I sweated through this one without the benefit of actually watching it live. Thankfully, the magic of cellphones and old-school VCR recorders allowed me to enjoy the game in full, but perhaps with a little more perspective. Only getting play-by-play text messages from friends when the team was in the red-zone, I experienced only the most depressing aspects of the game while it was live. That sucked.
Then I got in my car to crawl home through beltway traffic on my way home so I could finally watch my recording of the game. I new the outcome, so I listened to the analysis and fans. That sucked too.
When I finally got home I opened Hogs Haven and the ESPN game story, intent on not having any opinion of my own to formulate while watching the game. In the game story, I read this doozie from All-Pro Tight End, and All-Around Awesome Guy, Chris Cooley:
"I understand that they want us to beat the Rams by 40," said Cooley, who led the Redskins with seven catches for 83 yards. "But we still won, and if we continue to win games, that's great. The booing was unnecessary."
So then I decided to actually watch the game. And with a little perspective (namely knowing the ultimate outcome), I came away feeling pretty damn good about a couple of really important things.
#1: This defense had two poor series all game. One that was defined by a huge play by one of the big-time players in the league, and one that was defined by an even bigger play by a future pro-bowler (IMO) in Chris Horton. Apart from those two series, the Defense harassed Bulger, got off the field on third downs, and made gigantic stops when it absolutely had to. That all-or-nothing stand at the end was a thing of beauty; I cheered out loud knowing what had already happened, and I encourage everyone to go back and watch it again if you can because it will tell you a lot about the heart of the D's key pieces. Just as important though, was the stop after the team punted out the shadow of their goal line to give Campbell the ball back. The D improved significantly from last week and I think Blache also called a more creative game. Though we only got one turnover, players were in position for a couple more, and they will come.
#2: Jim Zorn didn't panic. Confronted with a hostile home crowd, whispers of Shanahans in the wind, and frustrating red-zone results, he stuck to a balanced game plan and put the team in a position to win the game. The defense played big when it needed to, but without the offense running 70 plays, rackings up 362 yards of offense, and holding the ball from almost 35 minutes, Stephen Jackson might have made us play. Yes, 0-5 in the redzone is absolutely unnacceptable, and a lot of that falls on Zorn. He needs to give Campbell chances to execute the more conventional red-zone plays, but a couple touchdowns were left off the scoreboard because players didn't execute. However, between the twenties, the offense moved the ball methodically, spreading it around with more variety, taking shots down field, and running between the tackles very well.
If I had been watching live, I would have been screaming at the television when Zorn was calling running plays on first down when we were losing in the the third quarter. Instead, I was applauding he resolve to stick with the run when it was working. He also called a lot of first down pass plays, which worked well. My man Malcolm Kelly also had his biggest game as a pro and did just enough to get my fantasy team a win. You cannot say anything bad about the playcalling or the execution for 80% of the team's offensive snaps. If Zorn had gotten nervous and started chuckin it around, this game could have been even uglier.
So, frustrating? Yes. Time to panic and boo your own team? Hell no. There is no such thing as a must-embarass game in the NFL. We aren't playing to impress for the coaches poll. This was a must-win game. And we won.
Hail to the Redskins. Lets go get Stafford.
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