Monday, November 13, 2006

Eagles 27 - Skins 3: A Fitting End

Injuries have kept the real Redskins team from showing up this year. Although they hung in until their ninth game, yesterday’s loss means it will take a miracle for the Redskins to make the playoffs. They will have to win each of their last seven to see the post season and that looks less likely today knowing that yet another injury has taken their best skill player on offense—Clinton Portis. So, the season is practically over and it was a fitting end. Just as injuries are mostly the result of poor luck, the Redskins season ended by a loss due mostly to poor luck.

If the Eagles reran the pass play that resulted in their second touchdown 100 times, they would likely get one, maybe two touchdowns, in those 100 tries. That is the definition of luck. But, yesterday was one of the times in which they got a TD. It was on a play in which the Redskins’ Shawn Springs did everything right. He covered his man and dislodged the ball. The Eagles running back, Buckhalter, hustled and was in the right place at the right time, picking the fumbled ball off in the air in full stride for a TD. Total point swing: 7.

The Redskins did everything right on their option pass to Chris Cooley. Cooley was wide open. The Eagles bit on the handoff to Randle-El and Randle-El was ready to make a perfect throw. An Eagles player, out of desperation, dove at Randle-El’s heels and barely tripped him; Randle-El hesitated a split second to get his balance. In that split second, Dawkins was able to close ten yards and deflect a sure touchdown pass to Cooley. Total point swing: 14.

The Redskins made a great stop near the goal line in the second half and forced a fumble which they recovered at their two-yard line. But, the refs said the player was down by contact. Gibbs immediately challenged the play and replays showed he was right. The ball came loose way before the Eagles player was touched. The announcers saw what I and the rest of the viewing audience saw and said that it WAS a fumble and it would be the Redskins ball. Someway, somehow, the refs didn’t see it on the replay. The Redskins did a great job on a goal line stand there, but the Eagles still got a field goal. Total point swing: 17.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “They lost by twenty-four so what are you complaining about?” Well, yes, but if the game was as close as it should have been Brunnell wouldn’t throw that desperation pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown in the second half. And, the game was much closer than the score. The Redskins controlled the ball for 20:00 minutes in the first half to the Eagles 10:00. The Skins were running all over the Eagles. They gained 4.7 yards per carry even without Portis who broke his hand early in the game.

So, this was a fitting end to the Redskins playoff run. The poor luck that kept their best players out of most of their games this year finished them against the Eagles who made some of the luckiest plays and got some of the luckiest calls you’ll see in a long time. I know good teams make their own luck in games, but that has nothing to do with injuries.

Redskins’ detractors are very happy today. I’m not sure why most of the media hates the Redskins, but they love to rip them, especially in the New York area. The sarcasm drips and schadenfreude smirks in nearly every column. Here’s an example from Paul Needell in today’s Newark Star Ledger:

Washington’s 3-6, clearly the worst team in the NFC East. It’s time for Joe Gibbs to leave whoever his eventual successor is with a chance to see what Jason Campbell’s got, don’t you think?

Giants’ fans like Needell would love to see Gibbs leave because his Redskins teams seem to often go a little farther than the Giants—like last year for instance. But, Gibbs made a five-year commitment and it would take something extraordinary for him to leave now, especially when the Redskins are coming off of a deep playoff run last year and they have improved on both sides of the ball and special teams this year. Injuries sometimes come in waves, but the odds are pretty good that it won’t be repeated next year. Gibbs knows that and will likely stick around until their next championship run.

The Giants, on the other hand, have been pretty lucky until recently. Last night the nation saw how good the Giants are when they finally get hit with a few injuries. Whew. That was pretty ugly. I don’t know who is going to win the NFC East this year, but I don’t think it will be the Giants.


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