I realize that this has been a very long, intense five or six days for you. I bet you've been up late every night this week, watching video and throwing down 40 ounce Ovaltines. Who wouldn't blame you if you haven't gotten but a few hours of sleep; it's Beat Dallas Week and nothing would make our Sunday--no, our season--like sweeping our most hated of rivals. You remember that it's only happened three times in, oh, the last 91 attempts. Even better if we can add a not-so-gentle shove to Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells outside the playoff picture.
Forgive me in advance for stepping out of journalistic character, but I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW HUGE THIS GAME IS!!! GREAT ALLEN'S GHOST, WE HAVEN'T HAD A GAME THIS BIG SINCE, LIKE, SUPER BOWL XXVI!! DID YOU KNOW IF WE WIN AND THE CHIEFS WIN, WE CAN PLAY FOR THE NFC EAST TITLE NEXT WEEK?!? I'VE GOT GOOSEBUMPS!!! GO SKINS!! ...BRAVES ON THE WARPAAAATH...!!!
That said, permit me, if you would, to give you a suggestion or three on how to make Sunday end in your favor. I concede that my few years of sports writing are nothing compared to your decades of leadership and success. I won't insult your intelligence and suggest the usual drivel like "don't turn the ball over" or "control the time of possession" or even "slip Hennessy in their Gatorade." You already know to do those, and I trust that you've already planned to accomplish them all.
I also salute you as a man of faith. So call it strategy, call it a game plan, call it a prayer request list; just make sure you do the following and I'll bet my Dad's 1987 "Doug Williams- A Touch of Class" t-shirt that we win.
1. Pray for Mark Brunell. Though the Redskins have won in fairly decisive fashion against the Rams and Cardinals, Brunell hasn't looked like the same player who was an early front runner in the Career Resurrection category of the ESPYs. In fact, his numbers have been low since that poorly-officiated Tampa Bay game. (Alstott was down.) He's had only three interceptions in those four games, but the concern is that in the same period he has a pitiful two touchdowns.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Clinton Portis is the key to offensive success on Sunday. And it's true that he and Rock Cartwright's play in the last must-win games was pivotal. But the preseason predictions for Washington were true to this degree: the play of the quarterback steers the course of this team.
I'm certain the images are burned in your memory (they are in mine), but in the Redskins' triumphant win over Dallas in September, it was Brunell's 25-yard scramble on 3rd and 27 that saved the comeback opportunity. Then Mark mustered all of his strength and launched two accurate touchdowns to Moss. All that after he was battered by Roy Williams for 55 minutes. We needed Mark to look the impossible in the face and not blink. He did so and with some late help from the defense, Washington revived a rivalry. So in your quiet time, please remember Mark.
2. Keep your head to the sky. The worse our weather, the better your chance to win. Cold, damp, miserable weather means that Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, and the rest of the Dirtbags dictate the game's tempo. And from what they've shown recently, they're more than up to the challenge. What a treat to see Redskins Football, the kind we used to play back in the '70s and '80s where the fourth quarter was just a slow death for opponents, used with intent to beat Dallas. We have the tools to do exactly that, and the weather sure would help. I'm sure you'd take the Portis/Cartwright combination over the Julius Jones/Marion Barber threat, right?
Out of their last four games, the Cowchips have played three at home in the comfortable temperatures of Texas Stadium. 'Round here we just had a snow and ice storm, with temps dipping well below 30, and in some places as low as the teens. As of Friday, the predictions for Sunday are for a high of 37, a low of--and here's where the advantage comes in--22 degrees. I suspect we'll be a lot closer to 22 than 37 come 4:15PM. You can't control the weather, but you do control how you prepare for it. Make sure the training staff outfit our boys with the very best footwear possible. Those heat-loving Cowchips will be slipping and dropping balls right before your eyes.
3. Hit Bledsoe. Hard. It's OK to hurt him, if you like. A month ago I made an argument, opposed with some fervor by Dallas fans, that Brunell was not only a better overall quarterback than Dallas' Drew Bledsoe, but more valuable because of fewer mistakes and playmaking ability. At this point, it's a bit of a toss up. Bledsoe's home performance last week probably tilts the advantage his way, but let's be real here: they were playing the Chiefs, whom we would have put 35 points on if we had stopped fumbling.
Bledsoe ain't bad at the play action and can make a team pay if he's given time by going deep to Terry "Don't Call Me Aaron" Glenn or mid-range to Meshawn--I'm sorry, Keyshawn--Johnson. But his receivers can quickly get open if Gregg Williams sends the corners or linebackers. So yes, what I'm saying is that the front four, led by Cornelius Griffin, must sack Bledsoe early and often. Or at least make him run out of the pocket. You know he'd prefer to stand around like an electronic football piece. Once out from his protection, somebody in burgundy needs to lay the lumber. Legally. Ahem.
And watch out for that flea-flicker. I dunno how it keeps working against teams, but they love digging out that play for touchdowns.
4. Support Homogeneousness. I'm not talkin' orientation here. I mean keep any pro-Dallas people out of FedEx Field. That's right. If security sees anyone wearing silver and blue, have them led to "special seating" area near the rear dumpsters. I know that's next to impossible--I've been to Redskins/Cowchip games and I have been shocked at how many Washington fans give up their seats to the Big D faithful. It's revolting. But that was back when the Skins were consistently being beaten like the family mule. Times have changed, and the 12th Man needs to show support for their team like never before.
After that great Monday Night Football win, I wondered how many Redskins fans would have stayed to the very end of that game, when with five minutes left their team looked dead in the water. How many turned off their TVs and missed Redskins history in the making? See, your team may not win every game, Joe, but those games ain't over 'til Tony Siragusa sings. If you know what I mean. So come what may for three quarters, you need the Redskins faithful to be, well, faithful. And loud. Very, very loud.
While you're at it, make sure that we especially don't see these people:
Well, Crazy Ray can show up since I hear he's fallen on tough times. Just as long as he leaves that horse-on-a-stick at home.
There's plenty more of advice to give, Coach. You know about the long injury list, including most of the people paid to play in the secondary. I'm sure you're aware that the word on the street is that we probably won't win and even if we do, Washington will have to play its best football of the year to make it past the Giants and Eagles later. We'll let tomorrow take care of itself.
For now, take a quick nap, take a deep breath, think of it as another game to plan for. Even if it's considered the greatest NFL rivalry of all time. No pressure. Go Skins!
Still waiting on that interview,