- Happy Victory Monday, y’all! It brings me such great pleasure to drop that as my first line of an in-season Sixpack in 2020, and I hope that everyone reading today is in good spirits and good health. Not many “experts” were giving Washington a win out of the gate, but that was based on things that people only thought they knew. I have no problem with the national sports media having zero confidence in this organization. It makes perfect sense—this franchise has been stuck in a vortex of negativity for a long, long time. I’ve been complaining for years that the dysfunction between Monday and Saturday has poisoned our Sunday product, but the world has had its eyes opened on how truly toxic a Dan Snyder-led business truly is and why. What was once viewed as sports fans belly-aching because their team piled up losses is now rightfully viewed as a legitimate business concern that in fact explains those losses. Make no mistake—the highlight of the 2019 season was the first half of this very same game. Washington went up over the Philadelphia Eagles and we all entertained thoughts of a new day for our team...by the end of that actual day, there was little in the form of entertainment. The upheaval, scandal and turnover since last season ended has been enough to distract at times even from far more serious matters we have faced in the world since the calendar flipped over to 2020...which is not a small deal. I bring all of this up because we were all wearing this yesterday at 1 PM EST; we were all very well aware of who this team has been and we have been made VERY well aware of what everyone ELSE thinks about OUR team. I had been quietly listening to and reading our sister site up in Philly (Bleeding Green Nation) as they have expressed a gargantuan level of confidence heading into the season, but more specifically, this game. I have quietly digested the minimal to nonexistent expectations the sports world has for this Washington team. Whenever asked, I repeated my very simple, and what I felt was very factual truth: nobody has known less about the league heading into a season in the modern era. Outside of the Hard Knocks participants in Los Angeles, NFL franchises have operated in an anonymity that is beyond atypical in our lifetimes. No preseason games combined with the return of baseball, hockey and basketball provided a kind of cover for training camps that has been...well...weird. Further, in the right hands, this opportunity could be seized upon to build something better (more on that below). Folks chuckled at the idea when I openly suggested that Washington could beat Philadelphia, but honest show hosts I spoke to were at least willing to grant me that week one in any season—much less one in the middle of a global pandemic—is not a simple chalk exercise. You won’t hear me getting out over my skis here—one win against our sister team in Philly does not a season make, and single-data-point-extrapolation is generally a poor policy. (Can you tell I have been thinking about this around the clock...every day...for weeks?!?!?!) That said...beating the Eagles is its own reward, regardless (irregardless, even) of what it means outside of the whistles around the league. Oh man...it feels so damn good.
- Let’s continue this train of honesty. After one quarter of play, it felt like we were one quarter closer to drafting Trevor Lawrence. Offensive impotence, defensive missteps (penalties), and Carson Wentz’s typical escapability from our pass rushers made me—and the folks I was watching the game with—think that we were in for a maddening Groundhog Day kind of situation. Even though it was a 48-yard attempt, the missed field goal to keep our side of the scoreboard empty was an uppercut to my groin. By the time Dallas Goedert ran under that pretty floater from Wentz to make it 17-0, the empty beer can count in front of me was becoming...a story. I know it wasn’t lost on many of you—as it wasn’t lost on us at home—that it was Washington that went up 17-0 last year in the opener. It wasn’t over then, and it sure as hell wasn’t over yesterday.
- Let’s get right to the fun...holy crap was our defense good yesterday! Was I pissed off about the early offsides penalties? Of course. Was I livid when Landon Collins gave Philly 15 yards for what can only be described as the least-veteran/captain-type move a guy can make? Oh yes. You can trace almost everything that went well for Carson Wentz and that offense in the first half to those errors. Still...that only served to mask what was actually happening between the whistles. The front seven was controlling the line of scrimmage. Wentz was having to make quick and decisive throws, and he did because he is a very good quarterback. He was having to move to avoid the rush, which he did because he is a very good quarterback. But the task quickly outpaced his talent. The sack party that ensued was magnificent to behold. The manner in which our secondary responded to the opportunities presented to them because of our pressure up front is something to watch as the season progresses. I didn’t like the way the deep ball was open on third and LONG—pretty unforgivable—but they cleaned that up mid-game (you know...an actual adjustment—refreshing, eh?). In short, the strength of our squad—defense—won this game for us. They stuffed the run, made the quarterback pay in a brutal and physical way, they got it done on third downs and most importantly, they didn’t have to spend the entire game on the field, with time of possession ending up pretty equal. I could call out so many names, but until the next point down, let me just say I was surprised at how the sack record hit me when Ryan Kerrigan took down Wentz the second time. It was a great moment. More than that though, was the way Kerrigan rushed the passer in general. If there is a way you can rush the passer “unselfishly,” he did it. There were a couple plays where you thought Kerrigan may have been able to beat his teammates to Wentz, but he instead made a move to eliminate an escape route or to cut off a release pass. It was classy, veteran play—noteworthy because around the league, you see quarterbacks make teams pay for overpursuit by that guy (like Wentz against us on the regular).
- How about a little rookie talk? On the offensive side of the ball, Antonio Gibson paced the ballcarriers in the game with 36 rushing yards—not gonna blow up everyone’s skirt, but it was good for 4 yards per carry. Watching us focus on him early in the ground game was exciting, because it was the exact equivalent of opening a Christmas present. Despite what may look to some as a meager statistical performance, Gibson showed why everyone expects him to get double-digit touches week in and week out. The fact we won without him hitting the kind of home runs he is capable of speaks to the upside of our offense. On defense...I mean, come on. No offense to Joe Burrow, but Chase Young should not have been available to draft at the #2 overall slot. He is who we thought he was: a plug-and-play monster with the ability to impact the outcome of a game immediately. As impressive as it was to see him pin his ears back and attack double-teams in the pass rush, when he recognized a toss or screen, his ability to change direction and make a play was insane. As good as Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Montez Sweat are—and they are elite athletes—Chase Young is a different level of NFL player. Seeing #99 was a treat, and as fun as it was for us to see, I promise you it was more fun for the above-mentioned guys to play alongside him. Teams on Washington’s schedule have a real problem on their hands, and it is a different kind of problem than one that our opponents have had to solve historically. You see, we have had good players, but they were able to be taken out of the game by opposing coordinators, allowing our opponents to focus their attack elsewhere...with success. The problem Chase Young presents is twofold: 1) if you focus on trying to nullify Chase, Washington has the talent elsewhere on the line to make you pay for it, and 2) good f’ing luck trying to nullify Chase Young.
- Tracking back to other things Tim and Kevin and I have been shouting from the basement since March, the addition of Ron Rivera matters. He was absolutely the best man for the job, and I continue to be shocked (but grateful) he took it. The combination of both on- and off-the-field cleanup he has been tasked with is mind-boggling. And that is BEFORE you factor in that he needed medical treatment at halftime of the freaking game! (Riverboat said it was just to be safe, but come on...the guy is battling cancer and taking an IV just to be able to stay in the game.) Question: Do you think that reverberates inside a locker room when your coach is going through this kind of situation? Follow-up question: Any chance a team is going to question the commitment, determination or leadership of a man displaying why he was tough enough to play for the ‘85 Bears defense? Sure, things didn’t go our way out of the gate, but I am damn sure that Rivera wasn’t puking up memories of past losses to the Eagles like we all were in the first half. I credit Rivera for the performances of Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner. I credit Rivera with the way our defense stayed within themselves and let the game come to them. I credit Rivera with keeping Dustin Hopkins from having a breakdown that could have cost us the game. I credit Rivera with the way in which Dwayne Haskins—despite a shaky statistical performance—was actually a leader on and off the field all day yesterday. One week in and the Rivera hire is paying off exactly as we thought—it’s only one week though, and Riverboat himself is the one quick to remind us that the hard work that has to be done in 2020 has barely even begun.
- Man...I’m really using up some pixels today. How about some odds and ends? The uniforms were fine, I guess. I am a gold pants guy—especially when wearing the burgundy tops. While I also like the gold helmet, I am not here to quibble—our helmets are awesome. The end zones were great, as well. As underwhelming as our name change result was/is, the “W” is great. Because of how the TV bugs work, sometimes you will see stats attributed to Washington and sometimes it automatically reverts to the mascots, which puts “Football Team” on the screen. I know there are probably network folks debating that as we speak. It’s just odd, but here is where I am on that today: we won, so call us whatever you want to call us, and put on the screen whatever you want to put on the screen. I was over the name change thing way before it happened. I have found that people continue to disrespect us no matter what we are named. To that end, the Arizona Cardinals have been installed as seven point favorites against this Washington team. Kyler Murray is going to be more dangerous than Wentz with his legs (especially after Montez Sweat crumpled Wentz in the backfield). DeAndre Hopkins is as good a reciever we’ll face all season. Their defense was on point against the 49ers, allowing just two third down conversions. Surely there is no way that Washington could ever hang with such a dominant squad! (You see where I’m going with this?) Surely there is no way this Washington team could travel across a couple time zones and compete against the mighty Cardinals!?!?! Good...I’m glad there is no outpouring of respect for our team on the national level. For a week, let it be more about how the Eagles messed their pants in week one and less about how good this Rivera-led team can be. I’m fine with that. Give Chase Young and his friends a chip to strap onto their shoulders. Let’s see how this first month plays out. Let’s see how these guys respond to success. There is a ton to clean up from week one, and none of us should be considering making any postseason plans. Sunday is a long time away, and there is work that needs to get done. Today, however, is Victory Monday. We earned it. Enjoy it!