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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
The Blog will not be taking the bye week off. I have no bumps and bruises that need to heal up and I can't afford to go out of town. Check back for some fun features, a look at some of greatest games in Redskins history that you don't hear much about, and some other good stuff as well.
October 25, 2004
One Point Five
It ridiculous to talk about playoff positioning when we are just about done with Week 7 in the National Football League. It's even more preposterous to do so when the team being discussed has a 2-4 record.
However, if you haven't learned by now, nothing is to far-fetched to discuss around here.
The Washington Redskins emerged from their bye week with a 2-4 record with their wins coming over NFC rivals Tampa Bay and Chicago and their losses to Baltimore and Cleveland of the AFC and Dallas and the New York Giants of the NFC East. The losses to the two division rivals are bad for their playoff chances; the fact that their two other losses are to AFC teams helps them in that they are not "bad" losses.
Of course, who you beat and who you lose to only matters if you're tied with another team. And, as of right now, the way I see it, the Redskins are just a game and a half out of a Wild Card playoff spot in the loss column.
That requires some explanation as anyone looking at the NFC standings can see that there are two second place teams with two losses, the Giants and the Detroit Lions, both 4-2. That would place Washington two games out of one of the two NFC Wild Card spots.
I am basing my game-and-a-half statement on the fact that the Redskins play the Lions in two weeks, after the Green Bay game. After that November 7 game, we will be looking at one of two scenarios. Either the Redskins will have beaten the Lions and will hold the tiebreaker advantage over them with a head-to-head win, or they will have lost that game and will be entirely out of playoff contention.
To be sure, the Packers and the Skins are among the pack of five NFC teams with four losses so it's not as simple as beating Detroit. Still, nine wins could well be enough to make the playoffs so Washington can "afford" three more losses and still have a shot.
If those three losses come to the Eagles (twice) and at Pittsburgh, the Redskins have a very, very good shot. An upset of Philly, of course, gives them the "luxury" of being able to lose another one but the additional loss had better not come at the hands of the Giants or Cowboys. For a Wild Card Spot, the tiebreakers are first applied to the division so even a head to head win over Green Bay or Detroit might not do any good if there's a sweep within the division.
Again, this is just speculative talk in the middle of the two-week break between games. If the offense doesn't start scoring more points, Washington's chances of making the playoffs are about the same as those of the Red Sox coming back from 0-3 against the Yankees. It can happen, but if it does it's a miracle.
Even if Brunell, Coles, Portis and company do start putting up three TD's a game the odds are strongly against making the playoffs, maybe 1 to five, maybe worse. But at least it's early and the fact that nobody is running away from the rest of the pack gives that slight glimmer of hope.
October 22, 2004
Continuing along with a look at former Redskins nominated for the Hall of Fame:
Doug Williams-- One credential that will go a long way towards getting a player into the HOF is a signature moment. It's an achievement that makes for a memorable moment when it happens and then gets replayed over and over again by the various TV highlight machines and subsequently is immortalized by NFL Films.
John Riggins' signature moment, for example, is the fourth down TD run in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII. That put the Redskins into the lead. There's the great shot, immortalized in still and in video, of Don McNeal futilely trying jersey tackle the charging Riggo, and the unforgettable audio "He's gone, he's gooooone" call from Frank Herzog.
For a quarterback, the signature moment may well not be a single play, but a critical series. John Elway had The Drive against Cleveland, a dozen or so plays that put Elway on the map.
What such a moment does is create an impression in the minds of the Hall of Fame selectors. When the question "why should this player be in the Hall of Fame" comes up, that selector has something to grab on to. Not just a number, but an image and sounds that he can still see and hear many years later. The signature moment, by its very definition, is a very powerful persuader.
For a quarterback, the signature moment may well not be a single play, but a critical series. John Elway had The Drive against Cleveland, a dozen or so plays that put Elway on the map. Doug Williams had The Quarter. That game is recapped below from the pages of my book
Williams had gone out with a twisted knee the previous series, but he returned here. After week of hype about being the first black man ever to start at quarterback in a Super Bowl, of enduring questions like "Have you been a black quarterback all your life?" it was time for Williams, the other signal caller in this game, to shine.
The play that got The Quarter started wasn't supposed to be a bomb, it was a seven-yard pattern called Charley Hitch. "It wasn't a deep call," said Williams. "Ricky just felt the pressure (from cornerback Mark Haynes) and adjusted. He blew by him." Williams hit the receiver in stride at midfield and Sanders ran untouched for the score.
Denver went three and out and Washington took over at its own 36. After Timmy Smith, a surprise starter at running back, gained 19 yards on a second down run, Williams hit receiver Gary Clark on an out pattern at the goal line. 14-10 Washington, drive 64 yards, five plays, 2:44
"Doug was hitting everything," said Clark. "That helped open Timmy up."
Denver missed a field goal and then Smith took a handoff and burst off the right side. Tackle Joe Jacoby sealed off the inside and Smith was off to the races. Fortunately, he was racing Denver's Tony Lilly, a slow-footed safety. Smith easily won the duel and got down the sideline for the 58-yard touchdown run. 21-10, drive 74 yards, two plays, 51 seconds.
Denver went three and out again and the Redskins went sixty yards on three passes, all of them intended for Sanders. The first was overthrown, the next two found their target. After gathering in one for a 10-yard gain to midfield, Sander fielded Williams' perfect strike in stride at the ten and coasted in for the score. 28-10, drive 60 yards, three plays, 52 seconds.
After the Broncos punted, Smith tore off 43 yards into Denver territory. Williams took it from there, going to Sanders twice for 21 then seven yards. From the seven he tight end Clint Didier in the back of the end zone for the TD. 35-10, drive 79 yards, 7 plays, 1:10
The Redskins intercepted Elway with seven seconds left in the half, but Williams took a knee to end The Quarter. In just 5:47 of possession time and 18 plays, the Redskins gained 357 yards and ran up the most points ever scored in one quarter of a postseason game. Smith gained 122 yards on the ground and Williams passed for 228 yards, 168 of them to Sanders.
The Redskins rooters who had gathered in San Diego found themselves hoarse from singing "Hail to the Redskins" so many times in such a short period of time. The Elway fans, vocal in the game's opening minutes, had no such problems.
If it was a prizefight, they would have called it here, but NFL rules required that the teams take the field for the second half. After all, there were all of those expensive commercials that had to be run.
All that was left was for Smith to run up his rushing yardage total to 204, a Super Bowl record, for Sanders to gain the rest of his Super Bowl record 193 receiving yards, and for Williams to be announced as the game's MVP.
The Redskin defense made sure that the Broncos didn't mount a miracle of their own, pounding Elway often and shutting down his team.
"I was blessed," said Williams afterward. The rest of the team and its fans felt the same way.
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