- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Well, we’ve had a couple of up and down weeks. We had some down weeks where we were talking about needing to get some things fixed, and then last week against Seattle it seemed like we fixed everything and got things going. And then this week we ended up losing to Carolina.

But let’s not forget Carolina is 8-2. The Panthers are one of those teams who have had a lot of things go their way. In this league, in terms of momentum and all those things we’ve talked about, that’s so important. Because once you believe you can win, you start creating your own luck.

All of a sudden calls start going your way. Or balls bounce your way a little bit. Or on the goal line in a crucial situation you push the ball across by an inch. Or not. Heh, heh.

Momentum is created by wins and by being successful, but it also comes from playing good football. I think we came out Sunday and played good football. We didn’t play good enough to win, obviously. But our opportunities were right there.

Now, I know it was a loss, and everybody’s going to wonder whether we’re starting to accept moral victories. But we’ll take anything positive we can out of a game. We obviously had a lot of positive things against Seattle, and we had a lot of positive things against Carolina. We were in the game, we had a chance to win and we let it slip away.

It’s not a moral victory; it’s a loss. But out of that, we can take the fact that we were able to move the ball in the fourth quarter. We were able to put some points on the board and make plays and keep Patrick clean in the fourth quarter. I’ll say it time and time again: If we can keep Patrick clean and standing, he’s one of the most accurate passers in the league. Maybe he had a good game; maybe he had a bad game. But given time, he’s going to take this team to great things.

We still can accomplish what we want to. Obviously we put ourselves behind the eight ball as much as you can get. We have to realize that Miami is a team that’s maybe looking for its identity as well. We can play with them. And then we’ve got a couple of other teams — New Orleans and the Giants — that are right at the same point as us in terms of what they’ve accomplished this year.

Besides those teams, we’ve got Philadelphia and Dallas, who are both having great years. But we’ve always said we need to win division games. Well, here’s our opportunity. It’s right there. But obviously the first thing we have to tackle is Miami.

Right now, we’re thinking about playoffs, but we’re thinking about playoffs in different terms. Playoffs for us have started right now. Once you get to the real playoffs, it’s single-elimination. We have to see every game as a single-elimination now.

The good thing I see is that even though we lost this game, everybody still played hard and played well all the way to the end. I still have not seen anybody say, “This game is over. We’re done. We can’t win.” Guys came in Monday morning and were still saying, “Don’t forget: If we win out, we’re still in the playoffs.” It’s not just one guy. It’s five, six, seven guys, and everybody’s saying the same thing.

For example, everybody on Monday goes out and runs at 11 o’clock in the morning. It’s not an intense run; it’s just kind of working the kinks out. But we always bring it up at the end. I think it was LaVar and Patrick Johnson who did the talking this time. They made it clear, just kind of voiced what everybody’s thinking: The only people that believe we can do it are us. Let’s keep fighting for each other and stay together.

OK, time for some questions. One reader would like to know how much I miss Stephen Davis.

I miss Stephen Davis as a friend and as a teammate. He’s motivational at times. He’s a guy who will ask for the whole team to be put on his shoulders. I guarantee you that’s what happened on Sunday. He said, “Let me win this game.” And he would be the first person to say, “It’s my fault,” if they didn’t get in at the goal line and it was ruled a fumble.

Another reader wonders how we prepare to face the blitz.

First we take a look at the tendencies of our opponent. You generally can break people down by watching them on film. Then, once the coaches have come up with the main blitzes, our guys in practice will run them. That way we can get a mental picture of what we’ll see on Sunday. And that’s why you always want to have a change-up in your pocket because once a team is on film, opponents essentially get to practice against them during the week.

Finally, someone wants to know my opinion on free agency, given the financial rewards vs. how teams often don’t stay together.

I think it’s been a little bit detrimental to the fans. They don’t get to say, “I’m going to be a fan of Stephen Davis because he’s been with Washington for 11 years.” Take Darrell Green for example. One of the reasons he was so popular in this area was because he was with the same team his whole career. People could grow with him. Free agency has really changed a lot of that.

But it’s obviously had benefits for the players. And we, sooner or later, have to decide what we’re after. Are you after the money? Or are you after different things, in terms of stability? A player has to make those decisions for himself. I think it’s great to have that choice. If I had decided last year that it wasn’t working out for me, I had the freedom to try it somewhere else.

See you next week. Keep e-mailing me at jansencolumn@cs.com.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy collaborates with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen on this column. It appears every Wednesday.

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