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Walters: A Giant Takedown

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Old 12-27-2005, 10:33 AM   #1
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Walters: A Giant Takedown

A Giant Takedown

Revenge is apparently a dish best served in unseasonably warm temperatures, not cold as is so often thought. While it’s true that the 35-20 Redskins victory over the Giants on Christmas Eve was not a complete payback for the 36-0 drubbing New York handed Washington several weeks back, the timing of this victory adds an extra bit of seasoning to this somewhat milder dish.

Once again, Washington played like a team possessed, or more correctly, like a team who has suddenly and emphatically found their collective identity. The now famous meeting between Joe Gibbs and selected veterans resulted in a renewed commitment to the running game, as well as an understanding that any chance of making the post-season would be hinged upon the success of this newfound dedication. Clinton Portis has put up four consecutive 100-plus yard games, and has suddenly shown a propensity for getting the tough yards that seemed out of reach mere weeks ago.

By answering the bell to the tune of their second consecutive 35 point performance, the offense seems to be peeking at just the right time. All of a sudden, instead of being an area of concern or the reason that media types don’t consider Washington to be a valid contender, the Redskin offense is now the subject of very poorly contrived human illustrations with Sean Salisbury at the creative helm.

Just as last week, when the luster of the beat down administered to the Cowboys was sullied by an injury, the game Saturday was no different. Although the injury to quarterback Mark Brunell is certainly less serious that the season-ending broken leg Randy Thomas suffered, it is still quite the concern for the immediate future. The resurgence of Brunell and his career has been arguably the most crucial component to the Redskins’ success this season. His importance to the offense does not imply that backup Patrick Ramsey could not have similar success if given the chance. In fact, it is a reassuring feeling for Redskins Nation to know that Ramsey can unsheathe his powerful arm should the need arise.

On a more personal note, the chance to play down the stretch and potentially in the playoffs may be the boost that Ramsey’s career needs. As many have theorized, the Tulane product is most likely in his final season with the Burgundy and Gold. A league-wide consensus of his capabilities has not been fully established, so in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, Ramsey is a few good games away from finding his opportunities – as well as his value in a potential trade – increase exponentially.

Not to be overshadowed by the sudden potency of the offense is the defense, which gave up precious little to the purportedly dangerous Giants attack. One debatable touchdown catch and two field goals (the other score was on an interception return for a touchdown) are hardly the numbers of legends. Defensive lineman Phillip Daniels has timed his accelerated play as well as his offensive counterparts, and the rest of the defense has continued to play solidly. The man who lines up on the opposite end of the line, Renaldo Wynn, is an excellent example. It was Wynn who blocked a key Giants field goal attempt, proving not only that the special teams units could make plays as well, but also displaying the selfless, workmanlike attitude that this Redskins team is defined by. Regular starters will not only play special teams without complaint, but they do it with the same vigor as they do in their normal jobs.

The game ball this week goes to wide receiver Santana Moss, who has had arguably the best season of any wideout in the NFL. With 160 yards receiving and three touchdowns, Moss erased any personal demons that may have lingered from the first game in the Meadowlands. It is all the more impressive when you consider that for much of the season there has been little to no threat posed by the other Redskins wide receiver. David Patten made other teams contemplate his potential, but he never really did much more than draw a timely pass interference penalties. Taylor Jacobs has been mostly benign, and James Thrash has either been too injured or too bogged down with special teams duties to consistently pose a threat. Moss caught touchdown passes from three different passers, with the third coming from halfback Clinton Portis, who as a thrower, makes an excellent runner.

As it stands, the Redskins find themselves in much the same place that they were before their win over the Giants. They are still slotted in the sixth and final NFC playoff spot, and they still control their own fate with regard to keeping that status. The Falcons and Vikings both eliminated themselves from playoff contention this weekend, and Chicago locked up their division as well as the second of two first round byes. Tampa Bay, powered in part by their criminally dishonest conversion that wasn’t against the Redskins, has the inside track to their own division crown, as do the humbled Giants, who clinched at least a wildcard when Minnesota fell to Baltimore.

But the most interesting point to ponder is that the Redskins could still win the division this weekend with a victory in Philadelphia and a Giants loss in Oakland. With that in mind, Washington could also completely miss the post-season with a loss and a Cowboys victory. Winning the division gives Washington the four seed, a Carolina loss and Redskins victory would give Washington the five seed, and a Giants win in Oakland would clinch the sixth seed for the Redskins with a victory against the Eagles.

Most likely, the NFC playoffs will fall into place the way they are currently standing, and it is my opinion that this plays into the Redskins favor. That would mean a second trip to Tampa Bay, presumably with the understanding that this time lines would actually have to be crossed to be counted. Moving up to the fifth slot would mean a return trip to the Meadowlands, where the Giants are admittedly a different and better team.

The Giants are most likely going to take care of business in what will be Norville’s last game as Oakland’s head coach, so the division may have to wait until next season. But since Eli Manning is about as bad at road games as he is at public relations, there is always a chance. A division victory might mean another visit from the Cowboys, or a meeting with the enigmatic Panthers, but no matter the scenario, the Redskins must win their own game first and foremost.

It is important to remember that although the Eagles season has been longer than Terrell Owens’ list of enemies, they are still a division rival. Many times, records can be thrown out the window when division games come up on the schedule, and this weekend has the danger of such a slip-up. If you want to know the Eagles’ mindset, think of how the Redskins have felt at this time in each of the past few seasons. Nothing to play for except pride, so why not ruin someone else’s post-season plans? They’d like nothing better, and Washington must be careful not to take the final of their five critical games for granted.

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

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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