Monday, January 03, 2011

Week Seventeen: A Perfect Synopsis

New York Giants 17, Washington 14

If ever there were a microcosm, a conspectus of the 2010 Redskins season, it was this final game against the Giants. Many of the same elements of frustration that
prevented success for the franchise--and joy for fans--were on display Sunday evening. For every positive play that created hope in Washington playing spoiler, there were reminders that Mike Shanahan's team is a work in progress that hasn't progressed nearly as far as anyone hoped. In the end, the the season's final moment was the disappointing view of an opponent in victory formation.

In a month, maybe even sooner, this game will be nothing more than a statistical notation. But a closer examination of this season finale explains a lot of what's good and what's bad about this
team:

Rex Grossman, for example, was good enough to be called a professional quarterback but made the errors that assured that he shouldn't be a starter in Washington. His final stat line included more than 300 passing yards and a gorgeous 64-yard strike to Anthony Armstrong. But he also had two fumbles, an interception, and couldn't lead his team into field goal range with two minutes left. His performances in the last two weeks were hardly an indication of the "he knows the system" advantage coach Shanahan has reminded us of all season.

Santana Moss was Grossman's favorite target, finishing with nine catches for 74 yards. And while it's proper to celebrate his fourth season of more than 1000 yards, he had another fourth-quarter
error, a red zone fumble.

Then there's the coaching: offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ordered ten rushes in the first half for Ryan Torain, and the running back averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry. In the second half, with the game still close, Shanahan got Torain the ball just eight times more while Grossman attempted 29 passes.

And let's not forget the so-called best defensive back on the Redskins' roster, DeAngelo Hall. He had a decent game in run support, finishing with four solo and two assist tackles. But for all of his continued claims that he wants to be matched with the opponent's best receivers, he failed miserably in defending the Giants' last good receiver, Mario Manningham, on a 92-yard touchdown.

Perhaps the best symbol of what the 2010 season has been like was in the first quarter, when Torain and the offense responded to the Giants' first score with a ground-game attack. The drive pounded into the red zone, and the offense, as it has done all season, fizzled. On came Graham
Gano, he who has won multiple overtime games for Washington, for a chip-shot 30-yard field goal for the tie. Gano's kick went horribly wide left, and Washington never came closer to tying the game.

As usual, the Redskins were good enough to make fans believe they could win but lacked the talent to actually pull it off. Here's to eight months of improving on the latter.

SCORECARD

OFFENSE: C. I would be very interested to see if Mike Shanahan really believes that Grossman
provides a better chance of winning than Donovan McNabb.
DEFENSE: B+. They didn't give up 400 yards and kept an uninspired Giants team from running away with the game.
Sp. TEAMS: B-. At the stadium, there was a noticeable increase in energy when Brandon Banks took the field for punt returns. At times it seemed like he was one of the few players who has heart.
COACHING: C. For all the criticism leveled at the coaches, their players (backup and starter) came ready to do battle in recent weeks.
OWNERSHIP: C. Another rainy game, another day without free ponchos. The 2011 magnet-calendars are hardly consolation prizes. And what's with the #5 jerseys still being sold for $90.00 in the Redskins store...?

NEXT UP
The Best and Worst of the 2010 Redskins season, my interview with Redskins great Ken Harvey, and reviews of the eagerly-expected NFL playoffs.

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