Monday, December 14, 2009

Week Fourteen: Accentuate the Positive

Washington 34, Oakland 13

Resist the urge.

Yes, we will resist the urge: say that the Redskins were supposed to win a game against a franchise so bad that fans pooled their money-during a recession!-to publicly cry out to their team's ownership. roll our eyes when we hear the final score (because who watches the Redskins anymore, right?) and say "well, it's about [flip-flarn-filthin'] time." say that after watching the Eagles and Giants produce nearly 900 yards of offense Sunday night, the Redskins look more like an annual distraction than a contender in the NFC East. lament that Washington could easily be in playoff contention if they had simply performed as advertised, splitting wins in their division and beating the teams they were more talented than. begin to fear the Worst Case Scenario: the Redskins win just enough games to fool owner Snydely Whiplash into forgetting how hideously disastrous this season really has been.

As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, redefine success. A Redskins final score finally looked like it was supposed to. We will therefore choose to stay positive, and celebrate Washington's outstanding defensive play, which lived up to its top-ten status by limiting the Raiders to 62 rushing yards, a 33% third down conversion rate, and dropping Oakland's quarterbacks a whopping eight times. (And no, we shan't mention that Laron "Hit Stick" Landry was still beaten in coverage multiple times for long gains.) We choose to applaud rookie kicker Graham Gano (hometown: Arbroath, Scotland!) for nailing two 40-plus field goals and all four of his extra point kicks in his Redskins debut. And Jason Campbell's maturity does indeed seem to be continuing as I predicted last week, finishing the day with zero interceptions and some smart choices to extend drives.

One negative aside: the final score shows a shellacking of the Raiders, but the win wasn't exactly entertaining. Until nearly the start of the fourth quarter, I considered naming this week's review "Week Fourteen: I Watch Washington (So You Don't Have To)." It was far from sparkling football. The score was 17-13, Oakland was being ineptly led by bench warmer Jamarcus Russell into nothingness, Jason Campbell was getting up slow again after another knockdown from a free-running defender, the referees were calling blatantly incorrect penalties, and FOX commentator Dick Stockton kept calling linebacker Brian Orakpo "Ryan." If I was able to see the game at home, I would've had my recording of Jermaine and the rest of the Jackson 5's money maker-excuse me, reality show-playing with the Raiders and Redskins in the small picture in picture.

There were some grumblings, post-game, that this game shared echoes of the Redskins' last win, a 27-17 knockout of Denver in that the level of opponent quality severely dropped with the insertion of the backup quarterback. And, sure, it's true that Jamarcus Russell's 10 completions for 74 yards and an interception don't begin to show how much he handcuffed an already yardage-challenged offense. And, OK, it's also true that Oakland is coached by a man who has no problem attempting ridiculous 66-yard field goals. In the rain. But Washington's defense played stout from beginning to end, and their pressure on pass plays was relentless enough that the Raiders could have put anyone back there and the Skins would have dominated them. As long as their first name was Matt and the last is Stafford or Cassel.

And besides, we're staying positive here.

OFFENSE: B. Can you imagine Fred Davis and a healthy Chris Cooley running routes inside the red zone? With a decent offensive line to protect [insert quarterback here], the Redskins have serious air attack potential next season.
DEFENSE: A. Kudos to Brian Orakpo, who earned his own NFL highlight montage with four sacks and a forced fumble.
Sp. TEAMS: B. 297-pound Lorenzo Alexander had two great coverage tackles that could have been easily overlooked. And did Dick Stockton really say that Antwaan Randle-El is "still a threat" on punt returns, when he hasn't run one back for a touchdown since November of 2006? Sunday's effort: two returns, zero yards.
COACHING: B. Currently Coach Zorn's choice to start Quinton Ganther seems to be the right one, and the play calling over the last few weeks has actually made sense. Imagine that!
OWNERSHIP: F. Say, how much does one of those billboards run, anyway?

The Redskins host the New York Giants, a team that is desperate to save their season after starting 5-0 and arriving in Washington at 7-6. Their losses haven't been to the likes of the Chiefs, Lions, or Buccaneers. No, the Giants are a quality team, and they have fallen to playoff-caliber teams like the Cardinals, Chargers, and Broncos. Watching Eli Manning and the Giants' offense post up 510 yards and win the time of possession battle by ten minutes against Philaelphia should put some healthy fear into Washington's best asset, its defense. That's where this game will be won and lost, and if the Redskins' front four can hold the New York running attack in moderate check and apply decent pressure to Manning, Washington wins, 23-17.

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