee Evans, anyway?) Like the Carolina Panthers, nobody wants to meet them in the playoffs.

Washington area fans will get the rare opportunity to see Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss at FedEx Field as they fight for a playoff place. We are fighting for a modicum of respectability. Forget being the #1 ranked defense stickers on your helmet or wearing fancy socks; let's win the game. Skins win, 14-13.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Week 15: Holiday Gifts for All!

Washington 26, San Francisco 16

Want to hear something funny? Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but if Washington wins its last two games, versus the Cowchips and Vikings, and the Panthers and Saints lose their games...

We're in the playoffs! With a mediocre 7-9 record!

Ain't that a kick inna pants? After this season?

Now I'm not suggesting in any form or fashion that the Redskins deserve to be in the post season, or that they somehow earned it, or even that I suggested they'd be there pre-season. It is every week that I have to reiterate to some Philly/Dallas/Baltimore/New York fan that I didn't predict Gibbs would make the playoffs this season. Fans of other teams seem to think that as soon as Gibbs was hired, that the DC area fans were printing up NFC East Champion t-shirts. Not so, lost ones, not so. I did say that, based upon Gibbs' solid record and our always-good-on-paper team, Washington would challenge someone for a wild-card spot. Sho'nuff, we are. Kind of. But only because the National Football Conference is bereft of greatness. And with a certain wideout going down to injury, the NFC's pool of proficiency drains by three feet.

The Football Gods will bestow favor upon someone from the NFC--they have to under the NFL rules. But here at the Review, I thought it appropo to send my own gifts to fans of every team in the form of messages of goodwill. Every real football fan clings to the hope
that their team will make a run for the Super Bowl, even as their team's season disintigrates (et tu, St. Louis?). When that reality creeps in like silent-but-deadly flatulence, you can do nothing but remember the good things. Accentuate the positive. That's what we're gonna do now, as we inaugurate the first ever...MESSAGES OF GOODWILL.

Washington Redskins

Did anyone guess that those stupendously bad pass interference calls against Washington in Week 3 that allowed a Cowgirls victory would loom so large? I realize it's spilled and now spoiled milk, but if we win that game--as we should have--and ceteris parabus, we're sitting pretty for the post season. That is the power of penalties, and ceteris parabus is everything I remember from college Economics class.

Nonetheless, Washington should feel great that Gibbs has a great foundation on which to build next year's playoff team. That's right, we're making the playoffs next year. If the seasons began in February but ended in May, the Redskins would have five more Vince Lombardi trophies. So prepare to enjoy a fantastic offseason, gentlemen.

Philadelphia Egos
No holiday message for you. Oh, wait, there is a notice to pass along: Terrell Owens is done, and so are your Super Bowl aspirations. You may commence burning the Liberty Bell now.

Los Gigantes de Nuevo York
Was there any bigger lock for a fantasy matchup than the #1 ranked Steelers defense versus Eli Manning, the Boy Who Could Not Fly? No one in their right mind would start, say, the Jaguars defense playing against Favre at Lambeau instead, right? Not when the Steelers defense has been average more than 20 fantasy points, right? I mean, was there any prediction that young Manning would go 16 for 23 for two touchdowns and only one interception? Who wouldn't have started that defense? How did this nonsense happpen?

And yes, I am kvetching that I was booted from my fantasy league playoffs because my defense earned five points. Enjoy your quarterback of the future, D-Trux and Giants fans.

Dallas Cowchips
Though you share the same record as Washington, let's be honest--this year has been a disaster, particularly in light of last year's playoff appearance. This season's humor came from seeing Coach Parcells' weekly "we are disgusting" post game conferences; the real comedy was watching him become less animated after each loss and age 10 years (along with Testaverde and Eddie George) in three months. I suspect that after falling to 5-11 on the year, Bill's final press conference will be miserable cinema; the Tuna will decompose into a monotone, lamentable, drooling shell of his Hall of Fame self. He won't be able to enunciate, but his spittle will make his message clear: we stink. If there is something to hang your Christmas stocking on, it's that kid Julius Jones.

Green Bay Lemon Pants
Future Hall of Famer Brett Favre is the anchor on which Packers fans have held their hope for many years. I personally think he's a maverick gunslinger who has the uncanny ability to follow a horrible pass with a scrambling, laser-guided pass through three defenders. The press loves this guy, and some of the praise is deserved. But for the love of Moses, can we stop treating him as any more heroic than any other quarterback who plays through pain and loss? For my dollar, the Titans' Steve McNair has equaled or surpassed Favre in gutsy play. I think McNair completed a touchdown back in 2002 with only one operable foot. I could be wrong. The point is that Brett doesn't turn water into wine and hasn't corrected his tendency to hit defenders between the numbers in his many NFL seasons. And then there's his annual will-I-retire-maybe-I-won't tune. Sheesh. You Cheeseheads can keep Favre, and enjoy him for all he's worth.

Minnesota Vikings
By winning your last two games (which shan't happen because you're coming to FedEx Field to play the Skins), you can slip right into the playoffs and, I predict, make some noise. Hats off to Daunte "Where's My Soup Contract?" Culpepper for being the glue in this season of rotating offensive players. 8-5 is pretty good for losing Mr. I Make It Look Easy, Randy Moss, for a couple games and starting multiple running backs throughout the year. Vikings fans should be pleased with the work Coach Mike Tice has done in keeping this ship afloat and competitve.

Detroit Lions
What happened here? Remember when the Lions broke their consecutive road-losing streak, then started winning at home too? Things went south quickly, but I really like the combination of Harrington/Roy Williams/Kevin Jones/Hakim. Pick up some defense (and a long snapper) and you should be in the thick of a division title chase next year.

Chicago Bears
I hear Ryan Leaf is still available if you're still looking for a quarterback next year. And you should be.

Hotlanta Falcons
Where would this team be without Michael Vick? 4-10 is my guess. This guy single-handedly willed his team to win Saturday against the Panthers with a gutsy 4th and goal touchdown scramble. Sure he's erratic, and inexplicably vulnerable to fast pass rushes, but there's nobody more dangerous in the clutch than Mr. Nike. Just ask last year's Packers. Enjoy him while he's healthy, Falcon fans.

(North) Carolina Panthers
Even if you don't make the playoffs, what resolve you've shown in overcoming injuries to nearly every playmaker on offense. The loss of Steve Smith, Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster, and even Brad Hoover means that you've had to rely on who-dats like Nick Goings and behind your offensive line he has run like a maniac. Hats off to Jake "Pour Homme" Delhomme, Julius Peppers and the entire coaching staff for pulling off an improbable playoff run after looking dead in the water in early October.

N'awlins Saints
Whaddaya know, the Saints aren't folding in December! They've won their last two and with the ever dangerous Joe Horn healthy, well, anything's possible. We haven't seen Saints fans break out the paper bags in, what, two years now. That's plenty to be thankful for.

TB Buc'neers
Tampa fans should rejoice that their defense, splintered after winning a Super Bowl, is still to be feared. And that those orange pants will never see the light of day again.

The Entire NFC West (Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona, San Francisco)
Shame on all of you. I refuse to send fans of these slumping, ne'er-do-well franchises holiday wishes. The brass ring of a division champion is sitting there, and everyone's eyeing it warily, like the gathering of the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. The Owens-less 49ers were expected to stink it up this year, but the rest of you have no excuse for half-stepping. Weren't the Seahawks an early AFC favorite? How can Arizona still be alive in this division? Marshall Faulk, I have loved you like a brother, defending your presence on my fantasy team for more than a year now. After this year, I'm cutting the cord. Fly, my son, fly.

New England Patriots
We'll just assume Monday's loss to Miami was a mulligan. But know this, Pats fans, if the celebrated Tom Brady has a subpar day (three interceptions should qualify) in January, things could get ugly. You all should send Corey Dillon holiday hams for adding a dimension to the Champions that should propel them to another Super Bowl appearance.

State of New York Football J-E-T-S
I like this team, starting with coach Herman Edwards. Jets fans can celebrate "Supernatural" Santana Moss' solid play, Curtis Martin's non-stop procution, and the return of Chad Pennington. They may not have the defense to hold off the Steelers, Colts, or Patriots later this year, but this team is a perennial favorite to make the post season. That's good coaching. Those Quincy Carter games are quickly fading into memory.

Buffalo Billiards
Panthers aside, is there any team who has risen from the dust like Buffalo? Who the #$#% is Lee Evans (and why is he helping my brother's fantasy team become a powerhouse)? This team scored in all phases against Cincinnati, but it's their offense which deserves the love. They've scored 17 touchdowns in their last five games. I think that's more than Washington has scored all year.

Miami Dolphins
There's good news for Dolfans: your boys fought hard Monday, though their season ended during the summer months. By the way, those orange uniforms make you look like little highlighters.

Pittsburgh Men o' Steel
Your holiday gift is the well-praised Ben Roethlisberger. But you knew that. And you also know that he's responsible, in large part, for the franchise-best record and winning streak. In my estimation, the Steelers are the most balanced team in the league, able to put up just enough to win against virtually anyone. Can't wait for the Pittsburgh/New England AFC Championship game!

Ballmer Ravines
Y'all knew you had no chance of winning against Peyton Sunday night, right? Motormouth Billlick had you guys playing your hearts out, but it was clear that Manning and company were not to be denied. They looked like the superior team...for now. Come next year, when Kyle "Where's Heap?" Boller continues his maturation, you'll ascend to the top of the AFC. Provided that Jailbait Lewis keeps his nose clean. Ravens fans should look forward to Ed Reed and company needing to do less scoring next year. You might want to pick up a decent wide receiver in your spare time. And yes, I'm being sarcastic.

Cincinnati Bengals
Fans of the Halloween Heroes should rejoice that Marvin Lewis decided to become your head coach. Doomsayers were shocked last year when you went 8-8; they suggested the return of the "Bungles" earlier this year when Lewis' starter, Carson "Tonight Show" Palmer, struggled. But now his decision seems more sane, and, perhaps, visionary. You guys will continue to improve under Marvin; your only regret should be that you're in the same division as the Ravens and Steelers.

Cleveland Doo-doo Browns
No, I'm not trying to offend Browns fans. I'm referencing that local club hit from my college days by one-CD wonder 2 Hyped Brothers And A Dog. Now that was back when people actually danced at parties, instead of standing around mean-mugging and drinking, back before every R&B song had a hot-rapper-of-the-moment mumbling in it, back when there were 24 variations of the Running Man dance. Those were good days. The days of the high-top fade, Africa medallions and Cross Colours overalls. The good days for Cleveland fans were when a healthy Jeff Garcia was at the helm. (Did I bring that back to focus?)

Indianapolis Mannings
Were you like me, Sunday night? Were you absolutely sick of how frequently ESPN reminded us that Peyton was two--no!, make it one touchdown!--away from tying Dan Marino? Just as Baltimore knew they weren't going to win that game, Indy knew Manning probably wouldn't tie or break the record that night. And poo on you Colts fans for your bloodlusty booing of the Colts' sportsmanship by taking a two game-ending knees. No gifts for you. Just for that, you're going to lose earlier than you think in the playoffs.

Jax'ville Jaguars
The Jacksonville faithful better enjoy Byron Leftwich, who's working hard to become the next NFL Bionic Man. Sunday versus the Pack he got belted on nearly every passing play, making him an expert in the consistency and flavor of Lambeau Field. But the kid kept getting up, kept throwing, kept playing through pain. Big ups, man, big ups.

The Texas Toast of Houston
I know it seems like I'm saying most teams have a bright future, but this season showed Texan fans that David Carr, Andre Johnson, and Dominick Davis are the real deal and if supported by a decent defense can be competitive for years to come. They unfortunately suffer from the Bengals Disease: playing in a ultra-tough division.

Tennessee Titans
Is Billy Volek the answer? I dunno, but he's filled in nicely in the last couple of weeks, credit due also to wide receiver Drew Bennett (who I foolishly chose not to pick up off of the waiver wires). If McNair decides to retire, it will be a sad end to the career of one of the NFL's true Iron Men.

San Diego SuperChargers
Hats off to the Coach of the Year, Marty Schottenheimer. This team won four games last year. Now they're 10-3. You may recall from archive Redskin Reviews that Marty was drummed out of Washington after going 8-8 in a season where the team began 0-5 and then won five in a row. The Redskins haven't looked like that since. I tell you this: if MartyBall was still played here, Stephen Davis would still be here and we'd be in better shape. Charger fans must be euphoric. And no, I am not jealous.

Denver Broncos
I salute you for again proving that you could probably put Lando Calrissian in the backfield and he'd get three 100 yard games. Your offensive line and coaches are to be celebrated. One other note: anyone still agreeing with Sports Illustrated's Peter King that Jake Plummer will be league MVP? Didn't think so.

Kansas City Chefs
I love that Snickers commercial where the groundskeeper misspells the team name. Though KC isn't near a complete team, their ability to score is unmatched. No Priest? Stick in Larry Johnson and keep rolling. And ex-Redskin Trent "Money" Green has quietly made a name for himself as a solid quarterback. Even Dante "Inferno" Hall is returning to gameplan-against-him form.

Oakland Raiders
Anybody seen Warren Sapp? Did he vaporize or what this year? How does someone that large become invisible, anyway? Citizens of the Black Hole should be thankful that Kerry Collins has found his form. No, your team isn't any good (and Charles Woodson isn't helping), but Collins as starting quarterback is beginning to make sense. He at least makes the games interesting.

Happy Holidays to (almost) all the fans from everyone here at the Review. That's um, me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Grey Cup 2006 (Collector's Edition)

This is big news. And it stinks.

December 13, 2004: 7:14 PM EST
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. said Monday it had signed an exclusive agreement with the National Football League and the marketing arm of its players' union, giving EA the sole rights to put NFL players, stadiums and teams in its games.

What does this mean, and why doth it smell most foul? This deal says that EA Sports will be the only company making football games for any system, anywhere, with real NFL images/players/stadiums. Even the colors of the teams are locked up in EA's computer pallettes. Sure, EA's competitors, currently the NFL2K series by Sega/Take Two, can make a football game next year. To this point they've bitten hard into EA Sports' command of the video game football world. Now their future is dim. Would you want to play using the Maryland Warpath versus the Texas SteerRiders or Redskins versus Cowboys? What fun is there in controlling BlackBird linebacker #52 when you can run with the Ravens' Ray Lewis?

Back before video games were big business, sports video games could be successful products using imaginary teams and players whose positions and numbers resembled the real thing. I loved the original Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) just as much as the later NFL-Property'd Super Tecmo Bowl. SNK put out Baseball Stars on the NES that didn't have Major League Baseball support but was insanely addictive. This game didn't even pretend to be based in real players--there was an all-woman team in the league! And we certainly can't forget one of the greatest hockey games ever, the thumb-bruiser Blades of Steel. Again, imaginary names, teams, and venues. But it played like a charm and you (OK, I) didn't care who you were controlling as long as the game was fun.

Sadly, those days are now behind us. Games existed without name-brand competitors. Today, a great part of the marketing of video games comes from their ability to accurately reflect more than just the real game of football. It is the realism of player faces, bodies, and likenesses that take 21st century games to levels only dreamed of back in the 80s. NFL2KWhatever will be hard pressed to market a new game with no-names, even if you can somehow download user-created rosters. Maybe they can corner the market on Arena Football, or the Canadian Football League. Anyone looking forward to a digitized Chris Berman showing halftime highlights of the Ottowa Renegades? Me neither.

I like Madden football a lot; in fact, it's what I have exclusively bought and played since Tecmo Bowl. And my first reaction to the NFL/EA monopoly was to boycott EA products for the five year term of the contract. Upon further reflection, it's hard to fault Electronic Arts because what they did was, honestly, good business. They've likely crushed their competition (who had actually forced them to lower the price on Madden by offering NFL2K5 2 1/2 times cheaper) and has secured a future profit on those same rights if it chooses to sell once the contract nears its end.

EA may issue a statement stating that their new monopoly is good for gaming because they can now focus less on competing and more on innovating (hopefully that includes fixing the "formation shift" bug). We may see an improvement in gameplay and presentation. Madden can now become all that they've dreamed it to be. To that I say...yeah, true. But I proffer the following fear, which is taught in any Business 101 class:

Most economists agree that under perfect competition, firms produce quantities more in line with societies needs, and at the least costly method. Therefore, we can conclude that monopolies adversely affect the market while the consumer is best served under perfect competition...monopolies artificially limit supply in order to raise prices. This is always the case when observing a typical supply and demand relationship. They also create a burden on society by misallocating resources. Monopolies are also less efficient due to the fact that there is no competition to drive them to operate at lower costs. Monopolies also suppress innovation and technology in their market. This is because they do not wish others to create cheaper and/or better products.

So get ready, football fans, for Madden 2006 to return to $50; I wouldn't be surprised if Madden 2007, on the PlayStation 3, retails for $60. And we can thank the money-grubbers in the NFL's front office.

Why the NFL would sell their rights as such escapes me. Who better than they to recognize that competition is better for consumers? Having a dominant team like the Patriots was fun for 20 games or so; but a whole lot of football fans cheered when they were toppled by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the league has an unthinkable three teams with one loss, and the playoffs look to be one of the most exciting Clash of the Titans in recent memory. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has preached parity as being good for the league. Now his franchise has hypocritically shafted fans in the pursuit of big dollars. Sad.

Don't want to keep giving EA your hard-earned money? Some turn to HD Loader. Not that I would endorse such a thing. Ahem.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Week 14: Haven't I Seen This Before?

Washington 14, Philadelphia 17

Man, what a tough loss for Washington Sunday night. The Redskins defense certainly appeared up to task, bending on occasion but standing strong enough to put the offense in position to win a very winnable game. Unfortunately, offensive miscues and general ineffectiveness dashed the hopes of Skins fans. When we needed a big play, we came up short.

The sad thing is that the above paragraph surmises nearly any of this season's losses. Last night was deja vu all over again, right down to the puzzling play calling, poor clock management, and abandonment of the run in a tight contest. It appeared after last week's humbling of Los Gigantes that the Redskins had begun to turn a significant corner, with all three team phases operating beautifully in concert. Fans finally felt that the real dawn of Joe Gibbs' return had begun. Turns out that New York just stinks and Washington is still plagued with the same errors from September.

To wit: Washington had over 120 yards of penalties. Larry Sellers committed three personal foul calls, looking around incredulously afterward, as if he didn't know there was an NFL rule about hitting after the play and grabbing face masks. Pharaoh Ramsey burned timeouts and committed delay of game penalties because he didn't get plays in from the sidelines or took too long getting those plays communicated to the offense. The Redskins offense again failed to convert short third downs against a better than average defense.

There were bright sides to this game. Puntmeister Tom Tupa continues his excellent season. His line drive kicks pinned the Egos deep in their territory on a few occasions, making the defense's job easier. Ladell Betts and the special teams set a great tone for the game by returning the opening kickoff to the Philly 14 yard line. With the accompanying penalty, Portis had 7 yards to go for his first touchdown. I know I'm usually hard on Laveranues Coles (and usually he deserves it), but Sunday he manned-up and caught 12 passes for 100 yards, no drops. He took some hard shots from the Eagles linebackers and d-backs but showed no signs of Todd Pinkston's Disease. My man Chris Cooley (Chris Cooley!) played solid, though glory slipped from his fingertips in the form of a sure touchdown late in the game. Nonetheless, Cooley plays hard and has established himself as a favorite target of Ramsey. Sean Taylor is beginning to look like a serious, hard-hitting playmaker, and displayed some controlled aggression against T.O. and Eagles receivers.

For your dollar this was some well-played, hard-hitting, NFC East football on display. Shawn Springs certainly is fortunate to remember his own address after taking a wicked--but clean--blindside block. Eagles linemen were dropping to the ground like someone released sarin. I did suspect, though, that Donovan McNizzle and Terrell Owens weren't too concerned about the outcome of this contest. The Egos had wrapped up a first-round bye earlier in the day, thanks to Atlanta's victory. Perhaps some of their offensive effort may have been restrained. Either way, Sunday Philadelphia learned that they'd best not get too cocky heading into the postseason. They are a beatable team.

This weeks' Hang Your Head Award is distributed to every doofus on offense who committed a penalty. Yes, that's broad and unfair. But with the Redskins playing short-gain plays in this very close game, every five or ten yard loss due to false start or stupid holding penalty presented near-insurmountable challenges. Remember that John Hall missed a field goal from 48 yards; penalties pushed Washington back from a higher-percentage attempt. This offense just ain't good enough to pick up 30 yards on a whim; it felt like our biggest gains were more desperation than calculation.

Coach Gibbs is now assured a losing season. If there be happiness for His Joeness (and boy did he look deflated in his post-game conference), it is in the knowledge that with only minor tweaking and an offseason of practice, the Redskins offense should rise to a more competitive level with the defense. Heck, we might even challenge for the NFC East title. Maybe. Let's shoot for scoring 20 points per game first.

OFFENSE: C+ (What a horrible, horrible pass Ramsey chose to throw into near triple coverage to seal the loss. Ugly. Craptacular. Like Kyle Boller before he became a man.)
DEFENSE: A- (This was tough to grade. Our boys got burned deep more than once, but tightened up and limited a very potent offense. Philly looked pitiful offensively in the second half but really didn't need to play too hard, considering how bumbling the Redskin offense was. But I'll rank 'em high because they made McNabb look like his former self, skipping passes, throwing low, and looking human again.)
COACHES: C (Have we learned nothing from the time management issues earlier this year? Hmm?)

The Festivus Maximus playoffs begin next week, and the Young Avengers look like they'll slide in with either a 9-5 or 8-6 record. Depends on what waiverman running back Larry Johnson will do for Kansas City tonight. And, um, what the playoff requirements are. (What's up, Commish?) The Avengers are down by 11 to the risin' Phoenixes. Michael Vick, I am sick of your wackness. My wide receivers--three people--put up a total of 8 points. My tight end, Chris Cooley, nearly bested them all by himself, adding 7 points. Egad. I secretly hoped pre-game that Terrell Owens would catch a touchdown against Washington; I caught myself, reminded of the first rule of Fantasy Football: never root against your real team.

The Skins face the SanFranciso 49ers, a team who haven't beaten anyone except the Arizona Cardinals. There is no way Washington should lose this game. In fact, if you're playing fantasy football, I'd run Coles, Portis, Cooley and Ramsey and watch the points roll in. I hate torturing myself with the thought that this game could have been an easy gateway to the playoffs, had Washington beaten the teams they should have beaten early. Alas.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Week 13: Finally!

Washington 31, New York Giants 7

It's been a long time comin', but the Redskins put together their most complete, dominating performance of the season on Sunday, turning the Giants into Lilliputians. We haven't seen this kind of football since week one versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It felt euphoric then, in the newness of the season, but Sunday it felt like a step into positivity. This wasn't lost on Coach Joe "Man Under Fire" Gibbs, who could only utter "Finally!" in his post-game interview with Sonnny Jurgensen. He and all 90,000 fans knew that what we witnessed Sunday was a full demonstration of the power of Redskins Football.

It is the power running, accented by a calculated passing attack, that have defined Redskins game plans for the Gibbs era. It works--and has worked--for multiple running backs and quarterbacks from Doug Williams to Earnest Byner to John Riggins to Mark Rypien. How appropriate that the Redskins front office featured a picture of injured tackle Jon Jansen on fans' tickets for this game. It was the offensive line who simply owned the Giants yesterday, allowing Clinton Portis to have his most complete day (31 rushes for 148 yards, three receptions for 14 yards, two touchdowns, no fumbles). When Mr. President needed a breather, Ladell Betts got loose for 64 additional yards on 11 rushes. Conventional football wisdom says that if you run the ball well, you own the clock. Boy, did we: 40:29 to the Giants' 19:31. Washington ran 30% more plays than New York.

Patrick "Pharaoh" Ramsey had the best day of his career under this scheme, completing 19 of 22 passes for 174 yards and three--that's right, three--touchdowns. Credit due again to the offensive line who allowed but one sack and gave Ramsey enough time to make some great throws. He even hit eight different receivers. Perhaps the most suprising kudos is that none of those receivers dropped a pass! Aside from one questionable throw into coverage on 3rd and 3 in the middle of the 3rd quarter, Ramsey looked sharp, comfortable, and even a little daring. His long touchdown to Chris Cooley (Chris Cooley!) was a textbook no-no; Ramsey scrambled eight yards to the right off of a play fake and found his tight end lightly covered going left. The Pharaoh threw across his body and across the field...perfect pass and Cooley was off to the races. (The points from Washington, and my fantasy team, were removed because of a holding penalty. Fudge.)

I noted during the game that the offense was so uncharacteristically efficient that when facing 1st and 20 and 2nd and 20 we still converted those drives into points. In previous games, one holding penalty would guarantee a punt. On Sunday, three of our touchdown drives were over 70 yards, and we began the game with a 93 yarder. That is how you demoralize a defense from the outset.

It's easy to focus on the offense because, frankly, they've stunk like fresh rabbit poop. (Don't ask me how I know this.) But let's not forget that the second-ranked defense, led by linebacker Antonio Pierce, pitched a shutout of the suddenly-feeble Giants offense. Jeremy "Low Voltage" Shockey was limited to two catches, disappointing the Big Blue faithful who arrived en masse wearing his number. Tiki Barber was ineffective, posting only 38 yards on 15 carries and almost losing a fumble. (That's the Tiki I know and love.) Ron Dayne only showed up for one catch and, um, one special teams tackle. Attaboy. Eli "Boy Wonder" Manning only proved that he still has some learning still to do. Apart from one well-placed 48 yard bomb to Amani Toomer, Eli looked mediocre, particularly in the face of blitzes by rookie phenom Sean Taylor. Excellent work today, Gregg Williams. Your boys finally got to work to keep a lead, rather than hope to create one.

What made this near-perfect game all the more special was that it was won on my birthday. Kinda felt like Gibbs and company waited three months to open this gift of a game. (Note to Gibbs: Don't do that again. I'd gladly trade this win for a loss, but an 8-4 record.) I shared this game with my good friend D-Trux, a loyal Giants fan. Poor guy. Until kickoff, this game was close. To his credit, he stood firm in the face of continuous ribbing by every Redskin fan as we made our way to our seats. Even the stadium staff pretended to throw him over a balcony. Trux's final review of the game: "This is a travesty and a shamocracy!" Shamocracy indeed.


OFFENSE: A+ (I pled with Gibbs last week to run the ball. Another 100 yard day for Portis, another win. The truth is--and I know it's water under the bridge--that if Washington had attempted this same game plan every week between weeks 2 and 12, we'd be knocking on Philly's door for NFC East supremacy and guaranteed an NFC wild card spot.)


Sp. TEAMS: B (I won't say you all should Hang Your Head, but your lapse may have prevented this game from going into the archives of great Gibbs wins.)

COACHES: A+ (Ain't it great when you draw up a plan and it goes exactly as you wanted?)

The Young Avengers opened up a fresh can of Shut-Yo-Mouth this week on the hapless BestMan squad, 138-65. Most weeks, it's my Steelers defense and Mike Vick putting up 2/3 of my points. This week, they each posted poor numbers, earning me only 10 fantasy points. The other 128 came most from T.O. (Cannot. Be. Stopped.), Brandon "I Love Peyton" Stokely, Mike Vanderjiggy, and free agent pickup Ravens back Chester Taylor. With the playoffs right around the corner, the Avengers appear to have secured a post-season place. My competitors, Roy's Boys and D-Trux's Juggernauts, look like they'll win too. Once I figure out the cryptic playoff requirements, I'll post whether we get in.

The Egos fly into Maryland for ESPN Sunday Night Football. What a difference a week makes. After the Pittsburgh snore-fest, I would have had serious doubts that Washington could keep up with McNabb and the boys, much less win. Now? Well...I dunno. I'll look at how Philly performed and post my thoughts later. Should be a good game, and the FedEx Field staff informed us that security at the stadium will be doubled. Oh yeah. Just for fun, I'll announce a Redskins win, 20-17.