Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Veni Vedi Vici: Skins 17 - Cards 13

Winning ugly is much better than losing beautifully. The perfect example of looking great while losing is the Redskins game against the Buccaneers. The Skins outplayed the Bucs and managed to put up thirty-five points against what was the number one defense in the NFL. Then, in crunch time, with less than a minute to play, the Redskins defense stopped Alstott before he broke the plane of the goal line and the defense preserved a one-point victory. Almost everything about that game was pretty, except for the official NFL version of the outcome, which says that the Redskins lost by one point.

So, don’t talk to me about how bad the Redskins offense looked in the first half of the Cardinals game; I don’t want to hear it. Just look at the official NFL understanding of the outcome of that game. They won. The Redskins rushed for 185 yards against Tampa versus Tampa’s 61 rushing yards. Mark Brunell threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in that game. The offense did all of that in Tampa’s house. But, they lost. The only thing that matters is the W.

The Bad
Mark Brunell played his worst game and has been in a bit of a decline in the past four weeks—since the Buccaneers game. There are rumors that he has an injured thumb; considering that the Redskins hid his injuries last year, it is easy to believe. After starting the year picking flies off of pin heads from forty yards, he has been overthrowing some wide open receivers lately. Still, he has only given up eight interceptions for the year and half of those bounced off his receivers’ hands including one on Sunday. Overall, he has been superb.

The Good
The defense has been getting the job done, especially in crunch time. Much of that has to do with Cornelius Griffin getting healthy. Arrington was injured for the Cardinals game and so there have only been one or two games when Arrington, Griffin, and Taylor have started at the same time. If all three play, they will win. Also, at one point this year the Redskins had only managed to recover six of thirty-one fumbles, which I attributed to bad luck. On Sunday they recovered all six fumbles in the game--three of their own and three of the Cards. Their luck might be--as Dylan sung--"a changin'."

The Very Good
The Redskins have rejuvenated the running game. Betts played little and so had another week to heal. Cartwright has emerged. But, most importantly, Portis has been able to move the chains on third down. The most significant third-down conversion came on third and six with just under two minutes to play on Sunday. Portis got hit after gaining two and carried a pile of players another four yards to move the chains and end the game. That bodes well. If they had done that in similar situations against the Bucs, Chargers, and Raiders they'd be looking down on the rest of the NFC East now. Also, the special teams have played great all year, both in scoring on kicks--like Antonio Brown's TD on Sunday--and in covering kicks and punts. That is very important at this time of year.

The defense, a running game, and special teams win in the playoffs.


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