Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Well, the Redskins are halfway to … somewhere. After losing their first five games, they seemed headed for Oblivion. But now that they’ve won three in a row, it’s like they’re flying on an “open” ticket. Translation: A lot of things are still possible in this unpredictable season. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Snydermen came roaring out of Bye Week and reeled off four straight ties to break the NFL record.
Don’t laugh 6-6-4 might be good enough to win the NFC East this year.
Anyway, here are some random observations about the Redskins and the league as the season reaches its midpoint:
Marty Schottenheimer is the most amazing post-game interview I’ve ever come across. There are times when he sounds like he wasn’t even on the sideline, like he spent the entire afternoon in somebody’s luxury box downing cocktails. After the win over Seattle, for instance, he talked about the Redskins making only one bad play when they gave up a 28-yard punt return that set up the Seahawks’ second score.
Only one bad play? How about the 41-yard touchdown run the defense allowed? Or the 46-yard TD pass? Or the 49-yard completion on third-and-23 near the end of the first half?
But Schottenheimer sees what he wants to see. It’s probably one of his strengths as a coach. He doesn’t wallow in defeat and he had plenty of opportunity for that earlier in the season and he doesn’t try to find fault with victories.
It’s great that offensive boss Jimmy Raye is finally resorting to a little razzle-dazzle. For all their improvement, the Redskins still need all the help they can get. My question is this: Why did it take them so long to use these plays? You look back at the 23-9 loss to the Giants (it was 9-9 early in the fourth) and the 9-7 loss to the Cowboys, and you think: A bit of trickery in either of those games could have made the difference. I mean, what’s the problem? Real men don’t run gadget plays?
Tony Banks says the reason the Redskins didn’t call those plays before is that they were rarely in opposition territory, and “you don’t usually take those chances double passes, fake reverses on your side of the 50.” But I don’t buy it. The reason the Redskins didn’t call those plays before is that Schottenheimer thought he could beat teams playing his typical smashmouth football, and he quickly found out he couldn’t. Not with this offense, at least.
You’re going to love Ben Coleman when you get to know him. He has that Tre Johnson gift of gab which is funny, because they both play the same position (right guard). With Coleman, it’s never “the football,” it’s always “the rock.” As in: “The offensive line is going to set the tone with how we come off the rock.” And the Redskins’ game plan isn’t to get Stephen Davis 25 or 30 carries, it’s “to get No. 48 lathered up.”
Ben is also built like Tre that is, like a Brinks truck. Proof, once again, that good things come in large packages, too.
Ex-Redskin updates:
Brad Johnson, Bucs: 62.8 percent completions, eight touchdown passes, four interceptions, 85.5 passer rating (to Banks’ 76.2).
James Thrash, Eagles: 28 catches, 409 yards, five TDs (second in the NFC behind Terrell Owens’ eight).
Larry Centers, Bills: 44 receptions (fourth in the AFC, first among backs), 314 yards, one score.
Brian Mitchell, Eagles: 13.2-yard punt return average (tops in the NFC), 27.1-yard kickoff return average (third in the NFC). Note: BMitch has taken three kicks to the house since signing on with Philadelphia last season, two more than the Redskins’ various returners.
Matt Turk, Dolphins: 42.2-yard punting average, 36.5-yard net (compared to 40.6/33.7 for Bryan Barker).
Russ Grimm, Steelers: Suddenly, the Pittsburgh running game is the scourge of the league. Could the hiring of Grimm as line coach have anything to do with it?
Garrison Hearst is the new Terry Allen, reviving his career yet again after a major injury. At age 30 and coming off two years of inactivity he’s leading the 49ers with 433 yards rushing. The man has a heart the size of, um, Ben Coleman.
Keyshawn Johnson is finally getting the damn ball in Tampa Bay (an NFC-high 52 catches halfway to 100), but the Bucs (3-5) continue to disappoint.
And finally, the Stat of the Half-Season: Michael Strahan 14 sacks, Warren Sapp 1.

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