The Washington Redskins may not have played very well in 2006, but they certainly proved that they have a lot of heart yesterday against the Saints. With nothing left to play for but pride, the Redskins left it all on the field on Sunday. It wasn't always pretty, but it was effective, and the team needed the morality boost.
Here are Fifth Quarter rankings (out of 5) for the various units:
Jason Campbell looked more comfortable on Sunday. There weren't any specifically exceptional passes although a lot of his deep balls had nice touch. (The 31-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss was on a rope). Perhaps the most important element of J.C.'s play this week was that he trusted his protection. The Redskins' offensive line was dominant, and Jason did a much better job of relying on his front five, trusting the protection that the line was giving him, and standing tall in the pocket. Campbell's 13 of 28 for 204 yards performance wasn't itself much of an accomplishment, but getting the win, and not making any mistakes definitely was. No interceptions this week meant a fighting chance, and fight this team did.
Chris Cooley had another great day with 80 yards on four receptions. Most of those yards came on a typical Cooley 44-yard scamper that saw the big tight end fight off blockers and rumble down the field.
Santana Moss had 3 receptions for 37 yards, including the 31-yard touchdown reception, and Brandon Lloyd chipped in 30 more yards on his two receptions.
Is Ladell Betts on fire or what? Throughout a lot of Betts' career, the knock on him has been that he performs better as a backup than as a starter. Obviously the Redskins thought enough of his abilities to give him a 5-year, $11 million contract extension this week. That might be the best contract the Redskins have signed for years in terms of value.
Betts piled up another 114 yards on the ground this week and added 43 more yards on 3 receptions. It is the fourth week in a row that Ladell has gone over the benchmark 100-yards in a game. Though his longest run of the day was just 14 yards, there were many runs in his 22 carries that were quality and/or tough, needed yardage. The only question that Betts' great play has brought about in Clinton Portis' absence is, 'Is this guy better for this offense than Portis is?'.
The answer is still likely, 'No,' but there are certainly a lot more people asking the question today than were a month ago.
It'd be impossible to talk about the success of the running game without mentioning five other guys that had as much to do with it as the running backs themselves. The Redskins' offensive line may have played their best game as a unit this year. That's truly amazing when you consider that Jon Jansen was sidelined and Todd Wade played right tackle for the first time in 2006. Who? Yeah, you may not even have heard his name on Sunday as he was just phenomenal in his Redskin 'debut'. Wade is a seven-year veteran who started over 20 games for the Texans the last two seasons, but his play Sunday may have earned him a new contract in Washington before this season ends. The Redskins have been struggling with o-line depth and Wade's performance coming off of the bench Sunday was the best showing by a lineman in this current coaching regime's tenure.
Casey Rabach has a broken hand and people that he was crazy to play, but he answered the call with undoubtedly his best game as a Redskin. With cast on hand, Rabach plowed through the center of the Saints' defensive line all day long as the Redskins put up major yardage between the tackles. The Redskins showed a lot of heart on Sunday, but nobody surpassed the big center from Wisconsin's drive and determination.
The Redskins rushing attack demoralized the Saints' defense, and paved the way for a well earned victory.
It may also have been the best performances of the season for gregg Williams and his crew. Several players had great games, specifically Andre Carter and Shawn Springs. For the third consecutive week, Carter showed that he can be the player that Redskin fans were hoping for when he was signed in the off season. Good against the run on Sunday (seven tackles), Carter was even more of a force against the pass and against one of the top offenses in football. His penetration into the backfield was both disruptive and consistent, and though he only earned one sack, he gave New Orleans fits all game long.
Springs has had a tough season with injuries, but he looks like he's back at full strength now. He shut down whatever he was asked to shut down and made a couple of great pass defenses as well.
Lemar Marshall has struggled in the middle this year, but he had a solid game as well registering seven tackles. When you draw the task of shutting down Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister and do so, you've done well.
Carlos Rogers even caught a ball. It's been a long time coming as Rogers has struggled to make the interception when the opportunity presented itself this year, but he did on Sunday for his first interception of the season. The pass hit him right in the numbers making it tough to miss, but so have many of the others, and this time he held on.
The entire defensive line deserves a collective nod as well as the mighty Saints offense was grounded from the opening kickoff. Phillip Daniels had a blocked pass, Cornelius Griffin was getting a great push up the middle for most of the game, and Kedric Golston continues to show what a great late draft pick up he was. Together with Carter, the four defensive linemen won the battle in the trenches and that's where this game was won.
Like the rest of the Redskins, the special teams units played solidly against New Orleans. Shawn Suisham seems to be grabbing his chance at kicker by the horns, and he is gaining confidence. He was 3 for 3 on field goals and though the longest was 38-yards, all three kicks were solid. His kickoffs were consistently getting to the five-yard line and giving the coverage teams ample time to get down the field and make plays.
Derrick Frost also had a solid day with an almost 48-yard average on his 5 punts. Three of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line, including one that was downed by James Thrash on the goal line. Frost seems to have some sort of ability to make his bad punts bounce well for him. One of the keys to beating a good team like New Orleans is to win the field position battles, and solid special teams play throughout helped Washington do just that.
It certainly was nice to see the Redskins play up to, or close to their potential. By no means was the effort perfect, but it will hopefully serve as a sign of things to come for this team. The Redskins are playing out the schedule for pride; and they showed a lot of it on Sunday.