- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

You knew the Redskins were feeling good last night when they had Rod Gardner throw an end-around pass on second-and-short early in the second quarter. The score was 10-0, Washington, at the time, and it would soon be 17-0, and then 20-0. Still, the call spoke volumes about how the game was going for the home team, even though Gardner's heave fell incomplete. And the next play was just as revealing: a straight handoff on third-and-3 to Kenny Watson, who powered over the left side for the first down.
Every first half should be as easy for the Redskins as their first half against the Colts. They threw it, ran it, caught it, hit everything that moved and basically looked like their 70th anniversary team come to life. At one point, Shane Matthews even completed a pass to himself; that's how well the offense was working. (Granted, he wound up losing 13 yards, but you've gotta give the guy credit for using all his receivers.)
So how did this game turn into a 26-21 white-knuckler, one the Redskins didn't put away until James Tuthill booted a point-blank field goal in closing seconds? It's one of enduring mysteries of this team and this season.
It's eerie how closely the game resembled the opener against Arizona. In that game, too, Matthews hit a bunch of big gainers and third down passes. And in that game, too, it got uncomfortably close in the late stages. The Colts were within a two-point conversion of tying it midway through the fourth quarter, but Fred Smoot foiled Peyton Manning's throw to Qadry Ismail to keep the Redskins ahead.
It's an issue Spurrier and his staff have to address and address quickly, because the Redskins simply can't afford to let a game like last night's a game they thoroughly dominated in the first half slip away. Not after starting the season 2-4. They have precious little margin for error now. When they get up by 20 points on a team, they've got to finish the job.
"It got very scary there toward the end," said Matthews. "We just couldn't do anything [offensively], and the momentum shifted. But the offensive line took over in that final drive [and helped kill the clock]."
Indianapolis' ineptitude had a lot to do with the Redskins' early success. The Colts were "totally outplayed in the first 18 or 20 minutes," in the words of Tony Dungy. They couldn't protect Manning on offense, and they couldn't stop much of anything on defense. (One of their defensive ends is named Josh Mallard, which is only fitting; he spent most of the evening ducking his responsibilities.) How on earth did the Colts get to be 4-2? Did they play Houston six times?
Be that as it may, there's reason for Redskins fans to rejoice this morning. Why? Because, if you glance at the schedule, you'll see that the Snydermen have a stretch of very winnable games coming up. Yup, after playing playoff contender after playoff contender in the first seven games, they meet only one likely postseason participant the rest of the way (the Eagles, at Philadelphia, Dec. 15). Seattle, Jacksonville, the Giants (twice), St. Louis, Dallas (twice), Houston not exactly a murderer's row, especially if Kurt Warner is still inoperative a month hence.
Here's another indication the worm may be about to turn for the Redskins: the Seahawks, their next opponents, lost Trent Dilfer yesterday. (And as we saw last season, the 'Hawks are much less troublesome with Matt Hasselbeck in there.) Now if the news about Stephen Davis, who left last night's game with a sprained knee, isn't too discouraging
Not having Davis these next few weeks, when the Redskins play three straight on the road, would really complicate matters for Steve Spurrier. The Ball Coach might not want to admit it, but he needs Stephen to make the Fun 'n' Gun go. Just the presence of No.48 makes opposing defenses play more honest; and when he thunders for 59 yards in the first quarter, as he did against the Colts, it opens everything up.
Remove him from the equation, though, and suddenly receivers aren't running wide open all over the field. Matthews' second-half numbers: 5 for 13 for 59 yards and no TDs.
One of the most positive developments for Washington last night was the discovery of another receiver second-year man Darnerien McCants. Darnerien had an eye-catching preseason, but he hadn't been called on since the real games began. If the Indy game is any indication, though, McCants definitely McCan. He got open for a 9-yard touchdown to give the Redskins a 10-0 lead and later had a 32-yard grab to set up a field goal.
But things got much too interesting in the second half, as the Colts pushed across two touchdowns with nary a response from the Redskins. The next time if, indeed, there is a next time might prove fatal.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide