Monday, November 12, 2007

No Jansen, No Rogers, No Taylor, No Marcus, No Thomas, No Thrash, No Moss...No Mas

I love it when fans of other NFL teams say that injuries are a part of the game and everyone has to deal with them. They usually only say that when their team has not been decimated by injuries the way the Redskins have. I hate it when even Redskins fans do not understand what this Redskins team is experiencing and instead blame the coaching as if Gibbs were playing right tackle.

The Redskins entered the game without Marcus Washington, a Pro Bowl Linebacker; without Santana Moss, a Pro Bowl receiver who earned the Redskins’ receiving yardage record just two years ago; without the starters on the right side of their offensive line; and without first-round pick and three-year starter Carlos Rogers. Yet, they still held a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter against the reigning NFC East champs yesterday.

They held a nine-point lead because of their deep bench. Their second and third stringers filling in for the right side of the offensive line were able to open holes for Portis for most of the day and keep pass rushers off of Campbell. When they didn’t open holes for Portis, Portis took it upon himself and exploded around the edge or through tacklers to earn 137 yards rushing, the highest total in the NFL yesterday.

They were able to get and hold that lead because the Eagles were afraid to throw the ball deep down the middle with Sean Taylor playing a deep safety and taking Eagles’ heads off and helping to pick up the slack in the secondary due to the missing Rogers.

They were able to get the lead because their remarkable depth allowed James Thrash to step into Santana Moss’s spot and catch two touchdown passes in addition to making the first two Redskins’ plays that went for 30+ yards this year. Thrash did all that and still made great plays on special teams in punt and kick coverage.

So, it is not that the Redskins do not have depth. They had tremendous depth. The problem is that they have blown through that depth with injuries upon injuries at the same spots—offensive line, wide receiver, and the defensive secondary.

The Redskins lost the game in the fourth quarter. With the Skins winning by nine points, the Eagles outscored the Redskins 20 – 3 over the last 12:36 of the game. Why? Sean Taylor did not play in the fourth quarter because of a knee injury. The Eagles threw three touchdown passes that went right up the middle of the field—the place that they were afraid to throw or run to when Taylor occupied that spot. James Thrash did not play in the fourth quarter because of a knee injury and could not add to his two TD performance. And, the line failed on a couple of occasions to open holes wide enough to get a crucial yard that would have either gotten them in the end zone (Yoder and Portis) or kept drives alive (Sellers) and the Eagles offense off the field.

Redskins’ fans have criticized Gibbs all year for what they deem conservative play calling. Today they are criticizing Gibbs because he ran Portis three times from a first-and-goal at the three in the fourth quarter. These are the same people who criticized Gibbs for not running Portis with a first and goal from the one-yard line against the Giants. I cannot stand arm-chair quarterbacks who have no idea what they are talking about.

You wanted Gibbs to throw the ball there? Okay. Whom is he going to throw to? Moss and Thrash were in the trainer’s room. Randle El was double covered. Cooley had to stay in and help the second and third stringers block. Where was Gibbs going to throw the ball? And you ALL know that if Gibbs called for pass plays in that spot and they failed to score a TD or got called for a false start or holding, you would have said “why didn’t he use Portis when they had the chance? What are we paying Portis $50 million for if he cannot get three yards?” You Gibbs critics know you would have, so please, do us all a favor and shut up.

JC Walks on Water
Jason Campbell played the best game of his career yesterday. It was his sixteenth professional start, which officially gives him one full year of starts. He completed 68% of his passes for three TDs and no INTs, made some beautiful touch passes, and took a huge step forward. The only thing missing from his repertoire now is a few more Favre-like comebacks that end in victory. He has two overtime drives that ended in victory this year and he has come close several times in losses, most recently driving the Skins 61-yards against the Giants to the one-yard line in the final 2:19. A few wins in regulation would go a long way to put the finishing touches on a quarterback who should be a perennial Pro Bowl player.

Where are the Redskins?
With all of the bellyaching from Skins fans, you would think they are in last place. No, last place is where the Eagles reside, which I was happy to remind Eagles’ fan in mid-celebration in the FedEx Field Club Level yesterday. You would think the Redskins were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. No, even the 1 – 8 Rams, who surprisingly blew away the pundit-favorite-for-NFC-champ-Saints, can still make the playoffs. You would think the Redskins had no legitimate shot at the playoffs. No, they are one game back in the loss column from the Giants and Lions, who currently own the last two seeds for the NFC playoffs. Oh, they beat the lions—handily—so all they have to do to knock the Lions out is finish with the same record. Oh, and they have one more game against the Giants, who have a much tougher schedule than the Redskins from here on out.

I would have loved to see the Giants beat the Cowboys yesterday and keep the Skins within two losses of the Brokeback Boys and the NFC East title, but even the fifth seed is better than the seed that eleven other NFC teams will earn this year. Anything can happen in the playoffs, especially when you are as good as the Redskins are and you could be much healthier by January.

Where were the Redskins’ Fans?
How is it possible that at every game that I attend at FedEx Field (six- to eight-per year), I am surrounded by the opposing team’s fans? If you are a Redskins’ fan and you sold your seats to Eagles fans—a division rival—when the Skins are very much in the playoff hunt, you should have your season-tickets privilege revoked. It is bad enough to sell to a Dolphins fan for a Dolphins game, but selling to the most obnoxious fans in the NFL? Dante has reserved a circle for you.


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