1. As I was watching the Washington Redskins work for their first victory of the season, two very distinct sets of facts presented themselves: one contained all the reasons why this team has every reason to believe they can rattle off enough wins to become relevant in the NFC playoff race and the other contained every reason why this team should not be making any postseason plans at all. It was all there yesterday. An offense that can move the ball seemingly at will marched up and down the field. A defense that can get to the quarterback succeeded in putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. On the other hand, we saw our offense sputter as Robert Griffin III rolled out time after time with nobody open or even almost open. We saw our defense victimized yet again, this time by a backup quarterback and backup running back, for huge chunks of real estate.
2. Matt Flynn is not your average backup quarterback. I rank him higher than the "professional caddy" that most teams place alongside of their franchise guy. Still, Flynn has failed--on multiple teams--to win the starting job outright, so more than almost any other backup in the league, he has really cemented his backup status through his play. I hear that a lot of Redskins fans are downplaying our win because of this, and I think that is simply wrong.
3. Last year, when the Redskins went to Tampa Bay and squeaked past the Bucs on a Billy Cundiff field goal, I recall suggesting to CJ that it felt irresponsible to celebrate the victory. We were 2-2, but edging a Bucs team that did not look that great made me wonder just what kind of a season we were to expect. I could sense the irritation, and even outrage, in CJ's response. To put it simply and in terms that will not make this article R-rated, he replied that winning is important no matter what, and that at the end of the season, every win counts the same. One thing we learned last year is that even if you don't think the product on the field in September is playoff-worthy, winning despite those shortcomings can actually help speed up the improvement process. I guess it is better to build on something--ANYTHING--that results in a chance to win than it is trying to build on, say, whatever the hell the New York Giants are doing. Can we please not find ways to be unhappy after a win? Nobody is throwing a parade after a win over Oakland, but when a team flies across the country and gets a win in a division that is currently impregnating the rest of the NFC East, there is at least something to be happy about.
4. So you're saying there's a chance...that the winner of the NFC East might have to overachieve to reach the .500 mark? Picking up on the previous point, yesterday's win has moved our team into a tie for second place in the greatest division on Earth! The NFC East is like the shores of the New World, offering a chance for a brighter tomorrow to just about anyone willing to brave the rough seas. No team has a winning record. No team looks good enough to run away with the division. When the Redskins face the Cowboys after the bye week, it will look like a real high-stakes showdown to fans inside the division. To most everyone else, it may just look like a slap fight.
5a. You could tell the Redskins were really forcing themselves to get the ball to Alfred Morris. His carries were up and the balance between run and pass was a lot more apparent than in previous weeks. Before Morris left the game with an injury, he was certainly making a case for continuing this dedication to the running game. I want to be careful how I word this because I think Alfred Morris is a very, very good player that we NEED, but the kind of offense that we find ourselves playing the most these days seems to really favor what Roy Helu does. Certainly our best chance to be successful this season hinges on both running backs performing at a high level, but if Griffin and Helu were able to not just get on the same page, but on the same line on that page, you could really see this offense become as unstoppable as they were at the end of last season. In today's NFL, the running back that doubles as an elusive receiver out of the backfield tends to be what separates the top teams from the bottom teams. As fun as it is to watch Alf move piles forward, and find the most hidden yardage I have ever witnessed, I think it is at least that fun watching Helu receive the ball in the flat and square up on corners and safeties. He is a load, and just when you think he is going to lower his shoulder, he leaps OVER defenders! Don't read this as advocating for starting Helu over Morris, but I do think we need to consider that at certain points of the game, it makes more sense to give 100% of the work to Helu. I don't care which one gets the stats and I don't care which one scores the points. I just think that based on the situation we seem to have found ourselves in the most, Helu is a stronger answer.
5b. I am struggling mightily with trying to understand why we INSIST on giving up the lead early every week. It is uncanny how events unfold in the first quarter of our games. The latest was the blocked punt yesterday against Oakland. Is it bad that when we were down 14-0, I wasn't even worried? I mean, I wasn't confident because we are so good it doesn't matter how big of a hole we dig. It just seems that we aren't comfortable until we give up a score or two. There are probably a lot of factors that go into answering why a team just can't find its footing early in games, and I am admittedly not the expert on most of them. You could blame the offensive script at the top of games, but I doubt the script calls for the fumbles and interceptions we have seen. You could blame the preparation, but I choose to believe that this group works hard during the week. You could blame RG3's knee, but that is a terrible excuse that is not generally supported by his numbers. I am at a loss. We went from last year--where we played a great second half of the season--to this year, where we only play good second halves of games. Fittingly, the first quarter of this season has us in a 1-3 hole.
6. No matter when your bye week is scheduled, it always comes at a good time. Coming off of a win, it will be nice to give Alfred Morris the extra time to rest up (despite the point made above). I think the rest for Griffin's leg will be exactly what the doctor ordered. My guess is that when the Redskins tee it off with the Cowboys in week six, you will see a guy who is really starting to look like the player we all hope he will be down the stretch this year. Will he be the exact same player he was last year? Probably not, but I do think he is still playing his way through some rehab. Here's hoping some down time will allow us to unleash a slightly more mobile and elusive quarterback on Dallas.
***Please join us this Saturday at RFD for our first annual Beer Pong Tourney, with all proceeds going to the Yellow Ribbon Fund organization. There will be some pretty cool items given away and awarded to winners, not to mention you get the chance to lose to Kevin and I if you make the finals!