A situation we did not think we would be in 3 games ago. Many were talking playoffs, or at least a winning season. There was a lot of huff and hype that we would tell all those critics and naysayers (*cough*ColinCowherd*cough*) that the Redskins were for real and show the world that they were becoming a franchise to respect and to consider when talking about the "good" teams in the NFL.
Well, now, that was fun while it lasted.
I've heard many people start to lambast the defense, but let us not be too hasty on this front. A defense is only as good as the amount of time they are left on the field to hold back the tide. Remember, our D held the high-scoring Bills to 23 points, stuffing many opportunities the Bills had to score points...think about all the field goals that could have been touchdowns, or London Fletcher's interception that stopped what seemed to be a certain Bills TD drive. This game could've been a lot worse had the defense not stepped up as much as they had. Hell, take away Fred Jackson's 43 yard run (I know, I know, you can't take it away, but...) and he only ran for 77 yards on 25 carries. Jackson seemed to spend just as much time being stuffed at the line by Kerrigan and company as he did breaking off runs of any significance.
Still, a lot of passing yards and some other big plays did take place...but our defense was left out there to stem the tide a lot because we had an offense that managed only 10 first downs and went 4-14 on third down. Doesn't help when you only run the ball 12 times in a game. Makes things a bit easier for the opposing defense to figure things out. Part of this ineffectiveness in the running game can be attributed to the fact that our offensive line is in shambles (story of the past decade). I do like the fact that John Beck takes shots downfield, a common complaint we had with Rex Grossman. The problem is, Beck throws the ball downfield for the sake of throwing the ball downfield...he's like a reverse Jason Campbell.
In football, where talent fails, discipline yields respectability. If this team were to be disciplined in it's approach to how it at least attempts to execute, instead of resembling a chinese fire drill on every snap, we might see some form of respectable offensive production. We saw discipline in the run game when Tim Hightower was gashing through Carolina's defense, but when he went down, our ability to run the ball has gone to zero. Ryan Torain just isn't cutting it right now, and where in the hell is Roy Helu? He sure doesn't do too badly when catching the ball, so why not hand it off to him on some of those stretch plays, where his 4.4 speed and lateral quickness could come in handy. I would hand a lot of the blame for this on Kyle Shanahan. His offensive gameplan and play calling when Rex was QB was actually better suited to John Beck's talents, in my opinion. More running of the ball, less predictability.
So what does the team do now?
First, the defense simply needs to keep trying to keep the game manageable enough and giving the offense time to find it's rhythm.
Secondly, the return of Trent Williams should help the running game, as he was looking pretty good for the most part before his injury. This will allow the Redskins to have a bit more push, and John Beck may not face as much pressure when dropping back. If Trent is able to play and play well, this week would be a good week to start, because the 49ers have a tough defense that can put pressure on a QB.
Third, Mike Shanahan needs to yell, scream, turn a shade of red previously unknown to humanity, and get in some faces. The Vermillion Death Stare™ is obviously not working as a way of getting players up off their asses. We need some emotion, dammit. We are a listless team walking, with the exception of LaRon Landry's 20-yards-downfield-tackle celebrations.
Finally, Kyle Shanahan needs to realize what personnel he has in this offense and adjust as necessary. Get your best talent out there, and ride whatever hot hands you can find. If you aren't finding any hot hands, change up your play calls and create hot hands. Utilize your youth where you have youth, and get the veterans to step up and lead. I'd like to see Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul more than a few plays a game. Oh, and for God's sakes, can Roy Helu get a carry?
In the end, though, it is this final part of this puzzle that is the key to the success. Kyle Shanahan simply needs to do as his job title indicates, and coordinate an offense that can win games with the talent it has. With Trent Williams coming back, it seems that this will lead to Will Montgomery's move back to center (or so Mike Shanahan indicated) and Mo Hurt will be moving up to guard. He'll have 4/5ths of the starting line back intact. Run the damn ball, control the clock, and keep our defense from having to be on the field for 35-40 minutes per game.
Will Kyle do this? Will he stop pretending he is in Houston and actually run an offense that suits this team's needs? Sadly, I don't think so...because as the song says, "what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away."