Making Them Pay

In today's parity-driven NFL, most of the opponents that the Redskins play will be roughly equal to them in terms of talent, some a little better, some a little worse, some that they match up with better than others, but, in the big picture, about the same.

Given the equality of talent, an NFL team must find an edge if it is to win more games than it loses. A big way to get that edge once the ball is kicked off is to make opponents pay for their mistakes and misfortune. In recent seasons, Washington has not been able to take advantage of golden opportunities their opponents have handed to them. The Redskins were able to do this against the Ravens and that's why they were able to look so impressive on Saturday night at FedEx Field.

They didn't take full advantage of their first gift-wrapped opportunity, settling for a field goal after Patrick Johnson recovered a fumbled punt at the Baltimore 27. After that, however, the Redskins made the Ravens pay in spades for their misdeeds.

The Redskins' first scoring drive started off with a Baltimore interception that was nullified due to a penalty. Soon after that, Patrick Ramsey hooked up with Laveranues Coles for a nice gain augmented by a 15-yard penalty for Ray Lewis' late hit. After an offside penalty turned a third and eight into a third and three, Trung Canidate carried three straight times into the end zone.

In the second quarter, it just took one mistake to open the door for the Redskins. Ramsey was roughed while throwing a third-down incompletion, advancing the ball to the Baltimore 39. They went for it all and got it, with Coles splitting two defenders and hauling in Ramsey's perfect pass in the end zone for a 17-0 lead.

Now, this was a preseason game which, as has been pointed out in this space, is the very definition of meaningless in terms of who won and who lost. It's merely pointed out here to illustrate what the Redskins must do when the games count.

Speaking of that, the team has already been handed a couple of breaks, literally, before their first two regular-season games even kick off. Broken bones in Chad Pennington's hand and Michael Vick's leg means that the Skins will be facing their first two opponents without their respective MVP's.

Of course, they need to take advantage of their good luck. If they allow Vinny Testaverde, Pennington's replacement, to find the Fountain of Youth and give Atlanta's Doug Johnson time to operate they will have a tough time.

Anyone doubting this should look up Longley, Clint in Redskins lore.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to

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