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October 3, 2004
There aren't many rules around here, but here's one: If you support an opponent of the Redskins, or even if you are a Skins fan and I predict a Redskins win in the blog, please feel absolutely free to blast me for my opinion with both barrels. But if you're going to talk smack, do so before the game, not just afterwards.
After predicting an easy Redskins win—I called it a "mismatch"—I heard from two Browns fans who disagreed with my assessment. One wrote me before the game, giving me some reasons why Cleveland could win. He gets my full respect and will get a nice second reply from me describing the taste of the crow I'm eating.
Another arrived about 20 minutes after the game ended. The subject was "Nice Prediction." The writer called me "pompous" for actually thinking that the Redskins would win easily. I wrote back and called him a "coward" for taking his shots at me after the fact.
Not only is that cowardly, there's no reason to do it. I blast or credit myself on my predictions every Monday in this space, unlike other, more cowardly bloggers out there.
So, you Baltimore Ravens fans out there, listen up. I'm going to make a prediction on the game. As with every blog entry here, my name and email address will be attached. I'm not sure yet, but my instinct at this moment is to predict a Redskins win. If you want to have at the prediction, please feel free to do so. And if you blast me beforehand and I'm wrong, I'll give you your due. If we ever meet in person, I might even buy you a Natty Boh.
If I don't hear from you before and I hear from you afterwards, though, you will be subject to the full wrath of The Blog and no Natty Boh for you.
Note: Before you write, yes I know that National Bohemian is no longer brewed in Charm City, I'm just old school that way
On to the Game
Well, that was a nice 300-word diversion from talking about the game itself.
First of all, Cleveland is not a bad team, better than I thought. Their talent is nearly on a par with Washington's. They're stronger in some areas (D-line in particular) and weaker in others. The return of Lee Suggs from injury made a big difference in their offense. While they gave up three sacks, their offensive line did a decent job. Jeff Garcia came back from being as cold as a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia and gained confidence as the game went on.
Nevertheless, they were underdogs and they followed the classic underdog script. They made very few errors and didn't get in the way as the Redskins self destructed with penalties and critical turnovers. Cleveland hung around and at exactly the right time they came up an excellent touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
After that, two third-down plays decided the game. On the first one, Brunell appeared to have Coles open to convert a third and four, but Kennard Lang batted the pass down at the line. After the punt, Cleveland was facing a quick three and out but Garcia hit Andre Davis for 33 yards and any Washington comeback after that would have been a miracle.
For the second straight week, the Redskins burned a timeout on an unwinnable replay challenge. It's clear that Portis coughed the ball up well before hitting the ground and I'm not sure why Gibbs and/or his replay guru upstairs decided to challenge. Cleveland nearly did the Skins a favor by hustling up to the line, but, unfortunately, the challenge signal reached the referee just prior to the Browns snapping the ball.
Clock management didn't cost the Redskins this one, however. Even if they'd had a timeout in their pocket to challenge the Coles fumble, it wouldn't have done any good. Certainly, there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. And even if it had been overturned, there's not much to suggest that they could have punched it into the end zone. In fact, their 1 of 11 third down "efficiency" suggests very strongly to the contrary.
October 2, 2004
A Stunning Stat
I'm not a big stat guy when it comes to football. Baseball, with 162 games a year, lends itself to analysis by the numbers much better than football does. You can measure a hitter by various numbers because it's just him against the pitchers. If you try to do the same thing with a running back you have to take in to account his offensive line, the coaching system and so on.
Even team-oriented stats are hard to attach much meaning to, even ones that sound impressive. I heard the other day that the Packers were a lock to beat the Giants on Sunday because New York hasn't won in Green Bay since 1971. Wow, you say. But the Giants have only played there a few times since then and none of them were during New York's recent glory years of 1986-1990. The Pack will probably prevail, but it has nothing to do with games played by players who no longer play.
But on the CPND board here, I came across a stunning stat that I'd forgotten: On games following Monday night football, Joe Gibbs is 20-2.
That's just amazing. He's won coming off of the short week 91% of the time, and the statistical sample covers just less than a season and a half and it's over a period of 10 years (Washington didn't play on MNF in either of Gibbs' first two seasons). That, my friends, is a trend.
I've heard a lot about the disadvantage of teams playing on a short week, so assume that the average record of teams coming off of MNF is a little under .500. That means that Gibbs' advantage over the field is 400 percentage points. That's money.
It was my impulse to say that Gibbs obviously had a much better idea as to how to prepare his team on a short week than other coaches did. But wait, his opponents were always coming off of a regular week. So he did better in what is commonly a disadvantageous situation. He was the one-legged man who won the butt-kicking competition 20 out of 22 times.
Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins
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