Sunday, October 05, 2008

Washington Redtails Eat the Eagles' Lunch

Washington dominated the line of scrimmage against a tough NFC opponent for the second game in a row. With the difficult early schedule over, the Redtails are an impressive 4-1 and now soar over a sunny meadow populated by three fieldmice with one win between them (Rams, Browns, Lions).

Every sportsjack is thunderstruck (though sadly, not rendered speechless) that Washington is more comfortable in its offense than in the season opener against the defending Superbowl Champs, moments after the champs received their rings in front of a rabid home crowd. The improvement has been on a steep curve and suddenly they are the NFL's hottest team. Expect the even-keeled Coach Zorn to keep the Redtails hunting even as the bandwagon loads up.

The defense was dominant even without starters CB Springs, DE Taylor and LB Washington. They smothered Westbrook at 2.8 yards and limited him in the passing game to fifty yards, an area where he is elite. Despite not getting a pass rush they intimidated the Eagles WRs and held the vaunted passing attack to under 200 yards, looking particularly good on third down (5 for 12). Starting rookie FS Chris Horton led the team with eight tackles. The defensive line is stout and the LBs are making their tackles and the defensive backfield is covering well and hitting hard. The goal line stand in the 4th quarter was bad-fuckin-ass.

The offensive line won this game, and that is just the way it needs to be. The Eagles D Line, one of the best in the league (#1 vs. run), got rocked for 200 yards rushing and generated no sacks (though Dawkins got one on a blitz). QB Jason Campbell was tested early and often, winning with poise and another thrilling run on third down to move the sticks when they had to have it.

The line picked up the Eagles blitzes and enabled Campbell to zip the leather around, particularly to TE Chris Cooley whose career-best 8 catches for 109 yards included the go-ahead score on a pass on an end-around from WR Randle El. The Eagles doubled WR Moss, who finished without a catch but opened up the field for everyone else.

The game ball, without reserve, goes to RB Clinton Portis who turned in another game-winning effort. His admitted fondness for his mama's pork chops sweetens my heart, as did his 145-yard, 4th quarter TD performance. He had an absolutely explosive run and the highlight is worth seeing; it's 40 seconds in. In the play, Portis runs into a hole clogged with two Philly fatties and blows them out the other side.

Special Teams ... ah, yes. A bad punt & coverage gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead. If this team loses, I reckon it will be because of this unit. Randle El had one decent return in this game, but his return instincts are bad. His first move with the ball is always, always lateral. He's got a QB's instincts which can be useful, and he's a nifty player but I don't want him returning punts any more. K Shaun Squeeze-em nailed a 50 yarder. It seems apparent that the best way to deal with the punting problem is to keep getting first downs.

Zorn outcoached Obese-American Andy Reid with a better gameplan and in-game adjustments. Reid, perhaps intimidated by the felonious Philly fans, challenged the Randle El to Cooley TD. This emotionally-driven decision flushed away a timeout they probably would have liked later. When Reid's team were stymied on the six yard line with 7:18 to go, the Walrus sent in the FG team and I proclaimed, "Game Over!" I was right. The Eagles never touched the ball again. The Redtails were back on their heels and even if the TD failed, Washington would have started with the ball very deep in a very loud stadium. They would have been very conservative and the Eagles would have gotten the ball back with good field position. But Reid wussed out.

Coach Zorn, on the hand, plays to win. That's why no one was surprised that the Redtails went for it on 4th and 2 to win the game. Everyone knew it would be to Portis but the Eagles couldn't stop it. However, the playcall itself didn't come from Zorn.

According to the Washington Times, Coach Zorn claims that Portis called the draw: "I'm telling you, it was all Clinton Portis. He called the play. And as we ran the play, he willed his way to a first down. I had a great view of his grit. ... He called it, he ran it, and he got it. It was a huge, huge play in the football game."

Coach Zorn team is still young and there were some mistakes out there. We're still attempting too many FGs. Yet again I repeat, Special T must raise its game. However, the two minute offense is improving and the defense is very tough. Hidden stat: in the fourth quarter, the Redskins have only allowed 10 points over five games-- that's a two point average.

Go Washington Redtails Go!

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