Do the Redskins have their swagger back?
We thought that they did following their thrilling overtime win over Jacksonville in Week 4. The carryover momentum from that game, however, lasted less than two quarters into their next game. That was when the Giants started to take control of their contest in the Meadowlands.
That was the first of three straight losses. The string was broken with another exciting victory when the Skins snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by blocking Mike Vanderjagt’s last-second field goal attempt and getting the game-winning three points from Nick Novak. Sometimes a win like that can get a team on a roll. But, no, the offense couldn’t generate anything consistently in Philadelphia the next week, the defense gave up some big plays and it was back to square one in the momentum department.
After last Sunday they have another chance. The Redskins played well on both sides of the ball, something that they didn’t do in those other games mentioned above, and pulled out a hard-earned 17-13 win over the Carolina Panthers, who thought that they were about to get on a serious roll.
Now some of you may scoff at the notion that last Sunday’s game represented anything that a team could build any momentum off of. Carolina’s play calling was frightfully bad at times (how could you call and throw so many six-yard passes on third and eight?) and Washington did have to hang on for dear life at the end. The game was not a thing of beauty by any stretch.
But nine out of every ten games in the NFL are ugly wins for one of the participants. The formula that the Redskins used on Sunday was tried and true. The defense kept them in the game while the offense moved the ball enough so that the D could stay off the field for a while after they stopped the Panthers. Because of the effectiveness of the defense the offense didn’t have to press. They knew that they didn’t have to score every time they got their hands on the ball. Because Jason Campbell was playing well enough to move the chains, the defense didn’t get tired and desperate.
Eventually, good things happened for the Redskins. A blocked punt, a deadly accurate pass from Campbell to Chris Cooley, a fourth-down tackle and a clinching interception and the Redskins walked off smiling.
In winning the Redskins found their formula for success. They couldn’t bottle up what they did against the Jaguars because you’re not going to score 36 points every game. Their takeaway from the Dallas win was to play hard until the clock says 0:00—and even for a play after that—and good things can happen. But you can watch NFL games for a decade and not see an ending that unfolds like that one did. With the Sunday Ticket and a remote you can see around a dozen every week like the Skins beating Carolina. If the Redskins can continue playing like that they will be able to climb their way back to respectability.
Moderation is a virtue
The Redskins had one of the easiest training camps of any NFL team this summer. Joe Gibbs scheduled very few two a days, minimal sessions in full pads and they had a day off less than a week after camp started.
On the other end of the scale was the camp conducted by Atlanta’s Jim Mora Jr. Most days there were two practices with at least one of them in full pads. Union rules prohibited him from scheduling three a days and having the players wear full pads in meetings and at lunch, but if he could have he probably would have. It took so long for the players to get a day off that they felt like they were being paroled when they finally got one.
Early in the season it sure did look like Mora had it right and that Gibbs needed to go to school on the younger coach. At the end of October the Falcons were 5-2 and looking like they were on their way to the playoffs.
But then the leaves started to fall and so did the Falcons. The are 0 for November, losing four straight this month.. Has the brutal regimen in August contributed to their collapse in the fall?
Of course, we can only guess. But one eye-popping stat suggests that they may well be running out of gas. In the second half of the four games of their current skid they have been outscored by a staggering aggregate of 67-20.
When the first of January rolls around it’s likely that the Redskins and Falcons will wind up in the same spot, around .500 and on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The Redskins can blame part of their woes on their light camp workload not having them ready to go when the season started. They will be fresh in December but they will be playing golf in January. Atlanta may well have flamed out and peaked too early. Perhaps both organizations need to consider some degree of moderation in how tough or how easy they are on their players during the summer so that they might still be playing well into the winter.