Monday, December 31, 2007

Make Way for the Redskins

That's right bitches get out my way

Takeaway drill: domination on both sides of the ball; offensive playmakers make plays; stifling defense; Cowboys embarrassed, even the starters; thanks but no thanks for the playoff help; playoff rematch in Seattle.


Monday walkthrough: the Redskins administer a thorough 27-6 beating in the muck to the Cowboys, a team with nothing to play for but playing starters into the third quarter, finish the regular season 9-7, muscle two teams out of the way to earn the sixth playoff seed, make a date with Seattle.

The Redskins took the ball to open the first quarter and moved the ball well, rookie right tackle Stephon Heyer was beat by Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears for a sack fumble of quarterback Todd Collins but Stephon atoned by falling on the ball to retain possession. The Redskins punted and the Cowboys, all starters save the inactives, three and outed. The Redskins took the ball and moved 29 yards, mainly on two Todd Collins passes to Chris Cooley before Ken Hamlin intercepted Todd's pass to Antwaan Randle El. Dallas did not get the ball back however as Cowboys rookie cornerback Alan Ball was called for pass interference as he and Antwaan ran downfield. It was a fortunate penalty call for the Redskins considering Todd Collins' pass was short and wide of the target. With the 20 yards tacked onto the drive Clinton Portis took the ball on the next play and ran 23 yards into the end zone, dodging and running through tacklers on the way and ending with a flip over the line.

Dallas got the ball back and on the next play Shawn Springs jumped the route in front of Terry Glenn, in his first action of the season, and intercepted the ball. The football gods did not approve however and four plays later Clinton Portis coughed it up on a first down run when hit by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Dallas three and outed on the ensuing possession, actually going backwards and Washington had the ball at the end of the quarter leading 7-0.

Driving into the second quarter Santana Moss stretched down the right sideline and caught a 35 yard pass from Todd Collins but Dallas coach Wade Phillips challenged the call and the play was reversed, officials ruling Santana did not maintain possession all the way through the play. After Todd Collins was called for intentional grounding to avoid a sack Shaun Suisham kicked a 46 yard field goal. Dallas got the ball back and drove 70 yards, aided by defensive penalties on safety Reed Doughty and cornerback Fred Smoot before Nick Folk knuckled a 28 yard attempt wide right. On the previous 3rd and seven play Reed Doughty had atoned for the pass interference by knocking the ball away from Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, a catch there would have been a touchdown.

With the ball back and good field position DeMarcus Ware poured through the left side of the Redskins line and hit Todd Collins, he fumbled and Dallas recovered. Washington unsuccessfully challenged the call but the Dallas offense could go nowhere and Nick Folk kicked a 37 yard field goal. Washington took the next possession and four and outed followed by a Dallas three and out. The Redskins got the ball back with 49 seconds left in the half and went to a shotgun hurry up. On 2nd and ten from the Dallas 45 Todd Collins tossed a 12 yard pass to Santana Moss that was ruled complete but a booth review overturned it. Todd came right back to Santana for 15 yards then Reche Caldwell with a terrific catch and slide out of bounds for 19 yards. Ladell Betts almost scored on the next play with a draw through the middle and after a fortunately incomplete swing pass to Ladell Shaun Suisham set up and kicked a 21 yard chip shot. With 21 seconds left in the half Washington squib kicked it but the timing was off and the team was offsides on the kickoff (op. cit.). With the clock having expired the Cowboys were granted one untimed play that for some reason the Cowboys did not simply kneel on. Rookie defensive end Chris Wilson came through the right side and sacked Tony Romo for a ten yard loss to end the half with the Redskins leading 13-3.

Dallas got the ball to open the third quarter but could only manage 17 yards and punted. The Redskins then took the ball from their own 37 63 yards to score on a Clinton Portis one yard run, a 12 play beauty of a drive that tick tock tick tock consumed 6:45 of game clock. When the Cowboys got the ball back former Redskins Brad Johnson was under center and he led the team on his first three and out of the afternoon. The Redskins then took the ball and used up 4:05 of game time to end the quarter leading 20-3.

The first play of the fourth quarter was a Redskins punt which put the Cowboys back on their 14 and with a run for minus four yards and a helpful false start penalty (backups starting to filter in at this point) moved back to their five before a complete pass and a punt. Two plays later Todd Collins found Santana Moss down the right sideline for a 42 yard touchdown. The Cowboys got the ball back and Brad got them down to the Redskins three but was sacked by rookie Chris Wilson, his second sack of the afternoon. Nick Folk kicked a 30 yard field goal.

Real Redskins fans knows what happens next. All runs to close out the game. The Redskins three and outed, the Cowboys three and outed then the Redskins again then the Cowboys turned it over on downs in four plays, backups HB Blades and Demetric Evans stopping Brad Johnson on a 4th and one QB sneak. Todd Collins kneeled down twice from the victory formation to end the game, Redskins win 27-6.


Soapbox: for those that follow pro football and the Redskins closely this 2007 season has been an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions. A season that started on high notes then stumbled and fell before experiencing a loss outside the bounds of the game came back and ended on grit, determination and just goddamn good football. These Redskins are peaking and will be a dangerous team for the Seahawks next week.

The line on this game was Redskins minus nine with an over under around 40. Thinking the Redskins could would win but play it close, maybe even a cardiac ending, my first inclination was to take the Cowboys and the under, kind of a 20-17 kind of game. After talking with lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery though, he impressed upon me that once the Cowboys starting offensive linemen started coming out it was going to be a massacre and it was. No last parting thumb of the nose to Dan Snyder for Brad Johnson.

Beyond that I just have to say, damn, they did it, they made the playoffs. It would have been so easy, so forgiveable and so predictable for this team to go into a shell and sit there for the final five games, just hurry up and get away from football and let things sort themselves out in the offseason. But the Redskins did not do that. They rallied behind the close friends of Sean Taylor and a 36 year old career backup from off the shelf, and damn if'n they didn't get into the playoffs, only the fourth team that started 5-7 to make it.

At the risk of being branded as creating negative playoff energy, everything from here out is gravy, I just want to see some good football. It is now a three game countdown to the Super Bowl, just get out there and have some fun. You did good.


Chattering class: Mike Wise at the Washington Post uses Sean Taylor's death and the team's subsequent resurgence as a nearly inappropriate club to hate on Clinton Portis haters. I get it, no one likes Peter King anymore, at least not in Washington until that fat fuck gets Art Monk into the Hall of Fame, and anyone that would put rookie Marshawn Lynch ahead of Clinton on the list of best NFL tailbacks is stoopit.

Tom Boswell at the same paper muses on the resurgence of Joe Gibbs, was he always there waiting, even when we thought he was old and busted?

Les Carpenter at the same paper has the now required front page A1 story on the game, gets all misty eyed looking back on the season and gets all it must be fate on us. This story is sandwiched right between uplifting stories about Senator John McCain's ties to Washington lobbyists, those ones he said were ruining the political process, you know, McCain-Feingold and all that, and how the son of assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will assume the mantle of party leader. Once he gets out of college. His mother, two uncles and grandfather have all been assassinated in the name of Pakistan's politics.


Omnibus: the weather and playing conditions were a factor in this game. It was raining early, trailed to mist by the end of the game but the wet ball seemed to act funny. Many passes by all quarterbacks were short or died in flight and the missed Nick Folk field goal in the second quarter looked like the ball just was not behaving properly.

The Cowboys had a number of team goals in mind when they came into this game. Here they are with results in italics. Record a 14-2 regular season record for the first time in franchise history, they did not. Gain two yards rushing, they did not and in fact one yard rushing is the franchise low. You can grouse all you want about backups and whatnot but come on, this is the NFL, you can't get one yard rushing? Really? Not even with Pro Bowl tailback Marion Barber in there for a half?

Todd Collins finished with a 104.8 passer rating (op. cit.) and still has yet to throw an interception, the man has a short memory which on gameday can be good for a quarterback, whether it's forgetting you just fumbled, just got sacked or that you dint staht a game foah ten seasons.

Santana Moss finished with eight catches for 115 yards but was robbed of two catches totaling 47 yards on play reversals. Both times Todd Collins went right back to Santana, the first time on the second play after for 21 yards and the second time on the next play for 15 yards. And although I kind of lampooned it back in September, Reche Caldwell has been a great pickup, he gives the Redskins three solid receivers going into to the playoffs.

After getting beat for a sack fumble by Marcus Spears on the opening drive rookie right tackle Stephon Heyer steadied and played a great game. Earlier in the season I had thought of Stephon as a project, a guy that would still need a season or two before we really would learn if he can play every down at the NFL level, I mean let's be honest, despite being literally the biggest guy on the field he was undrafted and it is rare that all 32 teams are wrong on a guy. After watching Stephon play in all four of these wins to close out the season I am beginning to wonder if the future is now with Stephon, both Redskins tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen are getting up there and it is good to see the Redskins have a player in the pipeline.

There was a game management bugaboo. Joe Gibbs challenged the sack fumble of Todd Collins in the second quarter arguing Todd's arm was going forward when hit and the play should have resulted in an incomplete pass. To those of us watching at home it seemed a fairly obvious fumble and Washington wasted a challenge and timeout. This error was made to look even worse because Wade Phillips had already called two challenges, the Santana Moss 35 yard catch, and a 36 yard incomplete to Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd, both were reversed to Dallas' benefit.

I disagree with the Post, the incomplete swing pass right to Ladell Betts with nine seconds left in the half was not a bad call per se. He likely would not have scored and been held in bounds but the Redskins still had two timeouts left at this point and could have called one. That said I think I would have called another center run or run all square ins and looked for Chris Cooley or an open man. Wednesday update: Thanks to reader and past guest poster Rob for reminding me the Redskins DID NOT have any timeouts left before this play, therefore making it a terrible call, Rob is correct, the players would likely not have had time to set up and spike it and the half would probably ended there, with no points for the Redskins. I could not recall the specifics myself and was going off the NFL's play by play which indicates the Redskins still had one timeout as the half expired. I checked the video (love DVR) and the WaPo play by play and the NFL's is wrong, links to both play by play accounts below. This is game management bugaboo number two.

The untimed play at the end of the half was for the Cowboys a dark mirror of the untimed play to end the game last time the Cowboys came to Redskins Stadium. In that game the score was tied at 19 with six seconds left, Troy Vincent blocked Mike Vanderjagt's game winner field goal, Sean Taylor picked up the ball and ran 30 yards, still not in Nick Novak's aka Bob Novak's range, but Cowboys guard Kyle Kosier tackled Sean by the facemask and the ensuing personal foul added 15 yards. Time had expired but the Redskins were granted one untimed play and Bob Novak hit from 47 yards, game over, Redskins win 22-19. In this game Tony Romo got sacked by a rookie.

As a testament to both the persistence in calling run plays and the ability of Todd Collins to find open receivers, the Redskins first scoring drive of the second half was 12 plays, eight runs and four passes. Excepting the last run which started at the Dallas one yard line only one of the seven other runs went for more than three yards. In past days the Redskins playcaller whether Joe Gibbs in 2004 or Al Saunders in 2006 as two for examples would abandon the run with nothing happening and start all passing. This year the Redskins have stuck to the ground game even when the opponent was not giving much and Todd Collins is doing his part by finding open receivers when he needs to.

What else does that much running do? Consume the clock. In the third quarter the Cowboys got the ball to start and ran a total of seven offensive plays over three and a half minutes while the Redskins ran 20 over 11 and a half.

The Force is strong with Marcus Washington and this Redskins defense, particularly against the run. Since Todd Collins stepped up against Chicago the Redskins are allowing 72 rushing yards per game, 205 passing yards per game and 13 points per game, these four games against the defending NFC champion Bears, a Giants team that needed a win to clinch a playoff spot, a Vikings team that faced near certain playoff elimination with a loss and a Dallas team that was 'playing to win' and left their starters in through the third quarter.

The Redskins set an attendance record with 90,910 announced. Where they hell do they put them all?

And so what, what's a kiss between old friends? (op. cit.)


Area 51: LaRon Landry closed the regular season as the only surviving member of Area 51, the Win for Sean sentiment ran through this game like a rallying cry, LaRon finished the game with three tackles and a life forever changed.

Freddie Your Cruise Director: Fred Smoot was not spectacular in this game, an illegal downfield contact penalty gave the Cowboys a first down from third and five, Nick Folk conveniently missed the ensuing field goal. Later Fred gave up a 35 yard catch and run over the middle to Miles Austin.

Washington Post recap, box score, play by play, game photos. NFL recap, box score, full play by play, Gamebook (PDF), photos.

Next up, playoff rematch in Seattle. The Seahawks have turned from a run first team behind Shaun Alexander to a passing team to set up Shaun's run, they won ten games but are they really any good in a terrible division? It's playoff time in Washington.

Playoffs kids, the Redskins are in the playoffs.

Joe Gibbs: Nick Lanham / Getty Images from here. Matt Hasselbeck rocking the cheese 'stache: Uncredited image from here.