Redskins Blog: Quick Hits on Lions Game

A few quick points about the Lions game.

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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

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

November 8, 2004

A few quick hits about Sunday's game:
  • Coming into this game, just a shade over half of the Redskins' possessions this season have been three and outs or worse (48 of 96). Today, they improved that ratio to just 33% with four three and outs in 12 offensive possessions. Better, but half of the three and outs came on the Redskins' last two possessions when they needed to grind out the clock.
  • We now know Ola Kimbre's range. After he hit the crossbar on that 51-yard field goal attempt in the dome, it's safe to say that it's about 49 ½ yards.
  • James Thrash was clearly the player of the game. In fact, I'm so darned impressed with what he did today that I'm going to award him with the Redskins Blog's first official game MVP award. Maybe I'll come up with a clever title for it, maybe I won't (your suggestions are welcome). His nifty punt return set up Washington's first score and the three plays to down punts inside the five were the epitome of the cliché "those are the critical things that don't show up on the stat sheet." Chris Berman appreciated those plays on "NFL Prime Time" and put it best:
    "Once is an accident, two is a trend, three is evidence."
  • Of course, by granting game MVP status to Thrash, that means that, half a season into his Redskins career, Clinton Portis is already being taken for granted. Almost a buck and a half on the ground; add in his 15-yard TD pass and 11-yard reception and he accounts for over 75% of the Redskins offensive output. That's very impressive for CP but a terrible statement about the state of the Washington offense.
  • It's not all on Brunell. There are drops, there is substandard pass blocking and there are some uninspired play calls. Bottom line, though is that the Redskins won't be able to win many more of the games that are upcoming on their schedule with the putrid passing game they've exhibited for the entire season. Of course, if I were to tell Joe Gibbs this, he'd roll his eyes and say "Duh!" or something like that. I'm sure he and his staff are working the problem as we speak.
  • It's been quite a while since the Redskins have blocked a punt for a touchdown. In fact, I'm certain that the assembled Redskins beat writers and the team's PR staff are scanning their copies of my book The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games to find out when that last happened. I'll let them report that particular bit of information. What you'll find here tomorrow is the complete account of the game that the play happened in.
  • How did the Redskins ever lose to the Cowboys?
Tomorrow, Bold Predictions analysis (delighted that my pick was wrong) and whatever else comes up.

November 7, 2004

Smoot Deadline Looming The Post and Times are both reporting that Fred Smoot and his agent are in the process of negotiating a new deal for the cornerback. Certainly, the Redskins want Smoot, who is in the last year of the four-year, $2.8 million dollar deal he signed as a second-round draft pick in 2001, and Smoot, by all indications, wants to stay. He was quoted as saying:
I love D.C., man. I love the people. Nobody's got the fans we've got. Regardless of what the record is and who we're playing our fans are going to be there, and just the city, I just love the surroundings. I love everything.

I'm looking at the situation like Coach Gibbs is going to be here. When [Bailey] was leaving, it was like he didn't know who was going to be the coach. But if Coach Gibbs is going to be here and I go to another team, that's change again. I'd rather stay here.

It's not one of those battles where we're in two different places. We're on the same frequency right now. I'm sure it'll get done."
Besides Smoot's love and the team's desire to keep a productive player at a key position just entering his prime, there is some additional incentive to get a deal done, and soon. This Monday is the deadline for teams to count signing bonuses for extensions against 2004 base salary, according to ESPN's Len Pasquarelli.

Now, there isn't a ton of money at stake here. The Redskins are right up against the cap, with a million or so to spare. Still, with this team, every cap dollar counts so if the team could, say, give him a million dollar "raise" this season and take it off of the pro-rated signing bonus for the new deal. That would save enough to sign an injury replacement or two per year, not much but also not insignificant.

Pasquarelli reports that a deal is unlikely by Monday and the DC papers both seem to say that the talks have yet to heat up being the discussion stage. While neither side should rush to a deal, it would behoove both Smoot and the team to get it done sooner rather than later.

One very encouraging development is that James "Bus" Cook, Smoot's agent, is very well grounded in reality. In reference to the six-year, $63 million contract his client's former teammate Champ Bailey signed last spring, Bus said:
I don't know if we can get that kind of deal
For an agent these days, that was a statement of raging sanity.

Redskins vs. Lions Bold Predictions

I usually don't do my predictions until tomorrow, but I'm not certain I'll be able to post then, so here goes:

In 1999, I owned a Dodge Caravan. Today, I own a Dodge Caravan.

I said the other day that the Washington Redskins own the Detroit Lions. As a historical fact, it was accurate. But the car I own today is the same as the one I had five years ago in name only. In some ways it's better and in some it's worse, but it's a very different vehicle.

And the Lions are a very different team from the one that the Redskins whipped year after year from the sixties through the ‘90's. In some ways they're worse but in other ways they're better.

They may be worse at running back. I like Kevin Jones and he may well turn out to be a very good player, but right now, in November 2004, he's not Barry Sanders or Billy Simms.

They are probably better at quarterback. Joey Harrington is making baby steps towards his potential but right now he's superior to Greg Landry, Jeff Komlo, Gary Danielson, Erik Kramer, and Gus Frerotte, just a few of the quarterbacks the Lions lost to the Redskins with.

Roy Williams is certainly the best receiver Detroit has had since Herman Moore, but he may or may not play in Sunday. Even if his ankle permits him to play, the rookie will find it tough going against either Shawn Springs or Fred Smoot.

If Williams is either on the sidelines or shut down, then, the Lions' ability to score will hinge on two things: Jones' rushing and the ability of Harrington to find alternate targets such as Az Hakim or former Washington tight end Stephen Alexander.

Still, all of this adds up to the worst offense in the NFL; that's what the total yardage ranking will tell you, anyway. But they've averaged almost 20 points per game, so they're not all that bad.

Detroit is a middle of the road defense, not great, not terrible. They appear to be weaker against the pass than against the run. Of course, when they're playing the Redskins, that's frailty vs. frailty and power vs. power.

For Washington, Clinton Portis has to have a great day and Mark Brunell must have a decent day. There is much confidence in the former, not much in the latter.

Jones won't find much running room against the patched-up Washington defense and Gregg Williams will scheme to harass Harrington into some sacks and an interception or two. Kicker Jason Hanson's leg won't be deterred at all, so let's say that the Lions get a TD and three Hanson field goals for a total of 16 points.

Normally, a prediction that a team will give up just 16 points would lead to a prediction of victory for that team. However, the Redskins have scored over 16 just once this year, so that's the key.

Getting to 17 is the key for the Redskins. I think they're capable of doing it, but they haven't demonstrated the ability to do so in a winning effort thus far this year. That makes it difficult for me to predict that they will.

In the late going it will be Detroit 16, Washington 14. Ola Kimrin will have a field goal attempt to win it. It will smack off of the upright and 16-14 is the final.

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