Washington Redskins: A Sunny Day for a Stormy Franchise
On Wednesday the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed into Virginia. Storms of this nature generally move fast. Not Ida. She lingered for three days. Cities such as Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Richmond were battered with torrential rain and 50 mph gusts that knocked down trees, flooded streets, and made driving as treacherous as white water rafting. Homes were destroyed, 18-wheelers were toppled, and schools were closed. The Governor Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency. The rain was icy cold and it fell at a 45-degree angle due to the wind, making it especially cruel for those poor souls who had to travel by foot.
Close your eyes and try to imagine a monsoon in Siberia.
That was Hurricane Ida in Virginia.
A metaphorical hurricane has lingered in Northern Virginia, the eye of the storm centered at Redskin Park in Ashburn where Daniel Snyder lords over Team Turmoil. After yet another off-season shopping spree, local fans were optimistic about the prospects of their beloved team. They began the NFL season with outsized expectations and some NFL experts (let's call them meteorologists) were even whispering playoffs. But then the season started, and the team's sunny outlook abruptly changed. A loss to the Giants was to be expected. But then came a shoddy win over the Rams, a shocking loss to the Lions, and a spectacularly unimpressive win over the punchless Bucs. Redskin fans wanted to stand strong. They wanted to keep the faith, but the barometer was already dropping and dark clouds began to appear on the horizon.
And then without further warning, the Category 5 made landfall.
Four straight losses, four straight ugly losses that didn't just knock the wind out of this team, it rocked this franchise to its very foundation. A state of emergency had been declared.
Washingtonians had seen losing before. After all this is a city that is home to the Washington Wizards. But never had they seen their beloved Redskins lose in such an embarrassing way. The team looked horrible. They played St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Kansas City in consecutive weeks. When someone is handed a task that is easy, they call it "gravy". Those five teams were indeed gravy. The only thing that was missing was the mashed potatoes which those five teams were, in fact, much softer than. The tough part of the schedule wasn't supposed to begin until the Monday night game at FedEx Field against Philadelphia. However, by the time the hated Eagles arrived in town, the storm that no one saw coming had already morphed into the proverbial Category 5 hurricane.
A four-game losing streak, coupled with two wins that felt like losses, had pushed this team to the brink.
A head coach was stripped of his power. A retired offensive playcaller was dusted off and given the reins to a struggling offense. A quarterback's confidence was shaken and so was the patience of the team's fanbase. Where was the leader in the clubhouse who demanded accountability on the part of his teammates? Where was the leadership in the front office who would assure fans that everything would be done to right which is now wrong? How did we get here? How did this team regress so fast? They were no longer competitive. They were an embarrassment. So naturally, the fans piled on. The national media (also known as the storm chasers) began to pile on.
The defense blamed the offense. The offense blamed the head coach.
And EVERYBODY blamed the owner.
The Washington Redskins had now morphed into Team Turmoil.
This is what made today such a welcome relief. Today, the surprise team of the league, the Denver Broncos came to FedEx Field on a suspiciously warm, 70-degree day. And on this day, for once, everything clicked. The Redskins Offensive Line, wracked with injuries and at this point held together by electrical tape, held on long enough for backup running back Ladell Betts to gain 112 yards. Jason Campbell played steady, turnover-free football. He completed a pass to 10 different receivers and he was a perfect 9-for-9 passing in the second half. The defense knocked Bronco quarterback Kyle Orton out of the game in the first half and held Denver to just 36 total yards in the second half. And Hunter Smith, the punter who had just returned from injury, threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sellers in a moment of clever trickery.
When the smoke cleared and the storm clouds lifted, the Washington Redskins had ended their four-game losing streak, defeating the Broncos 27-17 in front of 85,000 ecstatic fans. It was the most points the team had scored since 23 games ago when the Skins scored 29 points in the second game of the 2008 season.
After watching Campbell struggle week-after-week, it was a relief to see the quarterback on the other side of the ball get knocked around like a pinata. Any chance the Broncos had to win this game ended the second Kyle Orton was declared inactive due to the ankle injury he suffered at the end of the first half. And in Orton's place stepped Chris Simms who was completely overmatched by a team that, for the first time all season, played inspired football. You could see it on their faces, especially in the 4th quarter when the Redskins knew that victory was within reach. They could smell it. The fans could smell it. It is moments like this that makes sports so captivating. It is the collective moment when the players and the fans both can sense when they are on the verge of an improbable accomplishment.
Or was it improbable? Maybe we had the Broncos wrong. Maybe they are overrated. Maybe Josh McDaniels isn't the boy wonder.
But that's a question for the storm chasers, the members of the national media, to answer. Because today belonged to the much maligned trio of Jim Zorn, Jason Campbell, and yes, Daniel Snyder. Today was a day when everything went right. Today was a day when the fans cheered instead of jeered. Today was a day when even the most outspoken Redskin critic of them all, John Riggins, could finally crack a smile.
I don't know what weather tomorrow will bring. But I do know that for one day, the hurricane went away and the storm clouds parted like the Red Sea.
Today the sun shined. And it was a beautiful day indeed.
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