|Wow. What an ugly game of football. Just like last week, the Washington Redskins showed flashes of what this offense can do, and flashes of ineptitude. There were breakdowns in every phase of the game. Some of the credit should go to the Dallas Cowboys defense, and some goes to learning a new, complex offense in a short period of time, but neither is of any comfort to the distraught fans in Redskins’ country. By the end of the season, Redskins fans will be able to look back at these first two weeks and chalk it up as growing pains, but it sure is hard to think that far ahead after tonight’s performance.
Usually the Fifth Quarter starts by reviewing the passing offense, but given tonight’s game, this week’s edition will start with the lone bright spot of the game.
Rock Cartwright proved he can be a dangerous return man tonight. His 100-yard dash looked effortless, and is hopefully a harbinger of things to come. Brian Mitchell sums up the qualifications of a good return man whenever he is asked: follow your blockers, read the coverage, and run full bore, straight up the field. Another advantage Rock has is his size. When Rock’s 5-7 frame gets behind a wedge of guys half a foot taller than him, it makes it awfully difficult on the would-be tacklers trying to pick him up while running full speed down the field.
Also of note was John Hall’s performance this evening. Not only did he make a field goal of more than 27 yards, but his kick-offs were consistently deep. Hopefully for the Redskins, this will be the beginning of a renewed confidence on the part of the beleaguered kicker.
Derrick Frost also continued his effort to quiet his doubters. Frost averaged almost 52 yards per punt, including a 59 yarder, and in stark contrast to his punts from last year, these yards were had in the air, and not off the bounce. Given the fact that the Redskins had to punt 8 times tonight, it is reassuring to know that Frost has made a drastic improvement over last season.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. The coverage units had a less than stellar evening. The Cowboys averaged 26 yards per kick return, a quick path to sure defeat. This was a sore spot last week as well, and Danny Smith will need to improve his coverage teams if the Redskins are going to push for the playoffs this season.
In a game that the Redskins professed a desire to establish the deep ball, the story of the night is easily summed up in one statistic: Ladell Betts led the team in catches with 8 for 57 yards. Chris Cooley had one catch tonight, coming in the final drive against a prevent defense. Santana Moss was held in check, as was Antwaan Randle-El. At least Brandon Lloyd finally got his first catch as a Redskin.
It is hard to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Pass protection broke down, particularly in the second half when the ‘Skins were forced to play catch-up. Mark Brunell had several passes come up short or off the mark (pun intended), although it is ridiculous to call for his benching two games into the season. Only the coaches and players know the real cause of the strife the passing game has been battling through these past few weeks.
What is known is that 152 yards receiving with a paltry 3.8 yard per completion average is not the offense Al Saunders is trying to run. This will get better as the season progresses, but it is painful to watch right now.
The rushing offense actually had a decent game. Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett combined to average 4.7 yards per rush. Unfortunately, the Redskins got behind early, and the Redskins were forced to the air to play catch up. This lead the team to a disappointing 20 carries. Would this have been the case if Clinton Portis was in the game? It is hard to say. It can be said that we are not seeing the Joe Gibbs, Al Saunders, Washington Redskins smashmouth rushing attack that we all expected to see coming into the season. As is the theme of the Fifth Quarter these last two weeks, it will get there, but it is hard to watch now.
The good news here is that the Redskins secondary stepped up and shutdown T.O. He finished the game with 3 catches for 19 yards, all of which came in the first quarter. After Sean Taylor hit him once, however, Owens suddenly started dropping passes. By the end of the game, Owens was in the locker room having his hand x-rayed for an injury no one knew had occurred or even when it occurred.
Besides Owens, the defense started slowly again, but actually played well for a good chunk of the game. As the game progressed, the Cowboys began taking control again. The inability of the offense to stay on the field made for a long day for the visibly tired defenders, as the Redskins defense squad spent 53% of the game on the field. This is another sure precursor to failure by any team.
Has there been a game in recent memory with more yellow hankies? It is highly unlikely that the person that washes the flags sees that many on Tuesday morning. To clarify, this is not a lame attempt at an excuse for the game’s outcome or an indictment of either team, just an observation that bore mentioning. It seemed that any time either team made any kind of play, there were three flags on the field.
Here is a novel idea, let the teams play. They seemed to let the offensive lines hold most of the night, why not ease up on some of the other calls, too.
Sunday Night Football Coverage
Thank goodness the Redskins do not play on Sunday Night Football any more this season. Madden is senile; Al Michaels seems to be more worried about Madden’s inane quips than the game that he is calling; the guys at the desk are annoying at best. This is one football fan that will stay far away from NBC on Sunday nights for the remainder of the season.
They owe their viewers a quarter.
Keep your collective chins up, fans. It’s only week 2, and while the Redskins are 0-2, the other three teams in the division are only 1-1. There are 14 more games to go, and next up is the 0-2 Texans. The coaches are definitely not satisfied, there is no doubt that the players are not satisfied, and in the next few weeks, some of the hard work will start to pay off.
- Scott Hurrey