Sunday, October 03, 2010

Week Four: Better to Be Lucky...

Washington 17, Philadelphia 12

Here's the awful truth about the Redskins' win over the Eagles: as well as they occasionally played, Washington was once again very, very beatable. Another game that could have been favorably finished by the early fourth quarter came down to one heart-stopping play. At 2-2, they are one holding penalty and one strangely dropped pass from being 0-for-everything. That's nothing new for the 2010 Shanahan Skins, whom my wife described thusly: "win or lose, you need Alka-Seltzer and
Tums just to watch them."

On the other hand, here's the glorious, unexpected truth: the Redskins aren't 0-4. They sit atop the NFC East with wins against arguably their strongest division opponents. Factor in that one of thos
e was against the stinkin' Cowchips and other was on the road and Redskins fans have to be happy with their team.

This is a team, however, that has yet to define itself in consistently positive terms. (The negative terms, sadly, are very consistent. More on that in a moment.) One week Donovan J. McNabb is unstoppably accurate, nearing 500 yards of offense. This week he's skipping passes off the turf and leading open receivers out of bounds on deep throws. For half this season, Clinton Portis and the running game is a laughable non-factor; this week he and Ryan "Rough" Torain are breaking off ten-yard runs like it's the Joe Gibbs era. One week the defense gives up just seven points, the next two weeks they give up 30 each.

This inconsistency means that no lead or great performance should be taken for granted while time remains on the game clock. At halftime, the narrative for the Redskins' first half performance was "The Redskins Reach Shanahan's Expectations." The first nine minutes of the game were a complete flip of the pitiful nine minutes in St. Louis: a 51-yard put return, a red zone touchdown, and a crushing ground game.

The second half was thirty minutes of offensive futility and defensive fatigue, it's narrative: "Let's Hope They Get Lucky." Just like the previous three games, Washington failed to run the ball well enough in the second half to tire their opponent. And don't bother asking them to score after halftime: they have just one touchdown and two field goals out of all four games.

Meanwhile, the defense has given up--get ready--five touchdowns and six field goals in the second half of those games. For those mathematically challenged, that's 13 points for the Redskins, 53 for them. Not to put too fine a point on this, but Washington has been outscored by 40 points after halftime. Fatigue has to be a factor, but let's not discount that the personnel in Jim Haslett's 3-4 looks as ill-fitting as Denise Huxtable's faux-Gordon Gartrell. (Ask Theo.) Former pass rushers Andre Carter and Lorenzo
Alexander are now in pass coverage and have little chance of keeping up with slot receivers, much less snatching an interception. They look slow, plodding, and vulnerable.

So, yeah, it is better to be lucky than good sometimes. On Sunday, the Skins were fortunate that the dynamic Eagle Michael Vick went out with an injury, fortunate that backup/starter Kevin Kolb was rusty, fortunate that the referees saw more significant penalties by Philadelphia, and really fortunate that a last-second hail mary pass fell into DeAngelo Hall's arms.

The 2010 Redskins will take wins any way they come.

OFFENSE: C+. Clinton Portis seems to be getting hurt after every other rush; perhaps that's why his role in the offense seems unstable. Might his body be showing signs of decline?

DEFENSE: B-. What's scary is that when an opponent desperately needs to move the football, the Redskins' defense lets them. But holding Philly to no touchdowns until three minutes remained is admirable.

Sp. TEAMS: B-. Hallelujah, there were no missed kicks, no fumbled snaps, no unblocked rushers, and a sparkling return from 5' 7", 155-pound Brandon Banks. But the punting left much to be desired.

COACHING: C. As noted above, Shanahan and company were outcoached in the second half for the fourth straight game.

The last-second hail mary drop by Jason Avant manages to best even a Madden moment. In the video game, receivers have a tendency to make a catch and, as an immediate tackle graphic occurs, drop the ball to the turf. I've often watched the game replay, wide-eyed, saying to no one in particular, "He HAD the ball! How did he drop it?" Philadelphia said that very thing on every FOX slow-motion replay of Avant. I watched it and said "He got not one but TWO gloved hands completely on the ball. How does he not catch that?" Shocking, considering that, according to reports, Jason Avant doesn't drop anything! Maybe that's only during drills.

Redskins photo courtesy: Toni L. Sandys-Washington Post

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