Sitting down on the couch for the requisite three hours of football viewing last night felt less like the beginning of a fun night and more like an invitation to an execution. I watched the game against the hated Philadelphia Eagles more out of a sense of obligation than any desire or excitement. As a Redskins fan in the year 2009, misery is my lot. And sure, there was a vague sense of hope running through the circuits of internet fandom over the last week--after all, Philly lost to the Raiders, perhaps the only team in the NFL whose organization is in a greater shambles than ours! We could do it, right? That's the truly insidious part of Redskins fandom, though. There's always a reason to hope. And it's always gonna get snatched away from us at the last second.
Or maybe at the first second. DeSean Jackson's 67 yard touchdown run came so early in the game that I was actually in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on a late dinner when it happened. I heard the TV making sounds of excitement from the living room, and ran in just in time to see ol' DeSean cross the goal line. I hadn't even sat down, and already it was looking like a long night. Jason Campbell's pick-six happened in the middle of dinner and was almost enough to snatch my appetite away, and then the combination of the strip-sack as soon as we got the ball back and Chris Cooley's injury on that same play--which I'm now hearing means he's out for the season, god say it ain't so--really killed the last tiny glimmer of hope in my heart.
But as I did so long ago, when trying to make it through the Spurrier years without slitting my wrists, I stayed until the bitter end. I can remember as a child being at my grandfather's house watching the Redskins with him, and he'd turn off the game with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter if it looked like the winner was set. I never understood that. I have a superstitious belief that the team won't do as well if I'm not watching, and that if I stick it out with them until the opposing quarterback is taking a knee to run out the clock, they might just pull something out of a hat and win the game in the final seconds. It's worked once or twice. Mostly it just lengthens the amount of time I spend suffering.
There were some worthwhile things gained through my choice to sit through the entire game last night, though. We're going to hear plenty about how screwed the Redskins are from a lot of other sources over the next two weeks, so I may as well focus on the good things, right? Well, if nothing else, our defense is still great. Sure, the Eagles scored 27 points, the most anyone has scored on us this year, but the defense only gave up two big plays in the process. The two DeSean Jackson touchdowns were scored outside the red zone--one of which, by the way, was a blast from the past in that it involved Carlos Rogers getting beat deep. 13 more Eagles points came off turnovers, and the defense wasn't even on the field for 7 of those. The other 6 came from Redskin fumbles within field goal range, both of which became field goals instead of touchdowns due to the defense doing their job. I would like to see our defense get more turnovers--that one fumble that landed at Chris Wilson's feet but was jumped on by an Eagles lineman first was heartbreaking--but right now, considering our overall status, defense is one thing I can't complain about.
Some of the stats that say good things about our defense, though, just make it clearer how bad our offense is right now. We had 21 first downs to their 11, 46 more yards in total offense than they did, and Jason Campbell passed for nearly 300 yards, with a 67% completion rate. So why couldn't we win the game? Well, as mentioned before--turnovers. Plenty of people will be pointing the finger at Jason Campbell here, but I for one am a Jason Campbell apologist, so I don't think that's necessarily deserved. His strip sack was obviously a case where he was trying to throw the ball away and got hit from behind by an Eagles player that should have been blocked and wasn't. His interception was tipped into the air. I could start talking about the offensive line here, but again, it's all been covered elsewhere. Everyone knows we're hurting where the offensive line is concerned. Let's move on.
More good stuff--Fred Davis finally stepped up and played a solid game of football. It's a year and a half into his career, so it's about time he started showing us why he got drafted so high. I hesitate to say this, as it seems like all sorts of jinx, but if he can play like this every week, we might be able to survive the loss of Cooley for the year. It was great to see him on a clutch third down reception, pushing and fighting against defenders to make it to the marker. He probably should be used as a slot receiver rather than as a tight end, though, because his blocking is even worse than that of our offensive line, which is saying a lot. God knows he'd be better than our current slot receiver, about whom the less said the better. Indirectly speaking, though, I will say that I was happy to see the team taking a chance with DeAngelo Hall as a punt returner. Using Santana Moss is less of a good move if you ask me, since he's our #1 receiver and having him get injured on a punt return would be a terrible thing. Other than his interception abilities, Hall isn't a star cornerback (yeah, I said it). Let him return punts, and we can get some use out of his speed with the ball in his hands.
I don't know what we're going to do about our running back situation, especially since Marcus Mason got cut, but I will say one more good thing about personnel: the decision to make Devin Thomas the starting #2 receiver was a good one, and one that should have been made from the beginning. Thomas has more talent than Kelly, he's proven that on the field not just this year but even last year to some extent, and like Fred Davis, he showed that talent by being willing to fight for yardage on the field last night. With him and Fred Davis on the field, I'm finally starting to feel like Campbell has more targets. I would like to see some passes called in third down and long situations that actually make it to the chains, but since our coaching staff seems reluctant to call for such things (regardless of whether it's Zorn or Lewis calling the plays), we may as well have receivers out there who know how to fight for the yardage we need.
But all of this vaguely happy, vaguely hopeful talk is just a halfhearted attempt to keep our spirits high, and we all know it. We have to keep telling ourselves that this week it might be different, that we might get some real joy out of sitting down to watch the Redskins play, instead of the existential horror that we've suffered through on so many Sundays in the past. Truth is, it seems more out of our reach than ever, and if a 2-5 record was all we could come up with during a creampuff-laden first half of the season, how well can we possibly expect to do when all of our remaining opponents (other than the aforementioned Raiders, of course) have winning records? I'm not expecting much, but I'll be there on the couch every week, waiting for it to be different this time.
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