1. My name ends in a vowel, so on Columbus Day, I throw down. If it was Victory Monday, I would have pushed a Sixpack across the finish line before I got too far into my whiskey-soaked sendup of ol' Chris C., but this one could wait. I still can't believe I get Columbus Day off (only some years, when other annual holidays fall on weekends, and force my company to pick an extra day or two to close). In years past, I would look forward to Monday holidays after gamedays because it would allow a little time between a loss and when I had to feel my own feelings and talk about them. In the case of this year's team, I can honestly say that the pain of the loss stung, but I felt better and better as I got deeper and deeper into Sunday. There is not a single Redskins fan who can say he or she wasn't intimately familiar with the feeling that came with that loss against Atlanta. Did it feel different to you than past losses? The manner in which we lost sure smacked of previous experiences, but the general tenor of that game was quite different than what I have become accustomed to over the years. It is hard to explain, because the losing is not new, but the almost winning against a good team on the road when that team played pretty well against us is new.
2. Please allow me to make my semi-annual proclamation: There is no such thing as a good loss. You get SIXTEEN games each year. That's it. Every loss propels you further away from not just the playoffs, but also the pursuit of respectability. "Almost winning" is not something you should ever get overly excited about, especially when you consider that the NFC East is likely to be won by a team that has escaped "almost losing" more times than the rest of the division. Make no mistake about it: the Redskins could be 3-2 today, and by not forgetting that fact, we keep our feet grounded in reality. That may sound too harsh, but this reality has a huge silver lining. In order to see that silver lining, you have to get past the fact we lost out on Time of Possession this week, along with losing the battle of turnovers and being a little underwhelming on third down...but the silver lining is there!
3. I'm not going to dig into the last play. In some ways, it was the best way to lose, because it was so fast and so final. In other ways, it felt like a pile driver to the groin. Either way, the reality is the Washington Redskins are 2-3, and tied for second in the NFC East, one game back of the New York Giants. I think that 2-3 says a lot of truthy things about the Redskins. In the same way that 1-1 felt more "right" than 2-0, a 2-3 record allows this team and its fanbase to accept that our shortcomings--right this second--are just slightly greater than our strengths. It's close...it's so close. When you go on the road and play an undefeated team, those shortcomings are going to be exposed, or at least exploited. Against the Atlanta Falcons, the Redskins came up short on a few plays that could have gone differently, but that probably went the way the universe intended. I don't mean that our loss was predetermined, rather, the game hinged on a few plays that we just aren't there yet on. We can look at this as a miserable failure, or we can look at this as a huge step forward from past iterations of our squad. Again, not a good loss, but plenty of good wins throughout the game in the many individual battles. It's at this point that I don't even know if I am happy or mad about this team, but I am trending toward happy.
4. Pro Football Focus Report: PFF reported that Trent Williams gave up his first quarterback hit of the season. Morgan Moses was graded highest of anyone on the line (with Lichtensteiger earning the lowest grade), which continues a nice trend for Morgan. He has truly been a pleasant surprise this season, and his early success is helping Brandon Scherff have an impact on the right side of the offensive line. You see, it is stuff like this that gets my blood pumping: two offensive linemen, both playing in their first full season in the league, developing into an actual strength for this team. For the first time this season, our running backs failed to force a missed tackle. I didn't like this, but people sleep on Atlanta's run defense. The other offensive stat that surprised me was that both Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant played more snaps than Pierre Garcon (though Garcon did lead the team with three drops). It was a margin of two snaps, so it likely means little, but I was still a bit shocked. On defense, Keenan Robinson played every snap, missing four tackles, leading to his receipt of the worst grade PFF has ever given him. Bashaud Breeland was targeted 12 times, allowing four catches, but notching an interception and two passes defensed. Jason Hatcher registered the most pressures (six), on a day when we were able to make Matt Ryan move his feet. Head over to Pro Football Focus for more analysis here.
5. You know, I watched a lot of games this weekend, and I have to tell you guys...the Redskins simply do not resemble the "bottom of the barrel" the way they have in recent years. I am not saying we would line up and win every game against some of these "lesser" teams, but look at the way things are lining up around the league. The NFC South and the AFC East have some definition at the top and some strength behind the leaders, but pretty much every other division is full of teams like ours--or worse. When you are trying to determine who the weakest teams in the NFL are this week, the Redskins are not part of that conversation. At least some of that is due to the strong showing the Redskins had against a squad many put in the conversation for best team. The rest is due to the fact that the Redskins have been doing some things right. They have been displaying a style of football that is conducive to winning (eventually) that some of the bottom feeder teams have failed to display. I take very little solace in the plight of the fans from Jacksonville, Miami, Detroit, New Orleans or San Francisco--to name a few teams struggling at this point. Still...for the first time in a while, doesn't it feel like this Redskins team is constructed to battle through adversity, and probably not be the 4-12 disaster that we have become used to seeing?
6. I think what stands out to me the most is that the style of this football team is not held hostage by any one player. There are players that could get injured that would certainly cause us to be unable to execute certain plays very well (like DeSean Jackson, for instance), but I feel confident that McLovin and Gruden would soldier on with a physical style almost no matter who they lose. That is the way McLovin is attacking this roster development project. Everyone wants to talk about whether Jay Gruden is or isn't our long term coach, but I kind of don't care. I believe that if Gruden is out, the next coach coming here is going to come here to coach our team the way McLovin wants him to coach it. He is building a roster that is designed to go right at teams, and for the foreseeable future, that appears to be the "Redskin Way" we should get used to seeing. I am not giving up on this season, but when I think about this kind of thing, I am immediately excited about next year's draft and free agency period--not because of any particular shiny toy we might be in line to add. Moving forward, I see more and more this notion that we won't be adding "one player" in free agency or the draft. We will be adding "one of fifty-three." When competent front offices add players, those players complement the guys next to them on the field--as opposed to being brought in because of singularity or individual endeavors. It's a joy to watch, and it ensures a team's chance at being competitive for longer than the health of a single player. I know, I know...it's just crazy enough to work.