Oct 26, 2005, 9:31 PM EDT
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There’s a new eBay commercial asking, “What is ‘it’”? In this ad campaign, “it” is anything and everything. In the NFL when the calendars are about to turn to November, “it” takes on a different meaning. “It” isn’t something that put your finger on, but you know “it” when you see “it”.
What is “it”? “It” is the talent, the swagger, the moxie, the smart, the guts and whatever else it takes to successfully navigate the road to the Super Bowl.
Do the Redskins have “it”? Before the season started, even those with the burgundy and gold glasses permanently perched on their noses would have been hard pressed to make a case for the Redskins, 6-10 in 2004, going to the Super Bowl XL. In September, they were a year or two away at best, primarily because the offense was a mess and the Eagles were the dominant force in the division. Saying that they had an outside shot at a wild-card playoff spot was considered to be a bold statement, anything beyond that was a mix of wishful thinking, fantasy, and lunacy.
Of course, similar things were said of the Carolina Panthers in early 2003. And the 2001 Patriots, the 2000 Ravens and the 1999 Rams and Titans had the same slim to none chance of making it to the title game as the Redskins were given in August. Somewhere along the line, however, they all got “it”. At some point during the season, the players started to seriously think, why not us? The teams’ home cities went nuts, the fans gripped onto the team with a fevered frenzy. Team apparel both flew off the store shelves and emerged from years of sitting in the closet. The national media started to talk and write as if they knew it all along, that they told everyone (off the air, of course) that this was their sleeper pick.
It’s too early in the 2005 season to say that the Redskins have what the Panthers, Rams, and the others had in their magical seasons. But it’s not so early that we can’t take a look at some of the elements of “it” that the Redskins have going for themselves this year.
Coaching: Joe Gibbs has “it” or, rather, them–three Lombardi Trophies. Any questions?
Quarterback play: Mark Brunell isn’t playing as well as he did when he twice took a team to the doorstep of the Super Bowl. He’s playing better. For the first time in his career he has thrown for three touchdowns in back to back seasons. His QB rating and TD to interception ratio are both much better than it was in 1996 and in 1999, the two seasons he took the Jaguars to the AFC title game. He’s a savvy veteran with a very hot hand, a priceless asset.
Playmakers: Santana Moss can take it to the house any time he gets his hands on the ball and he has. We just discussed Mark Brunell, who makes most of his big plays with his arm, but has made a few with his feet as well. Sean Taylor makes crunching hits to separate offensive players from the ball with great frequency and he nearly scored on his first interception of the season. Marcus Washington’s season started to turn the corner from solid to spectacular when he got the sack and strip of Alex Smith on Sunday. They’re the players that the others can turn to when the team needs a spark. And those are just the ones who have demonstrated playmaking ability this season, leaving out players who have turned the big play in the past like LaVar Arrington, Clinton Portis, and David Patten. If they start to add a big spark here and there, watch out.
No glaring weakness: The Redskins don’t excel in all phases of the game, but there is no one area that the other team can point to and say, that’s where we’re going to go to beat them. The presence of Moss and Patten precludes overplaying the run and Portis makes it a bad idea to play too soft in the box. Even Mike Sellers can make a team pay for turning its head the other way. The offensive line is gelling to the point where they might actually earn a nickname. The defense can get burned for the long play on occasion but it’s solid against both the run and against the pass. The kicking game is not spectacular but solid and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hole in any phase of the game planning.
Battle all the way: The teams that have “it” don’t win every game, but they’re in almost every one until the end. This desire and ability to battle to the end results in some close losses and, as we saw in Dallas, some magical wins.
Again, it’s early; we’re not even halfway through the season. But in a just few weeks, we’re going to look up and Thanksgiving will be approaching and the pack will be starting to separate. Some of those pulling out in front will be the usual suspects and others will be surprises.
Why not the Redskins?
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