- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Baltimore. Philadelphia. Foxboro. Tahiti. A fallout shelter with a blender, a can of margarita mix and stack of John Tesh CDs. OK, maybe not the last. But there were plenty of better places to be yesterday than Giants Stadium for the Washington Redskins-New York Giants yawner.

Plowed snow was piled 12 feet high. Half the sections in the upper deck weren’t even cleared. A bitter winter wind swirled through the stadium. And all 1,500 (or so) fans departed the Meadowlands hoarse from their non-stop boos and in disbelief that they spent hard-earned American currency on this stinker.

At least the Redskins got their win and Bruce Smith got his sack. Call it a miracle on Route 3. The Monday Morning Quarterback was shaken awake in the fourth quarter to crank out this weekly quota of insight, then bolted for Newark’s Penn Station and the first train home.

Q: A day late and a dollar short. Too bad this win didn’t come three weeks ago when we cared. Spare us the pompoms; was there anything to build on for 2004?

A: It’s tough to ascertain much against a Giants team that already was buried like Jimmy Hoffa. We liked how coach Steve Spurrier started with and stuck with the run. How the defense put together a solid effort after a rough start. How Spurrier got a much-needed NFC East win. If the Redskins keep up this play for the rest of the season, we might be talking. For now, it’s a tough call whether to give them a pat on the back for winning or a penalty flag for piling on.

Q: Does this at least ease the heat on Washington’s assistant coaches? We’re starting to think those guys should wear Kevlar to the stadium each Sunday.

A: First off, we’ve never been on board with the blanket criticism of the assistant coaches. The bulk of Washington’s problems can be traced to a dysfunctional organization and Spurrier’s poor relationship with his players. The assistant coaches have been mediocre at times, but the Redskins have bigger issues than simply shoring up Spurrier’s staff.

All that said, yesterday’s game probably will make little difference in the assistants’ fates. Management is convinced the staff needs more experience, and Spurrier remains in his guys’ corner. If Washington builds on yesterday and plays well down the stretch, Spurrier might have a better argument to keep his staff intact. But in the end, it’s his call, and he’s probably going to do whatever he’s going to do.

Q: The sheriff of sack finally reached the mark. Did Bruce doff his hat and ride off into the sunset after the game?

A: No, but he tackled teammate Gibran Hamdan on the sideline in an attempt to get one more. Seriously, his actions in pursuit of the record grew shameless. Yesterday before getting his precious sack, Smith twice dived on Kerry Collins after he had been sacked by another player; dived at Collins and knocked him from the game when a pass already was gone and showed visible frustration after another Redskin got a sack. What’s too bad for Redskins fans is that they’ve gotten this caricature of Smith at the end of his career, rather than the hell-raiser he was all those years in Buffalo.

Q: Did somebody steal Spurrier’s playbook and tear out the third-and-8 sideline fade? How about the Ball Coach finally calling a few runs?

A: Spurrier did a nice job to lean on the run in adverse weather conditions. He wasn’t so smart at Giants Stadium last year in a Nor’easter. Generally speaking, the criticism of Spurrier not rushing is not because he needs to guide a running offense; he just needs to be able to run when it’s time to run. Yesterday (and last week, and at the end of the Miami game before that) it was time to run.

Q: Michael Strahan could have pitched a tent in the backfield in the first half. Did Jansen forget who No.92 was?

A: Actually, in several situations, Jon Jansen wasn’t asked to block Strahan. On both sacks, Jansen blocked down and the Redskins tried to chip Strahan and get rid of the ball quickly. It failed in both instances, in part due to lousy blocking by tight end Kevin Ware and running back Trung Canidate. Strahan also whipped Ware for a backfield tackle on Canidate. Jansen was frustrated that he wasn’t allowed to go mano-a-mano on every down. Maybe Spurrier will be vindicated for his risky blocking schemes, but for now they’re subject to second-guessing.

Q: One more yard and the Redskins finally would have scored a touchdown after a turnover. Why can’t this team punch it in?

A: That situation came after Tiki Barber’s fumble on the game’s second play. Washington drove and had first-and-goal at the 1; four plays later John Hall kicked a 28-yard field goal. The Redskins haven’t turned a turnover into a touchdown since the Nov.9 win over Seattle. This is another reason the defense has absorbed undue criticism; the unit is among the NFL’s best in terms of forcing turnovers. Spurrier needs to find a way (or a running back) who can punch it in.

Q: Did the Giants’ announced attendance (78,217) include snowmen? How many spectators actually braved yesterday?

A: To prove that Giants fans aren’t just meatheads guzzling Pabst Blue Ribbon in the parking lot, several of them built a pair of snowmen (very realistic, in fact) in the upper deck. Even counting Frosty and Nippy, the stadium might not have been half full. And by the time Smith broke the sack record, there might have been 10,000 (including reporters and stadium personnel) looking on. It was a forgettable day in one of the league’s better rivalries.

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