Synaptic Shotgun: Wrapping Up the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
Begging your indulgence, here are a few final thoughts on the Dallas opener before officially turning the page in order to focus, with proper deference and solemnity, on the mighty Houston Texans juggernaut set to invade FedEx Field on Sunday bent on putting the upstart Redskins and their delusional fans in their place.
Oh yeah. We've been listening.
● About the dropped balls. It's a different game if Mike Sellers can jog and catch at the same time, if Anthony Armstrong can hang on to the sweetest second down fade you'll ever see, maybe even if Santana Moss can catch a simple ball that hits him in both hands to convert near midfield on the penultimate drive.
It's a finished game if Carlos Rogers could catch a cold (warning: watch at your own risk).
If the teflon hands thing happens again, it's not my fault. I shot a $250 gift certificate from Dick's Sporting Goods to Redskins Park Monday morning. They have these.
● If the Redskins never throw another pass to Mike Sellers, it will be too soon. You don't invite Conan to tea and crumpets.
● I won't lie...I don't think I would have pulled the trigger on the 49-yard field goal attempt from the Dallas 31 with two minutes left in a three-point game. No way I could risk giving Tony Romo and Miles Austin the ball at their own 39, where just 30 yards gives them a good shot at the tying field goal. I would have punted, hoping to pin them back inside the 20, and asked my defense for one last stop.
A sincere nod of respect to Mike "Cojones de Acero" Shanahan.
● Another nod for Graham Gano. That was a big-time money kick. It's been a very long time since a kicker has earned the trust and confidence of Redskins fans. Yeah, it's too soon to unreservedly take that plunge at this point, but this wasn't a bad downpayment. Not bad at all.
● The Hold. I watched the final play of the game several times, anticipating the Cowboy fan perspective that the Barron holding penalty didn't affect the play. Happily, if for no other reason than my own peace of mind and sense of justice, that wasn't the case.
Tony Romo doesn't react and step up until after the moment Brian Orakpo would have "intersected" with him without the hold. If Alex Barron doesn't necktie Orakpo, Romo is either in Orakpo's grasp or sprinting another direction, and the play downfield shakes out differently. We have no way to know if Roy Williams is left alone in that scenario, or if Romo finds another white shirt at all, because it's a different play.
The penalty was absolutely the right call and the hold absolutely had a tangible effect on how the subsequent action (the TD pass) played out. My overdeveloped sense of honor is assuaged.
● Learning Curve. DeAngelo Hall, talking after the game about the Cowboys touchdown pass to Miles Austin, says the Redskins should have had a "bracket" on Austin. He knew exactly what had happened and why. What I took from his reaction was this: the call was correct, the players on the field simply didn't execute, they knew it and had already checked that mental box.
Mike Shanahan, talking after the game about the offense in general, reminded everyone what he and the Redskins have been saying all along—this offense takes time to learn. It's easy to forget that in the heat of battle and be critical. What we as fans need to remember is the context. First game, new system, new coaches, new quarterback.
It's going to take time. It's going to take patience.
● That 0-11 Alignment. The zero-down-linemen defense the Redskins ran a handful of times is not one I can honestly say I'm in a hurry to see again. Particularly on short-yardage plays. Love the idea of creating confusion, question or hesitation for the offense. Not so crazy about the idea of having zero meat down and leveraged against an NFL offensive line and NFL running back set to explode forward looking for less than 36 inches of real estate.
Mucho cabeza-scratching over that one.
● Special Teams. Two major gaffes—the botched FG hold and short punt by Bidwell—obscured what was an otherwise sterling performance. As mentioned above, Gano was money—his 49-yarder was as clutch as any kick you'll see before January. The kick coverage teams were stellar. The kick return teams and Devin Thomas actually looked dangerous. A game ball to special teams ringmaster Danny Smith.
● The Defensive Touchdown. Forgive me. I'm not done reveling.
It took 56 games (including pre- and post-season), but the Redskins defense finally got off the schneid and scored a touchdown. Ever looking forward, and not above a little good old fashioned greed, I am hereby setting the over/under on the the next one at four games.
● Moment of Duh. The difference between starting the season 1-0 and 0-1 is incalculable. With a confident and potentially tough Houston team coming to town, the Redskins' 2010 season could arguably have been "over" in terms of playoff hopes with a loss and fall to 0-2 in the NFC East. With the opening day win under their belts however, there's a chance to not just be level after two games, but to get the Shanahan Era off to a rousing 2-0 start.
You've heard the old saws: confidence builds confidence...first you win then you get good...just win baby. A 2-0 start, with a St. Louis Rams team no one will confuse with the 70's Steelers up next, and a realistic shot at 3-0? That's not just big, it's monster.
● Don't get me wrong. The last thing I'm suggesting is the 2010 Redskins are "there." They aren't. The offense struggled in all phases until late. The defense struggled to stop the run. Everyone struggled to catch the damn ball. The team is raw and incomplete. It's going to take at least one, probably two more offseasons to rebuild the disaster Cerrato left.
But I'll just take where the Redskins appear to be right now with a resounding "yes please." This team is going to scare some people this year, and it looks and feels to at least one lifelong fan like they are headed firmly in a very positive direction.
Which leaves me smiling.
● Unlike this guy... who is displeased.
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