1. Even though every talking head and analyst tried to beat this point over the head last night, the truth is that yesterday's win did smack of the same kind of vibe from the end of last season. The feeling inside FedEx, the way the Redskins gutted out an extremely late victory, the confidence this team put on display in the closing minutes of a tight game...it was all there. I won't go so far as to predict the same kind of run we had last year, but what I think is extremely important is that we got back to that feeling. You see, the ability of Redskin teams over the last decade or two to carry over that which is good from one season to the next has been...lacking. I think Mike Shanahan has done a great job of shaping the roster to his style, but this was his first opportunity in Washington to build on a playoff appearance. Even more than the piling losses, I was beginning to fear that we had completely lost that magic. I don't expect the Washington Redskins (or any team for that matter) to conjure the exact same kind of desperate enchantment that delivered a young team into the postseason. I DO expect that a roster full of the same players playing the same brand of football will be able to draw from that success. If the Redskins were never able to get back to that, than 2012 would just be lightning in a bottle--a truly depressing proposition. Whether the win over Chicago launches us through a mid-season push or not, it was good to see us play the way we all got used to seeing last year. If we are ever able to build on that, we will be very, very dangerous.
2. Our improbable run in 2012 came after we had spent nine weeks on the beach digging a gargantuan 3-6 hole in the sand. When the ocean failed to rush in and close the hole--with all of us inside of it--the entire Washington region experienced a euphoric sense of invincibility. The odd mix of joy and relief as every game resulted in a win propelled us all through the next week, each of us convinced that the ride was far from over. The 2013 ride is also far from over, but with games still to play against Denver, Kansas City and San Francisco, it is clear that we will need to employ some of that magic if we expect to be contending a month from now.
3. Once again, our defense made the kind of huge play that typically separates wins from losses. Our defense has scored four touchdowns this season, tied for tops in this category with the Chiefs (7-0) and Bears (4-3). Our biggest problem is that we have turned around and given up the same kinds of plays against us. Between turnovers that have set up opposing offenses for easy scores and special teams touchdown disasters, we have been the yin to our own yang in this category. If you would have told me that we would have four defensive touchdowns by mid-October, I would have been very comfortable betting we were at least .500 or better.
4. Is it just me or does the way Brandon Meriweather throws himself around out there look a bit...wrong? Safeties in particular have been really impacted by the NFL's rules changes, as they often find themselves flying into open areas where the ball meets receivers. I understand that defenses want opposing players to think twice about operating in those spaces, but Meriweather puts himself at as much risk as the other guy in these instances. We have seen him knock himself out of a game already this season. Around the league, there is clear evidence of a change in style of play from many guys at Meriweather's position. I don't see a lot of evolution in the way #31 attacks opposing players. My guess is that there are parts of the locker room that are very much thankful for this, but I also suspect that there is perhaps only a shred of tolerance left at the league office for the kind of film they are reviewing each week that features Meriweather.
5. I think there is the possibility for a real evolution to take place with Helu on the field for our offense. You may recall a certain writer on this site suggesting that Helu might be better for the kind of offense we have been trying to run--especially late in games. I love Alfred Morris. His role in our gameplan is undeniable, but he is not the receiver out of the backfield that Helu is and this facet of our offense has not been fully utilized yet. As Jordan Reed continues to blow up, I think it could be Helu who finds himself more and more open as a receiver out of the backfield. We all know what he can do when he gets the ball. I don't think an eight or nine catch performance from Roy Helu is out of the question in the next week or so. (This would be a much different kind of performance than the one in which John Beck dumped it off on him 14 times in 2011. Mr. Beck seemed to have a one-progression checkdown on almost every play that day.)
6. We have Denver showing up next on our schedule, on the heels of their loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In case some of you aren't familiar with the house rules at this casino, this is when the dealer asks if anyone wants to buy insurance.