As this season wears on, it becomes harder to tell if I am seeing bright spots on this team or if I am just seeing stars from getting punched in the face by the weekly results. Against the Cowgirls on Sunday, our defense played with the kind of resolve and ferocity you associate with playoff teams. Even our offense played well, in their own anemic way.
The game reminded me of last season in many ways, but here are two (after the jump):
1) We had Romo in our grasp a few times where the sack would have been huge. We failed to bring him to the ground. I know I make Dallas games out to be bigger in my own mind, but I feel like we have such a hard time putting Romo on the ground. That one play where Orakpo had him dead to rights. It was kind of like a cross between a missed tackle and a mediocre move by Romo. Orakpo played a pretty good game but to see him join the list of guys in burgundy and gold to come up empty in a situation like that was discouraging.
2) We are good enough to win when we don't make any (sizable) errors. But we are not good enough to overcome mistakes. Last season our 6-2 start was almost entirely attributable to Jason Campbell's incredible run of little to no turnovers (I think he fumbled once or twice but had zero interceptions.) All of our games were tight affairs. As soon as we started turning the ball over and making crucial errors, we found ourselves unable to win. On Sunday, I thought Campbell had a hell of a game--I would say his best game of the season. His 3rd down success was studly. But at the end of the game, mental errors by JC (cross body throw into what looked like double coverage) and the offensive line (offensive line coaching 101: you have to engage the d-lineman all the way until the ball is out and gone...cut the hands and keep him off balance) kept us from getting down the field for a chance to win. The missed 39-yard field goal by Suisham also makes the list of mistakes we can neither afford nor recover from these days.
Let me be clear...if I had to choose between losing this game to get the #1 draft pick or winning this game and slipping a few spots, I would take the win every single time. I can't stand the Cowgirls and beating them is a priority no matter what. But losing this game helped us in a few ways:
1) If we had won, how long do you think it would take Vinny Cerrato to play the "I Told You So" game? Of course it is an immature, not at all smart thing to do. But we're talking Vinny here. I bet you would have a quote out of him by Wednesday talking about how he felt confident in the guys he put on the sideline to start playing well and winning. Again, I would rather take the win over Dallas and have to deal with Vinny's B.S., but there is a small part of me that almost instantly felt relieved that this loss kind of further cemented Vinny's fate. I mean 3-7 is an indictment, right? (In the hopes that I head off comments from people thinking I would prefer a loss as an FU to Vinny, let me re-state that this is simply not the case.)
2) Jason Campbell continues to play tough. I can't see the future but in an uncapped year, Campbell is a restricted free agent. I have to believe if we tender him to a very reasonable amount, we can get a team to send us a draft pick for him. In the face of adversity, he continues to display toughness and he keeps making plays. He won't be washed out of the league. If the Skins choose to go a different direction, and there is an uncapped year, they would be wise to try and get something in return for him. The Patriots had no intention to keep Matt Cassel last season but they tendered him at the franchise level and got a sweet draft pick out of KC for him. I am pretty sure the Redskins can sign JC to a modest term sheet and then make it known that they aren't asking for an extremely high draft pick. Then a team can come in, swoop him up for a low cost and send the Redskins a much-needed draft selection in return. You can't convince me there aren't at least 2 teams in the league who would consider giving Campbell a shot.
3) We will keep getting longer looks at some of the guys on this roster that we will need to count on in the upcoming years. Sure, injuries are playing a huge role in this aspect, but I also think we are seeing a break from the rule that some coaches didn't put the emphasis on the youth movement. For example, I bet Joe Bugel could have made an argument for Will Montgomery to start at guard the past two weeks and he probably would have (nothing in the last two years leads me me to think he likes Rinehart at all.) I am not convinced the difference between the two is that great. But maybe we saw Rinehart the last couple weeks in the interest of seeing exactly what we spent a 3rd round pick on in a previous draft.
It was an entertaining game that we could have won. Where have we heard that before?
Ten Yard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1) Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis keep looking better out there on the field. In the comments section, please tell me if you would consider trading Moss this offseason (regardless of how it would work contract-wise) and go with Thomas, Kelly, Davis, Mitchell, and Cooley as our primary pass catchers.
2) All offseason, we dealt with the quarterback lusts of Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato. Mark Sanchez is struggling mightily in New York and Jay Cutler is doing his best Rex Grossman impression out in Chicago. With Sanchez, you expect a rookie to bounce up and down as he gets his bearings. I think he is going to be fine. But Cutler is just playing awful. Sure he gets some numbers, but he is missing wide open guys in the end zone. On Sunday night, he overthrew Devin Hester and Johnny Knox for what would have been touchdowns. They were both behind the defense. Cutler's arm strength is impressive, but his lack of touch on the deep ball is alarming. His 18 pickles stand out. You can argue that the futures for Cutler and Sanchez are probably brighter, but right now I am pretty happy we didn't trade JC and a slew of draft picks away for those guys. With our luck Sanchez would have had a season-ending injury and Cutler would have cussed out everyone on our roster.
3) I thought I would touch on Blache for a moment. Our pass defense came into the game against Dallas ranked #1. They played like it. Yet, time and again, a lack of a decent pass rush hurt us. An anonymous defensive starter said after the game, "I guess you go with what you're comfortable with." To me, this is an obvious shot at Blache. He is not a blitzing maniac like so many of his successful contemporaries. I struggle with how to balance my appreciation for what our defense does every week with the lack of the kind of potent pass rush that excites fans of other teams. On one hand, I guess you could say Blache manages his personnel and plays to the strengths of the guys he has, but we also clearly don't make a concerted effort to go balls-out on the blitz with any regularity. The same anonymous defensive starter said that they did have more blitz packages in the game plan but they just didn't call those plays. It is clear what Blache is comfortable doing, and it is clear that he gets results. I am interested in hearing what people have to say about Blache and his attitude/philosophy on blitzing.
4) DeAngelo Hall is going to be here for a while it would seem. I find myself encouraged by his willingness to go and make tackles on the field. I love when a cornerback is a tackler that the defense has to account for in their blocking. Troy mentioned it during the telecast--a certain corner named Deion was a gifted football player that did not put his nose in there and make tackles. Teams ran at his side of the field and it forced other defenders to step up and compensate for his unwillingness to take on running backs ("business decisions" as Deion called them.) Great defenses have 11 guys all ready to hit you and bring you down. One thing that shouldn't happen between this year and next: we won't get less physical on defense. In fact, if Barnes can ever get his head right, he plays a very physical cornerback spot. One can dream...
5) Was I the only one hoping Hunter would hit the giant video board?
6) The performance that Mark Sanchez turned in against the Patriots most likely scored negative points in all fantasy formats. A quarterback scoring negative points in fantasy football is like waking yourself up with your own fart. And not the sound of it...the smell of it.
7) Bad news for us Redskins fans. The Raiders beat a very, very good team on Sunday. What was looking like a bright spot on our schedule all of a sudden looks like it could be a tough spot. Then again, the Bengals did kind of give that game away. Still, our shot at JaMarcus Russell is not looking good--in fact Bruce Gradkowski will probably have to be carted off the field for that to happen. A Top 5 draft pick could at stake in that game.
8) The Bengals blew a great chance to put some distance between them and the rest of the their division. But they have to be feeling a little more confident now that the Steelers are without any healthy quarterbacks. If only they still had ARE...
9) I know it sounds like sour grapes, but I look at that Cowgirls team and I don't see them beating anyone good in the playoffs. Am I out to lunch on this one?
10) Drew Brees only threw for 187 yards this week against the Bucs. The game was slightly out of hand at the end and the Saints have proven to have a pretty robust rushing attack, but this has to be alarming to fantasy owners. For most people, this is the stretch run for the playoffs. Next week he gets the Patriots and in Week 13 he gets the Redskins. That is the #6 passing defense and then the #1 passing defense in back-to-back weeks. I doubt you will be benching him if you have him on your team, but you probably can't expect him to single-handedly carry you for the next two weeks.
Give Me The Numbers, STAT!
We lost by one point. Some key stats in this game agree with the final score this week. Having come up short on the scoreboard but not on the box score a bunch of times this year, I have been paying attention. This week we were down in time of possession (31:26 vs 28:34), overall first downs (17 vs 14), rushing yards (153 vs 78) and red zone efficiency (they were 1-for-2, vs our 0-for-1). The margins here are slight...was this a close game or something?