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Progress

Dec 14, 2004, 1:50 AM EST

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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com



I admit It’s getting better

A little better all the time (it can’t get much worse)

Yes, I admit it’s getting better

It’s getting better since you’ve been mine!

–The Beatles

It wasn’t their best game of the year, not even their best of the month. They committed a dozen penalties for 137 yards, clunked on offense for most of the game, let Eagle receivers run open deep often, gave up six receptions to Terrell Owens, and put little pressure on Donovan McNabb.

Still, they almost pulled out a game against on the three best teams in football. Despite the penalties, Philadelphia converted just 3 of 13 third downs. Offense woes aside, the Skins held the ball for over 33 minutes. The Eagle receivers didn’t always catch the ball when they were open deep including one where Todd Pinkston developed one of the most severe cases of alligator arms ever seen when it appeared that the safety was bearing down on him (Pinkston might have to have surgery to remove his elbows from his rib cage, so severely did he yank his arms back to protect himself). Owens’ catches gained just 46 yards and McNabb was effective but hardly dominant.

If I believed in moral victories, I’d say this was one, but I don’t so I won’t. Still, while putting numbers in the left-hand column of the standing is what it’s all about, you can take some good out of a loss.

  • The defense was good, very good. Holding the Eagles to 17, with seven of those points coming off of a highly questionable pass interference call on Shawn Springs against Owens, is an impressive performance. Not dominant, but impressive nonetheless.
  • Ladell Betts continues to impress in different ways. Against Pittsburgh and the Giants he ran well from scrimmage. Yesterday his return of the opening kickoff set up a seven-yard touchdown drive, a score that gave Washington a working margin that got them through some poor stretches to come.
  • The whole offense is running more smoothly. It’s not always effective, but there seems to more some continuity. Part of this is due to the fact that the offensive coaches are getting the plays in more quickly. The call gets in, they line up, Ramsey starts the cadence, players go in motion, and there are still over 10 seconds left on the play clock. Sure, they cut is close from time to time, but nearly every team does.

Still, when it came down to it, the Redskins didn’t get it done. Every week, you see teams turn a deficit into a lead in the last two minutes of the game. I’m just going off of memory here and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s been over five years since the Redskins did that. On October 3, 1999 Brett Conway booted a field goal in the dying seconds for a 38-36 win. Since then, the Redskins have taken the lead in tie games in the last two minutes and they’ve come from behind to tie it up in the late going, but they haven’t turned a loss into a win during crunch time in a half a decade.

Nobody on this team was playing for the Redskins that day (Jon Jansen is the only one left in the organization and, of course, he’s out with an injury). There’s no carryover, no legacy of pulling out the close ones. If this team is ever to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a regular basis it will have to do it the hard way—they’ll have to learn it on their own.

Certainly, Gibbs and the coaches will help them learn how to win and a lot of the players who were with other teams recently played in games that their teams won in the dying seconds. That helps, but until they mesh as a team during crunch time and each player knows what the others are doing, it will be a hit or miss proposition.

Last night, it was a miss.

Yes, you Eagle fans who called my sanity into question when I predicted that the Redskins will win, I will examine my predictions and rate them, but that won’t happen until tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I will reveal how I voted for the Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year award.

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