I'm mellow with the Washington Redskins right now. It's not that I accept loss, but I accept that the Redskins have limitations and are competitive with their level of talent.
The writers at Redskins Hog Heaven projected seven or eight wins for the 'Skins this season. Most of the media writers and especially the citizen journalists who write for Redskins blogs figured Washington for a third or fourth place finish in the Beast.
Win or lose today, the 'Skins are playing to that level. They are playing the second-best form of sports entertainment--competitive, entertaining ball. The very best is your team absolutely crushing every opponent. The problem that the Redskins present to their fans is that we can't predict the outcome of their games. That makes for uncertain Sundays, but usually entertaining ones.
Is Riley a goner?
How bad is it to be Perry Riley this evening? Guy makes the gameday roster for only the third time this season, then has a nightmare game that will haunt. He twice committed illegal blocks to the back penalties on punt returns. The first, in the third quarter, came when Brandon Banks lost five yards on the return while deep in Redskins territory. With the penalty, Washington started that drive on the five yard line.
Donovan McNabb completed a pass to Santana Moss' facemask on the next play. Unfortunately, Moss' facemask could not hang on to the ball. The Vikings intercepted the ball on the ricochet and scored a field goal three plays later. The field goal was a win for the defense that held the Vikes to a two yard gain on first down and sacked (Andre Carter and Albert Haynesworth) Brett Favre for a six yard loss.
The big setback to Riley's career and Washington's hopes came in the fourth quarter when Riley committed the same penalty on Bank's 77 yard punt return for the potential game winning score.
Riley may never live that down in Washington, if he gets to stay. Pro football demands precise execution. Committing the same penalty in the same situation gets a player released faster than anything.
Riley's teammates reacted to the gaffe differently than expected. They offered encouragement--taps on the helmet, whispers over the shoulder, and outward signs of support. Teams coach Danny Smith was seen on the sideline speaking sternly to Riley, but ended the session with gestures of encouragement.
The team must see something that they like in Riley. Maybe he will not be cut by Tuesday.
It's never just one play
One rookie mistake did not cost the Redskins the game. There were other critical errors by players and coaches. Santana Moss' inexplicable miss on the slant pass on the nine yard line that was intercepted. The Vikings got a field goal from that.
No one expected much from the Redskins rushing game, but can someone explain why James Davis had more rushing attempts (six for 11 yards) than Keiland Williams (three for five yards)? Keiland had four pass receptions, second highest in the game, for 21 yards. Williams scores once for every 15 times he touches the ball. In a close game like this one, Williams should have had twice as many touches.
I hope the Redskins didn't game plan the ball from Williams to Davis. It was a mistake if that is what happened and it was a mistake that might have cost the 'Skins a scoring opportunity.
Washington's defense struggled against the run all year. But how do they allow a rookie, Terry Gerhart playing for Adrian Peterson, to gain 76 yards and a score on 22 carries? Whether playing the 3-4 or the 4-3, they needed to stop the run to put the ball back in Brett Favre's hands.
All season long, the key to beating the Vikings has been forcing Favre to throw...interceptions. Sixty percent of Vikings plays were on the ground. Washington rarely forced Minnesota into a situation when Farve had to throw into a mistake.
The defense had one sack and no turnovers on the day. The Vikings defense made three sacks on McNabb, one interception on a deflection and one forced fumble. I wonder if other teams have seen enough video of Jim Haslett's defense to figure what he's up to?
What would JZ say?
As the ship was sinking around Jim Zorn last season, Mr. Stay Medium remarked that losing teams were the most dangerous on Washington's schedule. The three-win Vikings came to FedEx and left with their fourth win. The Detroit Lions have four wins in their last 27 contests, two of them at our expense. We will know that the Redskins have turned things around when they crush teams that are down on their luck. Maybe then they will beat a team quarterbacked by Brett Favre.
Steinberg: Redskins-Vikings, Best and Worst