Saturday night would find me surrounded by die hard Cowboys fans laughing in my face as I tried to explain to them how the Redskins would miraculously make the playoffs. I pointed out, again and again, that if the Redskins won out, then they would have tie breakers with virtually all the teams above them and the ones they didn't were already in a state of decline. Whatever, That's a pretty big if, and Shameless homer were the typical responses. Just you watch the Atlanta game I assured them.
And, if only for a little while, I looked right about everything. The first two Redskins drives were things of beauty. Numero uno was an 8 run 1 pass efficient drive that included a 13 yard scramble by Jason Campbell (scramble by the Campbell!) and, ultimately, an 8 yard touchdown run by Ladell Betts. There was also a good bit of TJ Duckett, who had two 4 yard rushes in a row.
The next was a 4 run 1 pass drive that ended with a 42 yard touchdown by Jason Campbell. Here was everything this team was supposed to be offensively; an efficient running team that pounded the opposing line and then tricked them deep with the play action. It felt like I was experiencing a Washington Redskins team that actually had an identity.
Meanwhile our defense was playing very 2004. Their first drive went 13 yards, their second was a 3 and out. On their third possession they would try, unsuccessfully, to shove the ball down our throat. On 4th and inches the line held and, thanks to Cornelius Griffin and Marcus Washington they lost yardage on what should have been a sure 1st down.
At this point I couldn't have imagined the Redskins losing. We looked dominant on both sides of the ball and it didn't seem as if Atlanta had any answers for our running game or defense. And then, like a precipitous Behind the Music fall from grace, disaster struck.
I decided to listen to much of the game on Triple X Radio, since I've been hawking it weekly. I regret that decision.
I don't mind Larry Michael as a play-by-play guy, but I'm pretty certain that (former stud Redskins QB and hall of famer) Sonny (Jurgenson) and (hall of fame linebacker) Sam (Huff) lost the game for us. While Larry was trying to describe what was happening on the field, Sonny and Sam were bending over backwards trying to out sell the game's conclusion to one another. Sam, or Sonny, kept repeating this inane blabble about how Atlanta was trying to end the game early so they could go home. And then Sam, or Sonny, kept agreeing and saying how this one looked over. I remember thinking that the Football Gods would not react kindly to this kind of blabble.
And yet they would not shut up. It kept going on and on until finally, prophetically, Larry Michael said, "Guys, there's still 3 quarters left." That was my Gregg Easterbrook moment; if I'd had a notebook nearby I would have written "Game Over" in it. Larry Michael was a conduit for the Football Gods and they'd had just about enough of Sonny and Sam calling the game in the 1st quarter.
So I blame them.
Here's what went right:
- Ladell Betts had 155 yards rushing, averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. He also had a touchdown. The bad news about this is that the better he does this year, the harder it will be for us to afford to keep him next year. I think Betts is good enough to be a legitimate starter on some temas, and I can't imagine him not wanting to go that route.
- For a bit, Jason Campbell looked great. His 13 yard scamper, his 42 yard touchdown to Moss... he was leading an effective offense that moved the chains.
- Andre Carter showed up, 9 tackles 2 assists and our only sack. He was also pressuring Vick a good amount and generally was around the ball more than anyone else on the line. I was very pleased with the way he played.
- Our line only gave up 1 sack and helped push us for 177 yards on the ground. They deserve credit. Later in the game I felt that we weren't keeping enough people back to effectively protect JC, but I can't blame the linemen for that.
- Santana Moss is Santana Moss again. Seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown.
- No fumbles.
- Rock Cartwright blocked a punt late in the game to give us a naive sense of hope. Our special teams is pretty good at getting to the football.
- We lost by giving up a 14-0 lead. We scored our final points of the game with 2:43 seconds left in the 1st.
- We gave up 256 yards rushing, including 69 yard touchdown run by Jerious Norwood. After the game, do you think Atlanta missed TJ Duckett? Moral victory in that Ashley Lelie was a non factor. 8 bucks and a moral victory will get you half a Starbuck's coffee (with soy milk!).
- Jason Campbell threw a pair of picks, completed less than 50% of his passes. His 52.2 passer rating is the lowest of the year. He is a very Mark Brunell 1-2 as a starter. This game was a definite step backwards for our young QB, but he did do some things that impressed me. He's building a relationship with Moss, which can only be good news for Redskins fans in the future.
- Where as Chris Cooley?
- TJ Duckett had 4 carries for 9 yards. Take that Atlanta!
- Shaun Suisham (pronounced Sweesham, I keep calling him Sueysham. I think I'll continue to do so) missed a long field goal. He's now continuing a Redskins tradition of not making field goals. He was better than Novak on kickoffs, so that's a plus. Still, that 3 points would've been the difference between a 1 possession game and a 2 possession game. Perhaps the Jason Campbell interception wouldn't have been as urgent a pass. Who knows?
- Despite Atlanta getting the dropsies early in the game, Mike Vick was an efficient 8 of 16 for a 115 QB rating. The Titans held Peyton Manning to a 98.8 QB rating. We make mediocre QBs look like Manning.
- Vernon Fox was "victimized" by Alge Crumpler. Not my words, but they capture the sentiment well enough. Fox probably does not belong on the field, but Troy Vincent (and everyone else) is injured.
- Speaking of which, where was Shawn Springs? Apparently "probable" doesn't mean that. His hamstring was hurting so he didn't play. It seemed like, at some point, everyone on our defensive line injured themselves but Andre Carter.
- Good bye playoffs. My naive hopes were effectively shattered with our loss to the Falcons, and I need to resign myself to a big plate of crow for hyping a non contender. Oh well.
Update [2006-12-5 18:30:41 by Skin Patrol]: Ben's take on the game, always a great read.