Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week Twelve: Par For the Course

Minnesota 17, Washington 13

There's an old southern saying, "water will seek its level," that suggests that, given enough time, you can tell the real from the fiction. It means that, after all of the hullabaloo, subjects always reveal their true nature.

The 2010 Redskins are 5-6, and the record represents the pure mediocrity of the the team. They have the talent to usually be competitive, but will rarely win outright without the timely congruence of multiple favorable circumstances.

On Sunday, the favorable circumstances were present, but the Redskins' lack of talent in all three phases kept the Redskins below .500, exactly where they deserve to be.

For one shining moment--seven minutes and fifty-three seconds, to be exact--Mike Shanahan's offense functioned on all cylinders and looked very much like the squad expected at the beginning of the season. Even without Clinton "Elsewhere in 2011" Portis and a healthy offensive line, DJ McNabb ran Kyle Shanahan's creative offensive attack to perfection. Kyle dialed up the first appearance of the Redskins wildcat (though " warpath" has a better ring to it), the offense was four-for-four on third down, and McNabb was a perfect eight for eight with one touchdown.

...And that was the end of the offensive show. Washington didn't attempt a deep pass until the fourth quarter. The offensive line allowed McNabb to return to his run-for-yer-life mode and didn't open up many lanes for the nameless backup running backs. The Skins produced a very Indianapolis Colt-like 29 yards of rushing...but without the crisp passing and receiving. Santana Moss and the receiving corps weren't much help, dropping far too many catchable passes and not gaining enough separation to be a threat to the Vikings' secondary.

The defense, to its credit, provided the weak offense with multiple opportunities to beat Minnesota. They even took the Vikings' biggest threat, Adrian Peterson, out of the game. But all wasn't roses for Jim Haslett and his squad. On a critical third down, the 3-4 personnel showed its weakness: Favre (who may or may not be fifty years old) is able to scramble for the first down, largely because linebacker Lorenzo saw Favre break out of the pocket...and ran the other way. The only logical explanation is his desire to cover a receiver.
(For the record, this is is just one of quite a few times when Alexander and the other lineman-turned-linebacker, Andre Carter, have blown containment because they've looked awkward in their assignment.) If Alexander's told to simply rush the passer or contain the run, Favre doesn't come near that first down.

And while the defense can be proud that it limited the Vikings' somewhat-potent offense to just 17 points, they did let Peterson's backup, some guy named Toby Gerhart, plow through defenders for his first NFL touchdown...just like the All-Pro did in the first quarter.

And then there's the special teams, who won the game with accurate field goals and continued brilliance from Brandon Banks. That is, until they lost the game with a low-talent penalty by rookie Perry Riley that nullified a Banks touchdown that would've put the Skins ahead.

Perhaps it isn't fair to judge a team by its record. Look at the San Diego Chargers who were once 2-5, then 5-5, then stepped up to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and dismissed them on national television. In Indianapolis. The Bolts are a team that has learned to gel using the talent on hand and deserve the respect of a 7-4 or even 8-3 team.

The Redskins should be taken at face value.

OFFENSE: C-. This mere suggestion of a running game is big trouble for McNabb and the offense. It's hard to believe that, six months ago, the Redskins were looking at three Pro Bowl veteran running backs on its roster. Come January, it'll be time to bring in all new talent to compete with Ryan Torain for the starter.
DEFENSE: B. Something doesn't feel right about applauding their success in not giving up 400 yards, but here it is. Congratulations!
Sp. TEAMS: A-. For all the big contracts, big names, and big egos on the roster, it's refreshing that one of the leaders for team MVP is a little guy who joined as an undrafted free agent.
COACHING: C. If this group of coaches can pull a playoff berth out of this current roster, I'll take back everything I've said about them this season.
OWNERSHIP: C. There were an unusually-large amount of empty seats at FedEx on Sunday. Have the fans said that $4000 is too steep a price for mediocrity?

Just for fun, ESPN has Madden 11 run through each week's games and posts the predictions. Nice that they use the current rosters. I'm afraid to download the last update, which removes every semblance of a decent Redskins running game. To the game's credit, it wasn't too off on the final score. with the Vikes victorious: 19-16.

AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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