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That Fourth Quarter Punt: Still Frustrating

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 2:47 pm

As you might have surmised from my fourth quarter thoughts last night, I went down to the locker room more than just a little perplexed by the team’s decision to punt the ball away with 6:00 minutes left in the game while trailing by three scores.

A brief summary of my complaints, refined after a few hours sleep:

  • I don’t like punting there because it feels too much like giving up. Even given that the defense was playing well, expecting them to get the ball back with enough time to score not once, not twice, but THREE times … that seems like a stretch. And, to be honest, if you believe the defense can stop the Cowboys that quickly, that’s all the MORE reason not to punt: if you don’t convert the first down, trust the defense to hold the Cowboys to a field goal and it’s STILL a three score game. So to me, punting seemed like giving up.
  • As a result, my dislike was doubled when the team started using defensive timeouts trying to get the ball back.
  • And it tripled when — after GETTING the ball back, against all odds — they didn’t seem to be pressing downfield.

So all of that was in my head during last night’s locker room session, which is probably why I found myself asking Hunter Smith about it.

This was largely nonsensical; Smith doesn’t ELECT to punt, he just punts when the punt team is in. Asking him about this decision was roughly analogous to interrogating a gun for information about a stick-up. Nevertheless, it’s what I found myself doing.

“I understand the frustration,” Smith said, “but at the same time it wasn’t like it was fourth-and-inches. We had a substantial amount — fourth and long — and at that point if you don’t get it, then you don’t live to play another day.”

Smith did tell me that there wasn’t much delay in calling for the punt. “That’s a real gray area they’re in there,” he said, “statistically, I mean. They have a piece of paper that tells them when you’re down by this with this much left and this many timeouts. It’s just a gray area, ’cause on that part of the field, you’re thinking maybe we can pin ’em deep, force the punt and get the ball in good field position.”

In the end, Smith said the only thing he could say: “Coach Zorn is the coach, and he makes those calls; when he makes that call I go in and punt.”

Well, during his press conference today, Coach Zorn was asked about exactly that.
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Revisiting That Positive Sequence With Chris Wilson

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 12:10 pm

After the second quarter of last night’s debaclicious game, I described a three play sequence that represented — to me — the most consistent stretch of positive Redskins performance of the entire evening:

  1. Chris Wilson sniffs out and shuts down a Cowboys reverse for a 13-yard loss.
  2. Reed Doughty intercepts a tipped Tony Romo pass.
  3. The Redskins overturn an apparent Jason Campbell fumble via a successful replay challenge.

After the game, I was able to get a little bit of follow-up to two of these. (There really wasn’t much to say about the replay challenge, and the fact that I’m listing it as a positive play grows more and more depressing by the minute.)

Anyhow, Doughty hobbled into the postgame locker room wearing a walking boot on his sprained ankle — an injury that looked much, much worse when it occurred — and shook his head. “Well, this has been a great season,” he said, grimacing. “Finally get my first career interception and wind up writhing in pain on the field.”

If you’re scoring at home, one of my positive moments was a replay challenge; the other was described sarcastically by the main guy involved.

Fortunately, Chris Wilson’s play was legitimately positive, and he was willing to describe it in more detail.
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Monday, December 28: A Milder Albert Haynesworth

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 1:19 am

Albert Haynesworth‘s locker was mobbed after the game this evening. Between his comments to the Washington Post earlier this week criticizing defensive coordinator Greg Blache and his history of holding forth at length after grim primetime losses, it didn’t make sense to be anywhere else in the locker room.

But this wasn’t the disappointed, miserable Haynesworth from the post-Eagles loss; nor was it the more fiery, frustrated Haynesworth from last Monday night’s game. Instead this was a milder, more amiable Haynesworth, one who couched his messages of frustration in some gentle, self-deprecating humor and tried to clarify his earlier statements in plain-spoken language.

Clarification: the leadership issue.

AFTER THE GIANTS GAME: “I just think we’re all goin’ different directions and we need somebody to lead us in the right direction.”

THIS EVENING: “A contract don’t make you, as far as leadership. I don’t like to … I’ve never been a guy that wants to talk, get in front of the team and say whatever. It’s not me. I just like to go play the game and, y’know, do that. I’m not a guy that’s gonna try to, like, hype up people and all that stuff. I don’t even wanna be a captain and go out there in the middle of the coin toss, because I consider the other team an enemy, and I don’t wanna shake hands until after the game.”

Clarification: his relationship with Greg Blache.

THIS PAST WEEK: Haynesworth basically accused Blache of not using him effectively in his defensive schemes. It was not a friendly-sounding article.

THIS EVENING: “I talked to Blache and we’re all great and everything’s fine. I mean, we’re grown men. You can disagree and that’s fine. We don’t hate each other; there’s no hate, no love lost or anything between us, and we’re still the same. [We’ve talked] in different ways, a little bit, like in his office and stuff, but what I said Monday night … I mean, it’s frustration. I’m sick of losing. I’m not a loser; this team’s not losers. We’re a good team, we’ve got a lot of talent, we just need to put it together.”

Clarification: the quality of his teammates.
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Redskins vs. Cowboys – Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on December 27, 2009 – 11:30 pm

In an awful game full of frustrating things, the punt was — for me — the worst. Yes, it was fourth-and-11. But with 5:55 left in the game, trailing by 17 points, here’s what you are doing by punting: you are ending the game. It’s roughly equivalent to taking a knee on offense while losing. I don’t see how it could signify anything other than complete and utter surrender, although I look forward to the postgame interviews to hear how I might be wrong.

But wait, it gets better:

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Redskins vs. Cowboys – Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on December 27, 2009 – 10:39 pm

It’s never a good sign when the people in the press box are discussing hugely negative statistics — last time the team went winless in the division (1994), last time the team was shutout at home, last time the team was shutout by the Cowboys. The listless offensive showing has been supplemented by a defense that constantly seems to be just barely keeping its head above water.

And if the performance on the field weren’t bad enough, the injuries are piling up. Mike Williams is out for the rest of the game. So is Reed Doughty. Rocky McIntosh was sidelined with a back strain and hasn’t been seen since. Stephon Heyer looked like he might be out, but returned. It’s been a more or less unmitigated disaster on the field tonight.

And the crowd is disappointed because the Cowboys continually refuse to kick the field goal, denying them the opportunity to boo Shaun Suisham.

At least Wale’s halftime performance sounded okay, what I could hear of it through the press box glass. Other than that, there hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot to like tonight. Another disappointing game in a continually disappointing season. Read more »

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Redskins vs. Cowboys – First Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on December 27, 2009 – 9:08 pm

The offense looks … I don’t really have the words for it, but it isn’t good.

When things were going relatively well offensively, during those first few games after the playcaller switch, the offense was picking up yardage in chunks. Receivers caught the ball on the move, and on the move in a downfield direction. The offensive line was opening up holes.

Now they all seem out-of-sync and overmatched. Every yard is a struggle. On that last drive, the team earned first downs via defensive holding, 3-yard gain on second-and-3, and QB sneak for 2 on third-and-1. There was no point where they moved the ball with anything like confidence. If this keeps up, it’s going to be a long night.

The defense isn’t lighting the world on fire, but they’re not replicating last week’s disastrous performance, either. Which is a huge disappointment to all the Cowboys fans here, and there are a lot of ’em. It’s not like the Pittsburgh game, where it’s an obvious and overwhelming fan invasion, but when the Cowboys scored you could see it in the stands.

I really hope things pick up in the next quarter, because this has been tough to watch. Again. Read more »

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Wednesday, December 23: Oh Yeah, It's Dallas Week

Posted by Matt Terl on December 23, 2009 – 11:54 am

Let’s say — and I know this is a crazy hypothetical, but play along with me — let’s say you’re a Redskins fan who’s feeling a little demoralized. Team was just DEMOLISHED on national television, coaching rumors are flying, you’re distracted by the holidays and hockey and who knows what-all else, and you’re having a little trouble drumming up the usual furious motivation for Dallas Week. Well, here’s something new to get cranky about.

Full disclosure: Shaun Suisham was a blog favorite when he was here. Good guy, always willing to answer a question or suggest some sort of blogging topic, always willing to put up with my dumb Canadian stereotypes. As a player, he missed only three field goals this season — albeit three important ones — and as a person he was classy and professional even when he was summarily cut after the New Orleans game. I have no hard feelings toward Shaun Suisham whatsoever, especially on a personal level.

Still, when you watch his Tuesday media session with the Dallas media, it’s hard not to get just a little bit fired up when you see him say things like this:

“Certainly it’s a bit of a surprise. If you would’ve asked me a month ago would I have thought I’d be in this situation, no. When it comes down to it, though, it’s just about kicking field goals, and that’s what I’m here to do. And, man, I’m so excited to be back here in Dallas.”

And this:

“I’m excited to see a lot of familiar faces. I’m real excited to be here.”

And this:

“When you’re a kicker — or a player — all you can control is your performance on the field. And when you have a bad play, you know, you’re vulnerable. Players don’t make decisions; my only job is to kick, and I’m happy to be here in Dallas.”

Oh, and this:
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Fast Facts About Hip-Hop Star Wale And The Redskins

Posted by Matt Terl on December 2, 2009 – 4:06 pm

In the press boxes at certain away games, I’ve noticed, the teams manage to include some kind of local food. Sometimes this is major — crabcakes at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore; cornbread and collards at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte — and sometimes it’s just something small, like Tastykakes in Philadelphia.

I half-jokingly asked on Twitter the other day what the Redskins could offer at FedExField that would be comparable, because those little touches really make the press box experience interesting. I like the sense of locality, of pride in a place, that they indicate.

Well, despite some interesting Twitter responses, the team is not currently making any changes to the press box food, but they have found another way to localize the game experience, at least for one game: at the home game against the Cowboys on Sunday, December 27, Wale will be performing at halftime.

Wale may not be a household name for everyone just yet — here’s Rick Snider of the D.C. Examiner giving the ultimate old-guy response to the news — but he’s getting there. For those of you who are unfamiliar: Wale (pronounced wah-LAY) is a D.C.-born rap artist; he grew up in the DC Metro area, and he’s made his hometown part of his music and image as he’s risen to prominence in the world of hip-hop

And prominence is the right word. Just this year, Wale was the house band for MTV’s VMAs; he released his first major-label album, Attention Deficit; and he opened for Jay-Z on tour.

Also, because of his D.C. upbringing, Wale is a die-hard Redskins fan; you might remember me mentioning his name last week as both a participant in the WKYS Sean Taylor tribute, and (in the same post) his video tribute to Taylor a year later.

So having him play at halftime may not be opening an auxiliary branch of Ben’s Chili Bowl in the press box, but it ain’t peanuts either.

I had a chance to talk to Wale yesterday while he was at Redskins Park. Here are some fast facts about Wale growing up a Redskins fan and how he thinks he could contribute ON the field.
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