1. I refuse to be the team or the fanbase that blames the referees for our woes. We had opportunities throughout the game that we failed to capitalize on and defensively, we did not...uhhhh...look very strong. Further, it seemed that the Rams got screwed by the refs as well. There was something far more dangerous going on in yesterday's game though than blown calls: the refs lost control of the affair. The men in stripes did not seem in charge AT ALL. I think you have to look at a situation like that and be genuinely fearful that someone is going to get seriously injured. Players are running on emotion and fumes in the fourth quarter. To be certain, players are counted on to remain collected on the field, but the referees--in addition to knowing the rules and enforcing them--play a major role in keeping the peace and maintaining order on the field. In yesterday's game between the Redskins and the Rams, the referees clearly seemed to lose their authority. In a game like that, if a player gets seriously injured in a fight or some stupid after-the-whistle nonsense, I point the finger at the referees--which means I point the finger at the NFL. What Josh Morgan did at the end to cost his team was clearly a penalty, but his actions at that point were completely in line with the way the referees had allowed the game to proceed. Dudes were straight-up fighting and no flags were flying. My five-year old son asked me if someone was going to die. Sure, I was screaming at the television that the referees were going to get somebody killed, but the fear in my son's voice when he asked me that question while watching giant men throw down was genuine. Hello?? Roger Goodell?? My team lost yesterday and I should be more pissed about that than about the fact that YOUR product has deteriorated significantly as a result of this protracted lockout. As much as it pains me to suggest that an early season Redskins-Rams game is a bit low on the NFL food chain, the fact that this could happen at all has to scare the pants off the entire league. Safety, competition and fan confidence are officially hanging in the balance.
2. I was in attendance the night that Michael Westbrook ripped off his helmet on the field of play at FedEx Field in a 1997 tilt against the New York Giants. It cost the Redskins an opportunity to attempt a field goal and is often blamed for the resulting 7-7 tie. The mere mention of Westbrook's name elicits memories of that night. Unless Josh Morgan can prove over the next few seasons that he is not the player that cost his team the chance to stay in a tight road game, he faces the prospect of being remembered forever in a similar way. Before we get to finer points, I think it bears mentioning that if we were offered a chance to play our home opener with a 1-1 record a month ago or so, most of us would have taken it. That is little consolation for a fanbase waking up to the reality of yet another loss to the St. Louis Rams in that dreadful dome of theirs, but it is important to remember that there are still 14 games to be played and at least some of the errors that were committed yesterday are correctable.
3. I know a lot of fans were calling for Morgan to be cut immediately, but I generally don't agree with throwing out the baby with the bathwater this early in the season. At the minimum, I would expect him to be moved down the depth chart immediately. He made a very costly error, and no player is too big to escape being penalized for that, as we all saw when Jeff Fisher benched one of his best players for the rest of the game after Steven Jackson got dinged for unsportsmanlike conduct early in the contest. If Pierre Garcon were to remain sidelined, I would expect to see Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson as the top three wide receivers against the Bengals.
4. Lost in the mess that was yesterday's game was a second straight week of respectable offensive output. Failing to keep the scoring going in the second half was a problem, but 68 points in two weeks is a bit shocking given it seems we averaged 16-17 points per game over the last decade. Robert Griffin used his feet to both move the ball and punch it in from inside the red zone. I hated seeing him get hit the way he did, but he kept getting up and he kept his eyes downfield. Speaking of downfield...it might be easy for me to say, but I think Aldrick Robinson needs to come down with that deep ball that hit him in the hands and chest. It was not the easiest play to make, but to win on the road, you have to make those plays. I did appreciate the way Robinson stretched the defense, and it looked like he might have had a chance to receive another deep ball on that last drive if Griffin had seen him. If the offense proves it can score approximately 30 points per game, we will be in position to win a lot of games. BUT.........
5. Our defense is every bit the unit that caused us all to worry this summer. Scoring 30 points per game on offense is not going to be enough to put us in the 'W' column most weeks because it seems we will be giving up that much on defense. You have to give Sam Bradford his due, and I think you have to respect the way Danny Amendola bounced back from his early mistake to literally impregnate our defense. In nine months, we will likely be introduced to an infant that has Jim Haslett's eyes and Amendola's facial hair. If our defensive plan is to put Perry Riley on the slot guy in the flat, this season is going to be VERY LONG.
6. I think the other comment I have gotten from fans the most in the last 15 hours is: "Can we fire Danny Smith NOW?!?" Whether you would call me an apologist for Smith or a defender of keeping him on the coaching staff, I have generally not agreed with dismissing him because I consider him to be a solid coach. At this point though, something is not clicking there and it is costing us dearly. Two blocked punts in two weeks is dreadful. It's the kind of thing you would expect to see from a Division III team playing top FBS schools each week in September--getting overpowered and outschemed by better personnel. If the team decides to keep Smith for the remainder of the season, it is possible that his job could be saved by a string of huge plays. That would be the biggest reason I can think of that would cause Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan to make a mid-season change if they are so inclined. I sincerely doubt they would make such a drastic move at this point, but if our special teams unit costs us big at home this week, perhaps they consider such a move.