1. Okay...let's all take a deep breath. The Redskins lost. Let's act like we've been here before. Hahaha...jeeeeeeez. As promised by me, were you not treated to a "higher brand of suck"? This Washington team is better, and I think it showed, but I am not here to tell you it was a good loss. While I agree with Jay Gruden that the Miami Dolphins defense is capable of doing "some good," and that we "competed," I didn't think he had to sound as upbeat as he did about it. In all fairness, I left the game feeling encouraged, and his postgame presser did not strike any foul chords with me...maybe I just wanted to hear a little more fire than we got from him. All in all, there were plenty of reasons going into this game that pointed to a FAR worse experience than the one we were served. Jay Gruden sounded very much like a first-year coach after his first game, summarizing the kind of performance you would expect to see from a team full of inexperienced guys, playing for a team that has very little recent winning experience. I think that is telling, and I am actually here to say that is a good thing. After all, washing off the last couple seasons SHOULD leave us feeling like a team bouncing off of the VERY bottom--the rock bottom, if you will. In short, I liked what I saw from the burgundy and gold. They were clear about what they wanted to do, and they came out and executed a gameplan that was consistent with that mission. We ran the ball well against a stout defensive line. Ndamukong Suh did not dominate the Redskins. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones ran hard and the young right side of our offensive line performed admirably. How can you not appreciate what Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses did?
2. The kneejerk reaction is to think--as I did--that we have seen this movie before. As that second half unfolded, I was pre-numbed. My body took over and shielded me from the pain that it has withstood so many times at FedEx Field over the years. Still...there were things that I saw with my own eyes that made me feel like this could be a different script. The first half was clearly a happy period in all of our lives yesterday. The second half...not so much. Let's be clear: the Redskins COULD have won that game, but we are not a team than can leave a loss suggesting we SHOULD have won that game. Not yet. Not when the kinds of mistakes we committed continue to be a central storyline around this team.
3. Oh my God...the penalties! No matter what the most optimistic fan in the world might say (like yours truly for instance), there is no excuse for the plethora of infractions that rained down on us. I will gladly take a holding penalty here and there when the life of the quarterback is at stake. We took way more than that, and you can easily hold up the penalty tally as either 1 or 1A in terms of "leading reason for loss." These are the self-inflicted wounds that we just have to get away from if we ever hope to turn this thing around. Speaking of...don't get me started on Jordan Reed's failure to run the proper route at the end of the game. Crap...I'm started. This has been a problem for this team for a while. The option route by the tight end is a crucial facet to every offense in the NFL. Running it properly is absolutely the difference between winning and losing. Chris Cooley taught me this during his last season in pads. He told me in no uncertain terms that we didn't have a guy who could do it with him sidelined (it may have come across as athletic arrogance, but he was right). He told me that the uber-athletic tight ends we were bringing in could shine on a highlight, but that failing to execute this simple offensive tactic cost us games. The quarterback expects the tight end to make the proper decision and he throws the ball accordingly. These are plays that you need for crucial first downs or touchdowns. When the result instead is an interception or turnover on downs, well, you see what happens.
4. Speaking of self-inflicted wounds....Holy Ghost of Carlos Rogers, Batman! I mean, before Chris Culliver dropped that sideline interception, I was ALREADY seeing the ESPN highlight package in my head. I could already hear the anchor talking about the "surprising Redskins defense closing the lid on Miami's coffin with game-winning points." On this...hmmmmm...I don't expect this to be an ongoing issue with Culliver, BUT, BUT, BUT this is how an ongoing problem starts. The game was in the balance. This was the Redskins NOT making a play to win the game, and then giving up the play that won the game on special teams. That is an ongoing problem. That is a storyline that is simply not new. And yet...we still had a chance at the end and we hung in there against a team that nobody not drinking our Kool-Aid thought we had a chance to defeat. (Desperately trying to stay positive.)
5. I sat in between two STARKLY different sets of Redskins fans yesterday. On my right were Mike Harar and Chris LeSage, or 50% of The District (and contributors to our site). On my left were two 25-year old ladies, Alyssa and Mags. While Mags was lipsynching the ENTIRE lyrics from "Whoomp! There It Is" and Alyssa was having a heart attack on every single play, Mike and Chris wore the fatigue of a bachelor party weekend while desperately trying to stay on top of the action and emotionally involved. Mike, Chris and I began worrying the exact second that DeSean Jackson pulled up on that fateful play in the first half. We couldn't believe our eyes when we looked up at the scoreboard and saw a 10-0 lead for the home team. We died inside when Gruden put the kicking team on the field on 4th down instead of going for it...the wide miss caused us all to fear the worst. Listen...maybe there isn't a right or wrong answer on that decision, and I get that we were playing time of possession and minimizing bad spots for our quarterbacks. In the interests of being transparent though, in that situation, I GO FOR IT EVERY TIME. Perhaps the tailgate affected my judgment, but Mike and I seemed to agree (Mike?) that the equation appeared to be weighted in favor of going for it. I won't beat up Gruden too much because you expect your kicker to make that attempt, and your defense was performing.
6. I continue to hear much made of the presence of opposing team's fans at FedEx. I have to tell you, as a storyline, I am past it. I have been at FedEx for every game except for a select few over the last 15 years. I understand this issue very, very well. I used to get worked up about it. I don't anymore, and here's why: I understand and support why legions of Redskins fans are staying away. It isn't because this team has sucked out loud for much of the last 20 years. Lovable losers still draw throngs of their own fans. People are staying away because of Dan Snyder. That is the truth. That is the reason. That ain't changing (haha...not sure why I insist on using that "word"). Everyone says that once this team starts winning, the ratio will return to Washington's favor. That is very likely, but PLENTY of Washington fans are just done with Dan Snyder. Just because I am not one of them doesn't mean I am president of the Snyder Fan Club. It just means that I still enjoy watching the game in person. It means my life still needs the Tailgate (great job by our crew yesterday...I'm beyond proud for what we did with no preseason tailgate to prepare). At the end of the first quarter, my estimate was 33% Miami fans in the stands. I have heard folks say it was higher, but that is what I thought I saw. I don't see this phenomenon changing anytime soon. Try selling tickets to a Redskins game. Seriously, it is a losing venture (just ask the Redskins ticket office). There aren't tens of thousands of Redskins fans dying to go to a home game like there used to be. Winning will help, but winning games is not going to cause ownership to change over. That is what it will take for many fans to return to FedEx. If that is true--and I believe it is--don't expect this to change any time soon. Also, I am trying to reserve getting upset about such things for the offseason. I am desperately trying to keep my focus on the development of this team; on McLovin's work in progress; on the individual battles that my favorite young players are finding themselves in on Sundays. Worrying about who comes to games is not high on my list today. Once we start winning, we will be happy so many opposing fans traveled to witness their team get smashed.