Monday, October 6, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 5 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Redskins 23, Eagles 17

Offense: B

The interesting thing about the offense in this game was that it looked shockingly like the Joe Gibbs offense of the past few years on those rare occasions when the Joe Gibbs offense was able to move the ball. It was a run-heavy offense (44 rushes, 31 passes) and the Skins picked up over 200 yards on the ground. Clinton Portis led the way with 145 yards, and it seems like he's gotten better every week since his disparaging comments about his offensive line. I still think he was out of line, but it seems like the team has responded positively, so maybe he knew what he was doing.

The passing game wasn't as good as it's been in the past few weeks, but seeing this team move the ball while Santana Moss got shut out was both surprising and encouraging. You hope that they'll do a better job of getting Moss involved even if the defense is keying on him, but it's actually more important that you take advantage of the things that open up because of the personnel commitment made to covering Moss. They were able to do that, and Chris Cooley had a big game.

Defense: A-

Initially I had the defense at a "B" as well, but that's really selling short what this defense did on Sunday. After a terrifying first quarter that had all Redskins fans worried about a blowout loss, the Washington defense allowed only 121 total yards and 3 points. The Eagles had 3 possessions in the third quarter, and all three of them were three-and-out. They played the kind of defense you have to play when you go down 14 points early. The pressure was on them all game, and they stood up to it.

What's perhaps even more impressive is that the 'Skins were able to put the clamps down without any turnovers or any sacks. They just played tremendous defense and busted up every play. In fairness, the Eagles wide receivers had some bad drops, but I'm a believer that when a receiver drops a pass, it's because he's worried about what's going to happen if he catches it. And it's not like the Eagles haven't been able to put up points with the same receivers in the past (see week 2 against Dallas).

Special Teams: B

The punt coverage team was made to look foolish by DeSean Jackson on a 68-yard TD, and punter Durant Brooks averaged only 34.5 yards per punt. But those were your lowlights, and there were multiple highlights. Rock Cartwright and Antwaan Randle-El had solid kickoff and punt returns, respectively. Outside of the Jackson disaster, the coverage team did pretty good. But the real treasure was kicker Shaun Suisham. He hit field goals of 41, 48, and 50 yards, and having a kicking game that can hit tough field goals is huge, especially as the weather gets worse. The more field goals you can make, the more it opens up your offense between midfield and your opponent's 20-yard line.

Overall: A-

After the first quarter, I was trying to figure out how I was going to look at a 49-3 loss against the Eagles. How was I going to evaluate the game objectively when I had been so colossally disappointed? Thankfully, I won't have to answer that question...yet. I still think this team has a big loss in their future; if I had to guess, I'd say the Steelers on Monday night in 4 weeks.

But this game was a testament to how things have changed philosophically in Washington since the hiring of Jim Zorn. Over the past five years, if the Redskins had gone down 14-0 that early, the game would've been all but over, and everyone would be thinking about next week. But this team has a justified confidence that kept them composed and focused, and they were able to just continue to play their game, and know that they could overcome it. That's what's more exciting about this team than anything, that they know they can win. I'm not buying Super Bowl tickets yet, but the Redskins sure look like a playoff team.

And that's more than I could've said about them at any other point in the past ten years.

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