So, for better or worse, unedited and unvarnished, here are notes written during the game and a few message board thoughts offered in the hours after the game and earlier this morning.
From laptop notes written during and just after the game:
• evident early on that Redskins offense has little juice. Playcalling predictable and uneven, which is understandable when you can’t convert 3rd downs and stay on the field. No way to get into a rhythm.
• offensive line can’t get started. Doesn’t matter if against 4 down linemen of pass pro, or trying to open running lanes for Portis/Betts, Skins OL looks sluggish, like they’ve left too much of themselves on the field the past 4 weeks.
• simply godawful punting.
• dropped INT’s could be story of game.
• false starts - tired legs? concentration?
• fluke TD on Kendall fumble; if Skins lose this will be play of game. Shit happens.
• Campbell just average today. Missed short throws, hesitation in pocket even after Rams overwhelming the line. Good day to scramble more. Take a couple deep shots to loosen up front 7. No cohesion.
• isolation on Torrence on big play at end. If that’s scheme by Rams, brilliant.
And some thoughts as posted on message boards:
• … this one comes down to the fluke TD on Kendall's brainfart, two other turnovers that stopped promising drives, and two dropped lost opportunity gift INT's we dropped.
No, the O wasn't crisp—particularly the OL, which looked like it never really got started after the effort of the last two weeks—but not even great teams overcome that many crucial turnovers and lost opportunities often. And no one with their brain turned on thought going in that the Redskins are a great team. Not yet.
If you didn't proclaim them great after the Dallas and Philly shows of strength, you can't now call them [crap] after the Ram letdown.
• The Rams played scrappy and with nothing to lose, caught us in a letdown week offensively, got every conceivable break including a gift touchdown and stole a last-second long distance FG upset from a team that dominated most of the play.
Sometimes teams lose games.
If this happens again next week, then we can start worrying it's a sign of things to come. Right now it's a stubbed toe they will hopefully use as a learning experience.
Stay medium, folks.
• Meanwhile, the machine-like, exquisitely constructed, dynastic New England Patriots, the same organization that made a joke of the NFL through the better part of a decade and through the greatest regular season in league history just a season ago, now stripped of their franchise quarterback become just another team.
QB Theory lives.
Oops. How did that get in there?
• I'll be honest ... today was about a team unable to sustain the intensity it had for four straight weeks. The OL was sluggish and a step slow all day and the Rams took advantage of it. Give them credit. Throw in a fluke TD against and two dropped gift INT's that were potential game-changers, and that was enough.
Those looking for signs of the apocalypse will see this as the team getting exposed as a fraud.
Those willing to wait a week or two before doing that can look at this one and understand why it could have happened, and maybe even take a little solace in the fact the team kept slugging until the end, and but for a clutch 49-yarder against them at the end, would have stolen a win in a game they played about as poorly on one side of the ball as a good team can.
• Way I see it, the Skins paid the price today for leaving it all on the field the last four weeks. It was inevitable they'd have a flat game at some point. It showed glaringly in the play of the OL, who seemed a step slow and sluggish all day.
Yet even while playing uninspired offensive football, having a fluke TD against totally change the complexion of the game, dropping two potential game-changing gift INT's, getting concentration-lapse penalties that killed drives and generally just having everything to wrong a team possible can, they still led with 2 seconds to go and a 49-yard FG attempt facing the opponent.
Bad teams don't generally even stay in games where they play as bad on one side of the ball as we did today. What this one looks like to me is a good team suffering a let down, and losing due to a series of bad turnovers—both those committed and those they let get away.
We'll definitely find out a lot about Mr. Zorn and his ability to get the team back up to the intensity level of the 4 game win streak now. If he can, and they do what I expect and beat Cleveland handily, this game will be remembered as a reality check. If they come out flat on O again next week though, and let another one get away, it will be hard not to start worrying at least a little.
• With you, (my friend). Particularly after watching the team rally from 9 down in the 4th quarter despite all the crap of the first 3. But for an underthrown pass allowing a WR to beat our 4th corner to set up the final FG, the Skins win that game ugly. Which is what good teams do on weeks they play like poo. Which we did today on offense.
Bring on the Browns. I wanna see what we're made of.
• If I see the same offensive lethargy (particularly along the OL) next week as I did yesterday, I'll be more concerned. But I'll be honest--the one thing I kept saying all afternoon watching them get overrun but a mediocre Rams front seven was "they look tired."
If I had a fear going into that game it was that at SOME point it was likely there would be a letdown, that the past four physically and emotionally intense games would take their toll. In Philly it took them a quarter to get it going. Yesterday, they never really did until it was too late to safeguard against a last-second wing-and-a-prayer bomb like Bulger threw to get them in final FG position.
I think the Skins spirit was willing yesterday, but some of the flesh was weak. The OL is the oldest component on the team, and was (after the potential franchise QB of course ;) ) the primary driving force behind the Cowboy and Eagle wins.
If I'm right and that's what it was, it will be clear next week and the O will have that "crisp" look again that it only showed in flashes yesterday.
If I'm wrong, and defenses have already "figured us out" and even bad teams can put a lid on us ... well, let's not go there. The only reason we'd fear that sitting here today is residual Norvousness.
That’s it. Reading those back over, I’m comfortable I didn’t say anything too reactionary or emotional. After digesting the game a couple more days and taking the temperature of the team (as best one can through interviews, body language and public comments) perhaps I’ll have a different take, but I kind of doubt it.
Way I see it, the only thing we really learned yesterday is that the 2008 Redskins are not quite good enough yet to overcome multiple turnovers and lost opportunities (three coughed up plus two dropped INT’s), anywhere from 10-20 in point-swing as a direct result, and an inconsistent, sometimes tired looking offense, and still win.
Had Leigh Torrence batted down Marc Bulger’s wing-and-a-prayer bomb to Donnie Avery at the end, or had the Rams missed that last-second 49-yard FG, we might be having a very different conversation today—one about playing through sloppiness and bad breaks and fluke plays and still gutting out a tough win—but that’s not the way it went down.
Like the old cliché says, the only stat that ultimately matters in the NFL is W’s. So enough with “if only” and on to the “what’s next.”
If the Redskins are the solid, up and coming team I still believe they are, they will come out with bad intentions next week, take care of business against the visiting Cleveland Browns and yesterday will become just a pothole in the rear view mirror.
If they are not that team, and largely beat themselves again against a lesser opponent … well, let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
Coach said “stay medium.” That applies even more after self-inflicted losses than it does transformative wins.