Monday, September 18, 2006

Dead In Dallas

Let the finger pointing begin.

As the conclusion Sunday night's Debacle in Dallas became clear, Al Michaels and John Madden began the inevitable "what's the problem here?" analysis of the 2006 Washington Redskins. Al asked whether the team's lethargic performance was due to conservative play calling, or a failure to pressure Drew "The Statue" Bledsoe, or just the lack of their feature running back. (Chris Collinsworth, one my personal favorite analysts, termed this absence "ClintonPortislessness." You gotta love Chris.) Sir John Madden pontificated that Washington inexplicably didn't get the ball to its playmakers--Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and Antwaan Randle-El--until the game was practically over. The EA Sports pitchman took his criticism a step further, claiming that Washington had the wrong personnel on offense. Ouch. He quickly clarified that he wasn't talking about *everyone* on offense. Just the quarterback.

On this Monday morning, with the loss' wound still fresh, it's easy to jump on the BenchMark (c) bandwagon and throw Brunell under the wheels. But I won't. Completely. In fact, I'll agree with nearly everything yesterday's broadcasters offered. Except that silliness about the wrong personnel.

The truth is that last night's Redskins played uninspired, ineffective, embarassing football indicative of their current position at the bottom of the NFC East. As I saw it, the Redskins were outcoached and outplayed. In that order. Offensive coach Al Saunders' gameplan, apparently, was to rely on the running backs to get the majority of the touches. Moss, Cooley, Randle-El, and wideout Brandon Lloyd each had *one catch* through the first three quarters. There were less than 100 yards of forward passing by that same point. By contrast, Peyton Manning threw for 100 yards while eating breakfast Sunday morning. By Theismann's perm, that's inexcusable. And when receivers were open, Brunell wasn't accurate; his only deep throw (garbage time excepted) was a Kyle Boller Hail Mary Special, easily intercepted by Roy Williams in the red zone.

Sure, the team misses Portis. But is this offense that uncreative without him? The Skins have one trick play in the 700-page playbook, and we saw it twice: the end around/fake end around. Total yards gained: none. Where were the screen passes to Moss to beat the constant blitzing? How about a Randle-El option pass? Did Saunders really think that the Dallas defense would bite on a draw play when Washington hadn't completed a pass for 20 yards to a wide receiver?

But hey, maybe the offense's plan was to rely on the defense. Good idea, except that defensive coach Gregg Williams' plan was to (1) give Bledsoe until four Mississippi to pass, (2) not worry about any offenive player not named "Terrell" and (3) play with reckless, penalty-producing abandon. That's the best I've come up with, because the Cowchips looked virtually unstoppable for much of the game. The fans knew it, too: they lustily booed when yet another first half drive ended with an open receiver dropping a pass. To their credit, the Redskins tackled well and were aggressive. But that was *after* the third down completion.

Two weeks into the season, Brunell's not looking like a 16-game starter. Moss isn't being given the opportunity to shine. The defensive line doesn't dictate. The secondary is vulnerable in its ShawnSpringslessness. But it's not time to panic. For now, some caution and concern are in order.
You push the Panic Button when you lose to the Houston Texans.

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