The Washington Redskins may not be the best team on paper, but they certainly look like one of the best in the league right now.
After falling very painfully to the Giants in week one, most had written this team off to a 5-11 record. Their chances versus the New Orleans Saints seemed pretty slim. Drew Brees was a much better QB than Eli Manning and had thrown for over 300 yards in week one. The Redskins defense would not be able to stop them, and Jason Campbell would not be any better than his efforts versus the Giants. The West Coast offense was just too hard to learn.
When the Redskins ultimately knocked off the Saints 29-24, they didn’t really get any credit for it. Most of the credit for the win went to the injuries the Saints had sustained versus Tampa Bay.
The Redskins now had to face an explosive Arizona Cardinals who had not scored less than 20 points in their last 8 games (stretching back to last season). They would be facing the league’s most accurate passer in Kurt Warner, with the deep receiving threats of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Even if the Redskins’ defense were to shore up like it did versus New Orleans, the Cardinals are never out of any game thanks to their quick-strike ability.
When the Redskins knocked off the Cardinals 24-17 (and broke their streak of games in which they scored 20-points or more) they were still not given credit for it. The Cardinals play in the weakest division in football, they hadn’t really faced any real opponents; maybe they weren’t as tough as everyone had thought. Some credit to the Redskins, but they were still the weakest of the four teams in the NFC East. Some even predicted that the Redskins might do as well as 9-7.
The Redskins had no chance against their next opponent, the best team in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys. It was a nice pipe-dream for the Redskins but their winning streak would certainly end in Dallas. Since the fall of the Patriots and the struggling of Indy, the Cowboys are certainly a lock for this year’s Super Bowl. Hope the Redskins fans enjoyed their 2-1 start but the dream is now officially over. Reality was about to smack Jim Zorn and his upstart Redskins square in the mouth.
So, when the Redskins knocked off Dallas, in Dallas, by a score of 26-24, it wasn’t due to the dominant play of the Redskins, but the poor play-calling of the Cowboys. They only ran Marion Barber eight times, never brought in Felix Jones, and allowed the Redskins to get away by knocking an onside kick out-of-bounds. Mix in some bad calls by the officials and the Redskins just got lucky.
Their luck would certainly end in Philadelphia. No way would the Redskins play as well on their second consecutive road game, and Philly just wants it more. This is a must-win game according to Donovan McNabb, and they would see the return of Michael Westbrook. The Eagles weren’t going to be asleep at the switch like Dallas was.
The Eagles had the league’s number 1 rushing defense. Clinton Portis was not going to help the Redskins with over 100-yards rushing this week, and the Redskins’ offensive line would not be able to hold off the pass-rush long enough for Jason Campbell to be able to establish the passing game.
No team had scored a touchdown against Philly in Philly. The Eagles were just too good. The only thing the Redskins would be able to do is look past Philly to the three games afterwards; they certainly wouldn’t be in bad shape going 6-2 by the midway point, but they’d still be dead last in their division.
When the Redskins were down 14-0 less than seven minutes into the first quarter, just about everyone gave up on them. Especially when the Redskins first response was a field goal that cut the lead to 14-3. Those field goals added up, as the Redskins defense began shutting down the Eagles offense and by half-time the score was 14-9.
The Redskins racked up over 200 rushing yards versus the league’s number one rushing defense, held Donovan McNabb and his offense to only ten offensive points, and won the game 23-17.
The Redskins have now faced four of the top five offenses in the league in their first five games. They have won two of their three division road games and now have a 4-1 record to show for it. Their next three opponents have a combined record of 1-11, with their next real test coming against the Pittsburg Steelers in week nine. The Redskins stand a real shot of going 8-1 into the bye week and return from their bye week to welcome the Dallas Cowboys to FedEx.
Unlike previous years, the Redskins are winning games on their terms. They are playing solid on both sides of the ball, and they have been consistent, if not methodical in each of their four wins.
Prior to the start of the season I predicted a 9-7 finish. The Redskins have now won two more games than I had predicted. As long as their play and play-calling continue, I don’t think it’s too big a stretch for the Redskins to go 12-4 this year.
Hail to the Redskins indeed!