- Happy Victory Monday, y’all! I have to admit that I was concerned about yesterday’s game. Heading into the Minnesota Vikings tilt, I just kept tasting that awful, lingering aftertaste of the tie to the Bengals in England. Any time you go “Tie, Bye” over a two-week period smack dab in the middle of an NFL campaign, you know you are going to have some weird dreams at night, and you are going to struggle to not feel lost (as a football fan, that is). As much lipstick as I have been able to slather over this whole tie situation, the reality is that only wins can keep that lipstick looking shiny. From here on out, we have got to stay ahead of that loss column. I am sure I will be roasted by these words some day, but I believe a tie helps a good team and dooms a bad team. This does not mean ties should be actively pursued or anything, but in an era where parity really is amazingly evident, a good team that suffers a tie will actually see it work to their benefit. You guys all know me to be somewhat adept at firing up the ol’ sunshine blower and pointing it directly up Chris (ih8dallas) Hess’ skirt, but in this case, I hope you will see that math ends up being the friend of the good team with a tie. The Redskins are still in the business of needing wins, but as long as they MATCH the win total of anyone competing with them for a playoff spot (assuming that team doesn’t also have a tie), the Redskins are dancing. As of the creation of these pixels, the Redskins are sitting ion 6th place in the NFC, and would move to 5th if the Cincinnati Bengals can topple the New York Giants.
- There are times when emotion is a powerful ally, and there are times when emotion can be your worst enemy. For this writer, the Vikings game was one where the Redskins were going to need to be the more emotional team. Minnesota has been in a free fall since winning their first five games. After Norv Turner rage-quit on the team last week, the offense was back in the hands of Pat Shurmur and Sam Bradford—the same Sam Bradford who lost twice to the Redskins last season. We knew that Mike Zimmer’s defense was going to make it difficult, and we knew that the Vikings were going to play with some pride. With this thought in mind, I watched Kirk Cousins race 30 yards downfield toward the end of the first half to protest a no-call on a possible pass interference penalty. This from the guy who stays cool almost no matter what. When I saw him do that (I am told by my friends who watched the telecast that the no-call was probably correct), I felt like we were properly emotional for this contest. When I saw Kirk get borderline out-of-character there to show that emotion, I felt pretty confident we could win the game. As I had said all week long—this game was not going to be a blowout, so to win, the Redskins were going to need to find that edge. Here is the post-game presser where Kirk, among other things, explains why he ended up making that run and getting in the referee’s face (something he doesn’t normally do).
3. I feel like I am going out of order by racing to talk about Preston Smith. After all, I feel like his impact on the game came kind of all of a sudden, and at the end. He was close to making a play a few other times in the game, but when he showed up in a scary way, it was the Vikings nightmare scenario. Two sacks and a one-handed interception turned the game in Washington’s favor in the fourth quarter. I am not the kind of guy to put everything on one or two plays, because that is not really how it works, but in this case, Smith’s fingerprints ended up all over the victory. Everyone on this site knows how I feel about Pressss-TONE!!! He is a man-child that simply needs to be slightly more consistent in his game, but that is not to say he has done anything terribly wrong. Instead of focusing on those games this season where we needed this kind of Preston factor, I will simply suggest that if #94 is going to give that kind of effort down the home stretch of the season, the Redskins defense will start to look every bit as good as we hoped it could (the reality check being that once again, our defense will likely need to “overachieve” in the second half of the season to get us to the dance). You like you some Preston? Here you go:
4. I don’t want to be the guy who heaps praise on kickers, but that overseas trip was brutal on Dustin Hopkins. Missing a kick he absolutely, positively should have made to get the overtime win against Cincy is going to stay with him for a long time—maybe forever. If you’re a script-writer, and you were looking to write about redemption, you could do worse than the story of Dustin Hopkins yesterday. Just the fact he was 4-for-4 tells you that his leg was one of the main reasons the Redskins won, but it doesn’t tell you everything. When Hopkins lined up for a 50-yard attempt just about halfway through the fourth quarter, the game was tied and it was becoming pretty clear that the margin of victory was going to be slight. Hopkins made all of his field goals in the second half, and while we could choose to harp on the lack of touchdowns from inside the red zone, I will instead suggest that Hopkins allowed all of those drives to end positively. The Vikings, despite their recent struggles, are not allowing a ton of points this season, so if you can move the ball into range against them, you can’t afford to come up empty. It was a great comeback game for a kicker that must have had a rough two-week wait to get his chance to redeem himself.
5. I have been saying we needed to go at least 2-2 in Trent Williams’ absence, though I think we all agree we need three wins to really keep this party going. To me, neither of those two results would have been possible without a win over Minnesota. I did say that if we beat the Vikings, we would make the playoffs, but that is more due to the way the wild card race is shaping up, as well as the fact that we stand two games behind the Cowboys in the loss column. I don’t think I am alone in saying how happy I was with Ty Neskhe’s performance as a fill-in for Trent. I know that the subject of Trent’s absence has caused a lot of division among us, and I don’t want to sound as unperturbed as I do, but...I am somewhat unperturbed. I hate myself sometimes for being so numb to certain aspects of the game, but in my mind, the only guarantee we have is that we are going to lose players during the season. For my part, I spend most of July and August every year praying that the injury bug doesn’t bite guys like Trent Williams, specifically. From an injury standpoint, if I were to tell you Trent was going to miss four games but be 100% healthy on the way back, we would likely breathe a sigh of relief (especially with a guy like Ty Nsekhe in the fold). Of course, there is the incredibly regrettable fact that Trent’s four-game absence was likely...avoidable. That, plus the incredibly thin nature of our offensive line depth right now, is all on TW. You can say I am going too easy on a guy, but I am too busy thinking about how the Redskins will be adding the best tackle in the league in three weeks as we head into what is hopefully going to be a playoff run.
6. At 5-3-1, the Redskins are heading into what will likely be the hardest five days of their season—possibly the hardest five-day stretch they have had in recent memory. On Sunday night, we host the Green Bay Packers in a game that can’t be undersold from a playoff importance standpoint, and that will be followed up by a Thanksgiving matchup against the Cowboys. The Packers are 4-5 on the season, sit in the 12th spot in the NFC, and they are a mere 0.500 against conference opponents. All of this makes this game loom large against the backdrop of the postseason. A high-stakes game on national television against the Packers for a shot to stay both relevant and alive? Admittedly, this has not been our strongest suit. Admittedly, this has been the scene of many nightmares for Redskins fans. One thing I can tell you for certain: the tailgate next week is going to border on legendary! I feel like the vibe is going our way this week. Losing twice in five days could sting more than a tie, but I see this Redskins team right now, and I don’t see a squad that is about to lay two eggs. What once seemed like the burial ground for our 2016 season (recall what this five-day stretch looked like a month ago) now seems like it could be where everything...really...takes...off.