Monday, November 06, 2006

The Very Definition of 'It Counts'

I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it

If you have watched a lot of football, you have had the chance to see some weird stuff. The Bears rallying in 2001 down 21-7 with under a minute to go to beat the Browns in overtime 27-21. A 1992 shootout between the Bills and 49ers that featured no punts for the first time ever. The Fog Game.

Add yesterday's Redskins 22-19 victory over the Cowboys to this list. The game looked conventional at the very beginning, but it turned quickly into some strange parable of opportunities lost and redemption with a plot like a David Lynch movie, with the Cowboys getting the business end. In fact, the Cowboys looked positively Redskins-like with 153 penalty yards.

To open the game, the Redskins marched right down the field to the Cowboys' five yard line. Three plays the Redskins ran from inside the five, then a Cowboys holding call for a fresh set of downs, then four more plays Seven tries from inside the 5yd line and nada. Yes that's right kids, Joe Gibbs or Al Saunders, whoever the hell is in charge of strategy went for it on 4th down from the 1yd line instead of taking the three. Opportunity lost.

Two plays later, Lemar Marshall is hitting Julius Jones in the end zone for a safety and the Redskins take the ensuing free kick down the field and kick a field goal, 5-0. Redemption. All the Cowboys did was roar back and score on a Terry Glenn reception. Redemption. But then Parcells went for the 2-pt conversion to catch up from the safety and missed it. Opportunity lost. Dammit if Aikman wasn't right again when he pointed out that it was too early in the game for such a low-percentage play. Too much football left to be played at that point, and no need to start looking at the 2-pt charts yet.

In the third quarter, TO finally got his TD, but on the penalty-shortened kickoff, Mike Sellers played second base to Rock Cartwright's outfielder, they collided and got no return, then the Redskins went three-and-out. Opportunity lost.

And as if a sign the football gods look down upon taunting, two drives later TO is wide wide open in the Redskins secondary and a perfect Tony Romo pass drops off his fingers. Opportunity and touchdown lost (note to self: Tony Romo looks pretty damn good as a quarterback)

And finally, the Block. Troy Vincent, old and maligned in Redskinsland, redeemed himself blocking Vanderjagt's kick. Sean Taylor, himself losing an opportunity when he hit Romo low at the end of the 2nd quarter thereby putting Vanderjagt inside his incredibly shrinking range, picked up the block and took off. The rest is Kyle Kosier, Nick Novak and history. Redemption.

Silly blog themes aside, the Redskins' defense was the feel-good story from yesterday. As I look at the play by play, I see five Cowboys drives of five plays or less, including three three-and-outs. With two (relatively) healthy corners in Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs, I hope I am seeing the shadow of a Redskins' defense that wants to play hard the rest of the way out. I saw a lot of energy on that side of the ball. It has to start with better pass coverage.

B-Lloyd Blues: this game was a chance, with Santana out, for Brandon Lloyd to shine. Although he only had two catches for 26 yards, he did figure into two big plays. In the first quarter, Mark Brunell threw a bad-read-coach pass into the left side of the end zone that should have been picked off by Cowboys' Anthony Henry. Only Brandon switching to defender prevented the drive-killing end zone INT. Later, in the 4th quarter, Antwaan Randle El took the old reverse- option handoff and tossed it long. Brandon was up under it, but Roy Williams was called for pass interference, giving the Redskins another 48 yards. Bottom line: this guy needs to step up.

Duckett Watch: on the active roster (I thought I even saw him suited up on the sidelines, but it may have been a mirage), but did not get in the game. Season now projecting 10 carries for 48 yards.

Campbell's Chunky Stew: inactive. Again.

Our 5 Questions partner Dave at Blogging the Boys has a lot of angst up on his site, but the one to read is Five Candidates.

Ultimately, we did not learn a lot in this game. The Redskins could only muster two touchdowns and allowed 284 yards passing and 118 yards rushing by the Cowboys. But hey, it counts.

Kyle Kosier facemasking Sean Taylor: Win McNamee / Getty Images