The Fifth Quarter - Bears
It wasn't pretty. It was a war of atrition. It was a hard-fought battle. You know all the cliches that go along with a 9-7 NFL game. The Washington Redskins may not have changed anyone's mind about their offense against the Chicago Bears, but they did eke out a victory nonetheless. For a team that lost a lot of close games in 2004, it's good for the Redskins to win a game by a hair.
Here are how the various Redskin units performed on Sunday:
Patrick Ramsey took a cheap shot from Lance Briggs and left the game, but not before he had thrown an interception, and fumbled on the Briggs' hit. He seemingly recovered from the clothesline, but he was not put back into the game. Was this Ramsey's only shot at being the 2005 quarterback?
Mark Brunell came in and also struggled early on. But he settled in and perhaps most importantly, he didn't make any mistakes.
Ramsey finished 6 of 11 for 105 yards, while Brunell had 70 yards on his 8 of 14 effort. Hardly gaudy numbers, but not far off what fans can expect when you're grinding the game out on the ground.
Joe Gibbs didn't say in his press conference one way or the other who would start against Dallas but the fact that he didn't would seem to indicate that he's leaning towards Brunell.
Perhaps the only note-worthy passing play came from Santana Moss when he took a Ramsey pass 52 yards. Thanks to that pass, he finished the day with 96 yards on just four receptions. Those are the types of numbers that the Redskins hoped they would see from him. When they're successful with the long ball, the running game will just be that much more effective.
Clinton Portis had a tough time finding running room as the Bears stacked the box with eight men early and forced the Redskins to beat them with the pass. But as will often happen in a Joe Gibbs offense, as the game wore on, the defense wore down. By the end of the first half Portis was finding more space and finished the half with 35 yards on 12 carries. Ladell Betts added 17 yards on 4 carries.
Portis continued to post steady gains and then busted one for 41-yards to close the third quarter. It took a while to get it going, but Clinton and the Redskin offensive line pounded out 121 yards on 21 carries. Betts complimented Portis nicely in posting 41 yards on 12 carries. They carried the Redskins down the field late in the game with some steady clock control running. While they ended up having to punt the ball back to Chicago, they had eaten enough clock to ultimately get the job done. The defense did the rest.
Gregg Williams is simply marvelous. What a great performance to begin the 2005 season by the Washington Redskin defense. They held the Bears offense to just 166 total yards. Chicago did manage a touchdown but only because Antonio Brown fumbled and gave them the ball on the Washington 23-yard line. Bears running backs were held to just 41 yards on 13 carries by the swarming front seven. The new leader of the defense, Marcus Washington, led the way with seven solo tackles and was all over the field.
Antonio Pierce leaving was one of the biggest 'issues' of the off-season but it seemed moot on Sunday. Lemar Marshall had a superb debut at middle linebacker with 6 solo tackles, 2 assists and a crucial interception in the Redskins end zone to thwart a Chicago drive. He was fluid, looked comfortable, and when the opposing offense manages just 40 yards in a North/South running attack, a lot of the credit belongs to the MIC.
The interior defensive line also deserves a lot of credit for stuffing the run. Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a battled inside all day to make room for Marshall to make plays. Griffin also registered one of the two Redskin sacks on the afternoon; Demetric Evans had the other.
Sean Taylor had a good game with 4 tackles but perhaps more interesting was Gibbs putting him in on the offense when they were in the red zone. After the game, Gibbs said in the press conference that they like how tough Sean is and how he can fight inside for position. It seems that Mr. Taylor might be getting a few chances to add to his prowess, and ultimately give the Redskins another red zone weapon.
In a game viewed as ugly by people just looking at the scoreboard, it was a game of defensive dominance as much as one of offensive ineptitude. Washington's defense started the season with an inspiring performance.
John Hall led the Washington Redskins to victory. With field goals of 40 yards, 43 yards and 19 yards, Hall's nine points were all the Redskins needed to post a 9-7 victory over the Bears. Unfortunately, Gibbs reported after the game that Hall had injured his quadriceps; in fact, Gibbs thought it was the exact same injury that took Hall out last year. Unknown at the time of press, the Redskins may find themselves again in need of a kicker.
Brown continues to struggle with his only statistic worth mentioning being the aforementioned play when he fumbled a kick-off return on the 23-yard line. It gave the Bears their first points, the lead, and got a deflated team back into the game. While it isn't very chic to use a starter on special teams, perhaps its time to put Moss back in on punt return duty. Brown may have fielded his last kick for a while. With Betts, Moss and James Thrash all capable, and all already playing, it's a valuable roster spot to give up to someone who fills no other starting role.
Andy Groom didn't look like Tom Tupa by any means with just a 37.7-yard average. Perhaps he knew he could improve his average if he kicked it 39-yards for a touchback late in the game rather than angle it out anywhere inside the 20-yard line. Too bad it meant a net punt of just 19 yards. He won't be making Redskin fans forget all about Tupa any time soon, but he didn't make any glaring errors either in his NFL regular season debut. Hopefully he will settle in and consistently start booming the ball like he is capable of.
Hall saves an otherwise very average special teams performance, but will he be doing it again any time soon?
This article was released on 2005-09-11.
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