Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week Twelve: The Look of Flub

Washington 24, Philadelphia 27

The 2009 Redskins find themselves at a dismal, we're-playing-for-pride-and-paychecks 3-8. For the second consecutive week, the Redskins faced a division opponent, held that team's offense in check for three quarters, began to smell a win...and then flubbed the finish. They once again began to take on the persona of a competent and competitive team; but when the game's most deciding moments loomed, they yielded big plays on defense and failed to make big plays on offense. When the Redskins again had opportunities to aggressively attempt to distance their lead, the coaches opted instead to protect rather than conquer.

Nonetheless, this was Washington's most complete, best team performance of the season. The good news is that the Redskins succeeded in holding ground against a longtime rival while fielding a team of third stringers and league-minimum salary makers. And though journeyman-now-starter tackle Levi Jones was beaten like a night burglar by Eagles defensive end Trent Cole for much of the contest, quarterback Jason Campbell was only sacked once. The offense had, at one point, completed eight of their eleven third downs and chewed up clock with a nine play scoring drive. The play calling from Sherman "Sherm In the Box " Lewis actually resembled a smart, effective attack that protected Campbell with shotgun sets. The Redskins' fourth-ranked defense provided another stellar three quarters of a game performance, which combined with Eagles coach Andy Reid's questionable game plan, placed the Redskins in a solid position to win.

But oy vey, these be the 2009 Redskins. When cornerback Justin Tryon intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass early in the fourth quarter, placing the Redskins' offense near the opponent's 20 yard line, the team went limp, never attempting a pass in the end zone. They settled for a field goal, never got anywhere near the end zone again and--surprise!--those missed points were the difference in the game. Not much later, the defense needed to nurse an eight point lead in the fourth quarter but gave up a ten play, 90-yard touchdown drive. And then a two point conversion. Forty-six yards of that drive came on just one play, a pass to wide receiver Jason Avant who bounced off of an unnecessary shoulder tackle from safety Laron "Highlight Stick" Landry and rumbled forward for a nice chunk of those yards. The secondary had a repeat performance from Dallas, proving vulnerable in man coverage and at the worst possible times.

FOX color commentator Daryl Johnston exalted the Redskins at halftime of Sunday's game against the Eagles, saying "When you look at the performance in the last two and half games, these Redskins don't look like a 3-7 team."

Actually, Mr. Johnston, the Redskins look precisely like a team that has won just three games. Teams at or near .500, like the Titans, Ravens, and 49ers, give their fans a confidence that their team has the playmakers to mount a big comeback against a division opponent with a two minute drive. Or simply wallop an opponent so that the game is over before the fourth quarter.

But the Redskins? They are in the summer school of Fan Confidence Building, possessing the unique power to play up or down to their opponent but usually ending up defeated. Did any of the Washington faithful really think Campbell would lead this team into field goal range from their own 15 yard line with 1:44 left and no timeouts?

At least the 2009 Redskins haven't gotten blown out. Then again, the New Orleans Saints and their league-leading offense come to town next week.

OFFENSE: B-. Campbell's continued audition for 2010 free agency is showing signs of improvement, even if he still stares down his intended receivers too often.
DEFENSE: C-. At this point, even slow-motion President Obama could get open deep on the Redskins' secondary. Kudos for outstanding work by Chris Wilson, Andre Carter and the defensive line for pressuring McNabb most of the game without $100 million man Albert Haynesworth sucking up their oxygen.
Sp. TEAMS: C. They had the opportunity to put the offense in position to win with a good run back before Washington's last drive. Instead: first and ten at the fifteen.
C. For the record, Pittsburgh's third string quarterback, who'd only thrown one NFL pass, started against the Baltimore Ravens defense on Sunday night and attempted more deep passes than Jason Campbell.
OWNERSHIP: D. Better than an F, and that's only due to the Cyber Monday specials at the store.

New Orleans visits FedEx Field, averaging just over 420 offensive yards per game. I can't do that in a Madden franchise season unless I adjust the CPU difficulty from All Pro to Pro. Fortunately, the Saints' defense allows an mediocre 330 yards per game. Will the Redskins' resistible force triumph over the Saints' movable object? Of course not. But the entertainment level should be sky-high. Get your fantasy players ready. Skins win (and this is pure imagination), 21-20.

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