Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week Three: Different Team. Same Result?

Washington 16, St. Louis 30

Last week I explained that the 2010 Redskins were, through their first two games, creating four fears for the NFL and their own fans. At the conclusion of Sunday's loss to the St. Louis Rams, allow me to add one more, this one the most cringe-inducing:

Fear #5: The Redskins are the same #@$%@ team we booed off the field last season.

You remember them: Jim Zorn's boys lost to bad or rookie quarterbacks, allowed previously unknown backups to have their career best days, squandered opportunities through failures to perform the
basic requirements of football, and, generally, made the worst teams look better than they really are.

(Boy those were tough years.)

Now, before we succumb to fear #5, let's remember that the 2010 team is just three games into a season. To suggest that the Shanahan Era Redskins are the same as the Zorn Era Redskins (and, one might argue, the modern-era Redskins) is a wee presumptuous. The current football product is an amalgamation of a new scheme, new coaching, and new leaders.
Even the ownership seems to have turned a leaf. So at its essence, the present can't be the past.

But on Sunday, the circumstances were eerily familiar, the results uncomfortably predictable. They faced a Rams team that had one win in its last 28 games. The Rams had a rookie quarterback, no star wide receiver and got less than half a game's production from its star running back. Their best safety was out with an injury and even their fans didn't seem to want to show up for the contest.

Yet, in true Zorn fashion, Shanahan's Redskins still managed to lose. Badly. Before garbage time
padding, Washington had virtually half the plays, half the time of possession, half the yardage, and half the points of St. Louis. New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's mighty 3-4 defense, which had some success against two top-shelf quarterbacks, managed one measly sack of the rookie. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense ran well in the first half, disappeared in the second half, and converted--get ready--one third down.

It gets worse: in the first nine minutes, the Redskins had a punt blocked, had lost a fumble, allowed a 42-yard rushing touchdown, had two false-start penalties, a crack-back penalty, and were down 14 to nothing. Egad.

The second half adjustments for Washington? How about zero sacks of Bradford, zero red zone touchdowns, sixteen unanswered Rams points, and nearly four yards a carry for backup Kenneth Darby, a chap who in three years had never rushed for a touchdown?

The hope, naive though it may be, is that this loss represents the Low Point Before the Ascent. That coach Shanahan looks back at the 2010 season and can say "I told everyone that it was a new day, and the Rams game was the last time we reminded anyone of the old days." That unlike the past, the Redskins won't find new, stomach-churning ways to lose to the lesser and narrowly fail to the better.

But with a team currently giving up huge yardage, barely able to run, and relying on field goals, it's hard to believe that this is the worst. History says to buckle up. It's gonna be bumpy ride.

OFFENSE: D. 1/10 on 3rd down, 0/3 in the red zone. That's all you need to know.

DEFENSE: D. Now's a good time to ask DeAngelo "This is my defense" Hall how Mark Clayton and some guy named Danny Amendola managed to move the sticks on him. How bad did the Rams control the Redskins' defense? After kicking a field goal in the second quarter, the Redskins ran 32 plays, the Rams 73.

Sp. TEAMS: C. Graham Gano stepped in for an ailing Josh Bidwell, so positive points here. But the weekly foul-ups in blocking or ball handling are inexcusable.

COACHING: F. OK, so Portis averages more than five yards per carry in the first half but in the second half he's relegated to 3rd downs while backup Ryan Torain gets the rock? And where was Jim Haslett's adjustment to Bradford's series of short passes or Darby's consecutive rushes in the second half?

It's nice to see a Madden moment work in Washington's favor. After achieving a first and goal at the one yard line, the Redskins defense held St. Louis to a field goal attempt. At the snap, 310-pound Philip Daniels hurdles the offensive line and is practically standing straight up while blocking the kick. I've had all of one field goal blocked in my years of playing Madden, and it happened just like that. It was shocking in a video game, even more so in real life.

Photo courtesy
John McDonnell-The Washington Post

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