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Third and it didn't matter

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Old 09-13-2006, 02:04 PM   #1
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Third and it didn't matter

Trev Walters latest effort, enjoy:

Third and It Didn’t Matter

Monday night in WashingtonD.C., and all over the American landscape for that matter, citizens gathered both to take in the Redskins’ season opener and to mark the fifth anniversary of one of the worst tragedies our nation’s history. The attacks, perpetuated by a servile, sub-human collection of Islamic scum, demonstrated how insignificant football and sports can be in the face of real-world catastrophe. However, the very fact that the games were played as the sun set on both coasts Monday demonstrated the resiliency that personifies the best of the American spirit. With the American character shining strong and proud amid the shadows of a tragedy now five years old, the Redskins laid a massive egg with the whole world watching.

Let us set the record straight from the beginning. The lackluster showing in their four preseason losses still doesn’t mean anything, but their similar display of alleged football on Monday night is reason for concern. For the better part of two seasons, this is when the column would cleverly (hmm…cleverly he says) transition into a dissection of yet another poor offensive performance. While Brunell’s boys weren’t totally blameless in Monday Night’s inexcusable loss at home, the brunt of the culpability rests on the heretofore broad shoulders of Gregg Williams’ defense.

Former Ravens reserve and current Vikings tailback Chester Taylor, forced out in Baltimore due to an inability to achieve the stringent felony requirements placed on Ravens players, gained a respectable 88 yards, roughly 35 of which came in the fourth quarter. But Taylor wasn’t the driving force behind the Minnesota offense. Former Redskin Brad Johnson was the best offensive player on the field Monday night, managing the game and taking his shots when they were there. There was a sense that, with Johnson at the helm, this Minnesota offense was not going to beat itself, and there was an almost equally tangible feeling that this Washington defense was not going to beat it either.

The main area in which the defense disappointed came on third down, where the Vikings converted nine of 17 chances, with a handful of the failed conversions coming as a result of Troy Williamson’s decision to slip in and out of a Rod Gardner impersonation at various points in the game. The man covering him, Carlos Rogers, had what was easily his worst game as a professional. Rogers found himself with a close-up view of most of Minnesota’s biggest plays, typically at least one good step behind whomever he was covering (term used loosely). With each big play that came at Rogers’ expense, the pain in ShawnSprings’ abdomen that kept him from action paled in comparison to the one in the collective stomach of Redskins fans who witnessed how desperately he was missed. If this Rogers-led cornerback corps cannot corral the Vikings’ collection of number two receivers, then what chance do they have against the Cowboys, Terrell Owens, and Redskin-killer Terry Glenn?

Not only were the third down disappearing acts discouraging, but the underwhelming pressure that the defensive front placed on Brad Johnson helped prolong its share of Viking drives as well. Handcuffed by his secondary and their inability to consistently cover the Minnesota receivers, Gregg Williams was forced to largely abandon many of his trademark blitz schemes. Williams also found his defense hamstrung on two occasions when missile-in-safety’s-clothing Sean Taylor was flagged with a pair of personal foul penalties, a scene that is becoming all too familiar.

Offensively, there was a noticeable surge in pre-snap movement, as well as overall creativity. While Washington moved the ball relatively well between the 20’s, the problems arose, as they have in the past, once Mark Brunell led his team into the Red Zone. Had just one of the drives that ultimately ended in a field goal been converted into a touchdown, the outcome may have been more favorable for the Redskins.

But overall, the offense, while inconsistent, was good enough to have won the game, as was evidenced by their ability to quickly gain the
30-plus yards needed to get into field goal range in the game’s final minute. That, however, is where the final wheel fell off, when pulled-quad-waiting-to-happen John Hall surprised absolutely no one by unleashing a kick that lurched so far off to the side that it really should have signaled. On paper, the Redskins had put themselves into position to win a game that they in truth had no business winning. In reality, however, anyone who believed that Hall had even a sliver of a chance to make that kick is gullible enough to buy the man-made “religion” of owner Daniel Snyder’s guest of honor.

There was, despite all their inconsistencies, a feeling that the offense is getting very close to clicking. The product is a proven commodity, with years of league dominance and Super Bowl success on its resume. The components with which Al Saunders can implement the most recent version of his established scheme are all more that sufficiently talented to employ it properly. The offense will only get better, and such an improvement cannot come too soon for the stunned Redskins and their fans.

This week’s game ball goes to Antwaan Randle El, who, in making his Redskins debut, was the only member of this most recent off-season haul to demonstrate his worth. Randle El is a Swiss Army Knife, possessing the ability to do everything from hurl touchdown passes into the air to shifting field position and setting up the offense with a short field. He was, at many times, the only real spark on either side of the ball for the Redskins as well as on special teams.

It seems strange to say, but the Redskins, after only one game of the 16 game season, find themselves facing the Cowboys in what could be termed a must-win. For Washington, to drop to 0-2 with a loss in the division and two in the conference, would serve to dig a historically daunting hole from which the Redskins would be hard pressed to dig themselves out. Once again, Washington will have the nation’s attention when they travel to Texas for the first of two consecutive games in the LoneStarState. With continued improvement on the offensive side of the ball and a rebirth of the defensive dominance of the past two seasons, Washington can topple the fool’s gold Cowboys. The only question now is whether such upgrades will be seen.

Check back next week for your Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!
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