Monday, December 24, 2007

Running Them Through

Holding that door open

Takeaway drill: the Redskins win a must win; attacking on offense and defense; Fred Smoot unbound; Tarvaris Jackson meet Gregg Williams; a smart challenge; Adrian who?


Monday walkthrough: the Redskins go into the Metrodome, scene of Super Bowl 26 glory and win the game they had to win, move to 8-7 and now drum roll please control their own playoff destiny. The Redskins now have won three in a row since losing the first game after Sean Taylor's death, next week is the season finale, at Redskins Stadium, against a Cowboys team that has nothing to play for.

Curly R's coverage of the Redskins week 17 playoff scenarios is here.

The Redskins took the opening kickoff, Rock Cartwright continued to solidify himself as a premier return man with a 22 yarder and then went three and out on three straight Todd Collins incompletes. After the Derrick Frost punt and Mewelde Moore fair catch Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson ran for two yards and then on Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's first pass of the night Redskins linebacker Randall Godfrey, playing in place of lost for the season Rocky McIntosh, broke through the line and hurried Tarvaris' pass. It sailed high and into the arms of Fred Smoot who took it back 47 yards to the Vikings eight yard line. In typical fashion the Redskins could not take a compliment and Chris Samuels committed a false start penalty and four plays later it was 4th and goal on the one yard line. Instead of taking the three to draw first blood the Redskins went for it on a fullback Mike Sellers carry. The play was initially ruled a touchdown but the Viking challenged it and the call was overturned, Vikings ball at the one inch line.

Tarvaris handed off to fullback Tony Richardson who was stopped inside the endzone for a safety. The Redskins took the free kick and went 34 yards on six plays, four runs and two passes to the Vikings 33 yard line before Todd Collins found Chris Cooley wide open across theleft middle, touchdown Redskins. The Vikings then three and outed, the Redskins three and outed and right at the end of the quarter the Vikings got the ball at midfield and went thirteen yards before kicker Ryan Longwell missed a 53 yard field goal wide left. The Redskins got the ball back as the first quarter ended with the Redskins leading 9-0.

Starting the second quarter with the ball the Redskins could only manage 11 yards on seven plays before setting up for a 51 yard field goal. Holder Derrick Frost bobbled the snap and could not get it in position for kicker Shaun Suisham. Derrick picked it up in an attempt to run but was tackled immediately, Vikings ball. Proving the football gods were unhappy with this turn of events, three plays later Vikings receiver Visanthe Shiancoe (vi-SONT-ee SHAN-co) was hit by Randall Godfrey and fumbled, it was recovered by Redskins defensive tackle Kedric Golston. Alas the Redskins could not go forth and multiply with this gift as they three and outed.

Atoning for this failure, Shawn Springs leapt in front of Vikings receiver Bobby Wade two plays later and intercepted the ball, his third of the year, all in the past three games. Two plays later Todd Collins found Santana Moss looking like he is injury free streaking down the left sideline for a 32 yard touchdown catch. The Redskins then forced the Vikings to use nearly three and half minutes of clock before punting and then the Redskins mounted a classic Redskins drive: 10 plays, 3:30 of clock time when Clinton Portis took the handoff and swept right. When the linebackers and corner began to collapse on the alleged running play Clinton cocked and tossed the ball 15 yards Antwann Randle El for a touchdown. The Redskins went for the two point conversion but failed. With only 44 seconds left in the half the Vikings ran the ball and the half ended with the Redskins leading 22-0.

The Vikings got the ball to open the third quarter and there was a scary moment on the kickoff when Mike Sellers took a hit to the head and lay motionless, apparently out cold. After bringing out the cart and a backboard he suddenly sprung to his feet and walked off on his own. He did not return to the game (see Omnibus below).

The Vikings took the opening possession and struggled to make it ot midfield. On 4th and one at the Redskins 44 Minnesota opted to go for it, too long for a field goal, not an ideal place for a punt. London Fletcher and LaRon Landry filled the hole at left guard and stuffed Adrian Peterson for no gain, Redskins ball. As predicted by past performance the Redskins then tried to play slow ball, milking the clock, taking max time between plays. Washington went 48 yards on ten plays, consuming almost five minutes of clock time before Shaun Suisham came in and kicked a 26 yard field goal. The Vikings then all but abandoned the run and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson led Minnesota on a 10 play scoring drive that ended on a two yard touchdown pass to tight end Jim Kleinsasser. It started to look like the Redskins were giving it away when the Vikings recovered an onsides kicks but then three and outed. The Redskins got the ball back and the quarter ended on a 3rd and one play for no gain with the Redskins leading 25-7.

The fourth quarter opened with a Redskins punt and on the punt play James Thrash committed an unnecessary roughness penalty (can't recall the play, help me out in comments) to add 15 yards onto Minnesota's field position. The Vikings then went nine plays from midfield, scoring a touchdown on a Tarvaris Jackson six yard scramble. The Redskins got the ball back, suddenly their 22 point lead had been cut in half. Washington took this possession and went 75 yards on 14 plays, consuming 5:14 off the clock, scoring on a Clinton Portis 16 yard run. On the fourth play of this drive, 1st and 10 at the Washington 47, Todd Collins and center Casey Rabach got crossed up and Todd fumbled the snap. He went down for it but was batted away by Vikings man mountain defensive tackle Kevin Williams who recovered it, Vikings ball. Joe Gibbs challenged the play alleging Minnesota had 12 men on the field at the time of the snap. The play was reviewed and the call was overturned, Redskins ball.

The Vikings got the ball back and went into a hurry up offense, covering 73 yards in just over three minutes of clock time before Tarvaris Jackson scored his second touchdown run. Down by 11 points with 1:58 left in regulation the Vikings called all their timeouts on the ensuing Redskins drive, all runs, forcing the Redskins to punt. Four desperation passing plays later the game was over, Redskins win 32-21.


Soapbox: what a terrific game. I was in Charlottesville visiting inlaws for the holidays and watched this game at Rapture on the downtown mall. It was the first time in recent memory that I had gone to a bar with the explicit purpose of watching a whole game at a bar. I thought it was going to be lame-oh, Charlottesvillians have never impressed me with their love of the Redskins, and thought we would have to leave at halftime to find a better place, maybe the South Street Brewery where I could actually hear the sound. But as Loveboat Freddie intercepted that first Tarvaris Jackson pass I heard cheers erupt behind me, there were about a half dozen serious Redskins fans in this small bar and before I knew it we were all old friends. The shots started coming out and by the end of the night I was fully in the bag. Thanks to random Cville denizen Andy for the Jaegermeister and the Jaegerbombs.

I thought Mike Sellers' touchdown on 4th and goal in the first quarter was a touchdown and should not have been overturned. In the first place I thought Joe Gibbs should have taken the three and not gone for it, why oh why has he become so tempted by the 4th and goal? It is in Joe Gibbs blood to take the safe points and make the other team play from behind from the very beginning rather than gamble and then be tempted to chase missed points all game. That said I did not believe from looking at the replay that there was conclusive evidence that the ball did not cross the goal line and it should not have been reversed. However like the LaRon Landry disruptive penalties in recent games, calls that went against the team but did not affect the outcome of the game, this sequence and the ensuing safety (awsum because it was Tony Richardson, the man that beat out Mike Sellers for the Pro Bowl) and then touchdown turned out ok.

Staying on this theme I thought it was a bad idea for the Redskins to go for two at the end of the half. I guess maybe Al Saunders' Magic Index Card showed the two would put the Redskins up three TD-PATs plus a FG, or three TD-2PTs, whereas the PAT alone would only put the Redskins up 23. What the fuh....? YOU'RE UP THREE SCORES DUMBASSES, BE HAPPY AND TAKE THE PAT!

A few people, including the original Redskins fan named Ben Folsom as well as the neighbor we call Tony Almeida have commented on how the Redskins were setting up for a collapse in the second half by playing weak defense and allowing Tarvaris Jackson to get the Vikings back into the game through the air. Although I and all of Redskinsland would have preferred to see the Vikings shut out there was a strategy there. As usual the Redskins tried to take away the deep ball at the expense of letting the short stuff through. This contains the opponent and forces them to use clock. In three second half scoring drives the Vikings consumed a total of 11:37 of clock time, more than one third of the second half. The Redskins did what they had to do by answering those three Vikings touchdowns with ten points of their own to keep the game out of reach. Force the opponent to take as long as possible to do anything.


Chattering class: Tom Boswell at the Washington Post is All About Todd. Mike Wise at the same paper is All About Joe. For the trifecta the Post's Les Carpenter has the front page A1 story on the game, sandwiched between stories on the US government's many ignored warnings on Blackwater and how the falling dollar is hurting international markets.


Omnibus: coming into this game the Vikings were number one in running the ball and in stopping the run. In this game the Redskins outperformed on the ground both ways. Rookie phenom tailback Adrian Peterson had five carries in the first half, nine overall for 27 yards to go along with two receptions for 21 yards and a dropped pass. The Redskins shut him down and forced the Vikings to go away from him by building a three score lead before halftime.

Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, the main men from the 2005 playoff team, they're back.

After concussing himself on the second half kickoff play Mike Sellers was forced to sit out the rest of the game. A new rule this year, to me as well, I had never heard of it, dictates that a player who has been diagnosed at the game to have suffered a concussion cannot return to the game. Apparently Mike did not know this or else took the news poorly as the team had to hid his helmet in order to prevent him from trying to get back in the game.

London Fletcher did not lead the team in tackles for the first time in three games, against the Bills. Loveboat Freddie led the team in tackles that game too.

On Washington's first drive of the second half Vikings linebacker Ben Leber was credited with a sack when he hit Clinton Portis behind the line. It looked to me like Clinton was queuing up the halfback option play that scored a TD in the first half, but he never threw it. I am uncertain as to how tackling a tailback behind the line of scrimmage can be considered a sack unless the score keeper considers him changing to a quarterback once he begins to motion as though he may throw the ball. Seems a little subjective to me. As a hypothetical if the QB takes a snap and makes no motion as though to throw but instead tucks and runs on a keeper and is hit behind the line, is it a run for loss or a sack?

That fourth quarter challenge (op. cit.), the Todd Collins fumbled snap recovered by Minnesota, that was an interesting sequence. It was my understanding that a no-call cannot be challenged. The officials did not catch Minnesota with 12 men on the field at the snap and thus missed the call. Therefore under the guidance that you cannot go back and create a penalty where there was none called on the field the play should not have been overturned. The commentators and fans could be up in arms and we would see the violation over and over but like every play has a hold or an illegal block there should have been no way to reverse the fumble based on the Vikings having 12 men on the field. I guess my understanding is incorrect. Brad Childress got all hot after the challenge because he thought the Redskins had substituted, if they had the Vikings would have been entitled to time enough to match but it turned out the Redskins had not. The Viking Age reports that Brad was preoccupied with seeing the bigboard replay of the play before, a Santana Moss sideline catch for 27 yards and whether to challenge it.

The Vikings final score was set up in part by what I thought was a questionable 16 yard pass interference call on Redskins third cornerback Leigh Torrence. The pass looked uncatchable to me and therefore there should have been no penalty. Perhaps the call was on the contact because the 'uncatchable pass' call has all but disappeared from the NFL as the rules of receiver contact have tightened. It was an unfortunate moment for Leigh, a reserve guy trying to make an impression but it was offset by Leigh's sack of Tarvaris Jackson on a corner blitz in the third quarter.

In other what the fuh...? news, Joe Gibbs denied after the game that owner Dan Snyder had offered him a two year contract extension. Of course this means there was an offer and it will likely be accepted once the season has been put away. Joe Gibbs signed a five year deal to come back to the team but built the team to peak no later than four years. Coming into next season many player salaries from that free agent class will climb to untenable numbers and some will be gone, others will restructure. In either event there is at least a decent chance the team will look quite a but different next season and it would be sad to watch a lame duck coach try and muddle through a one year team. It seems with the late season success the team has had and the tragedy the team has had to suffer through in losing Sean Taylor that Joe Gibbs will come back, he cannot back out now, he'd rather vapor lock on the sidelines than go out this way.


Area 51: although there were no signature hits, LaRon Landry and Reed Doughty were part of the defense that flummoxed Tarvaris Jackson and his receivers. How pleasant just to say the safeties were undistinguished in a great defensive effort.

Freddie Your Cruise Director: Fred Smoot was awsum (op. cit.), he had in INT and led the team in tackles (see box score) has become a major factor in coverage. This is his fourth great game in a row.

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

Other recaps:

Next up, the Dallas Cowboys at Redskins Stadium, the rematch season finale, the second consecutive Redskins game to change timeslots (from 1pm to 4:15pm, op. cit.). After beating the Panthers the Cowboys have nothing to play for playoff wise and the question is, how many starters will Dallas risk in a game the Redskins must win to get into the playoffs. Washington's defensive players will be going full steam and if anyone can get a hit on the quarterback or an open field signature hit on a ball carrier they will not hesitate to do so. I wonder if Wade Phillips saw this.

Clinton Portis and Todd Collins: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images from here. Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo from here.