- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

Well, there it is. The first win of Joe Gibbs’ second tenure is in the mothballs, much like that bad suit you were wearing circa win No.1 in 1981. And it didn’t take six games this time, either. Nope, yesterday Gibbs rode a Pro Bowl rusher, a big-time defensive performance and a conservative-like-Pat-Buchanan game plan to victory in his very first try.

Ah, but look a little a closer. The offense struggled after Clinton Portis’ first carry. The defense was matched up against Jon Gruden’s cavalcade of has-beens. If not for Antonio Pierce’s fourth-quarter interception, Gibbs might still be out at FedEx Field, scheming to break a monotonous deadlock by having the O-line simply heave Portis’ limp body downfield.

Washington is giddy with the possibilities of Gibbs Part Deux this morning. But this town has resembled a kid with ADD on Pixy Stix since the day Gibbs returned. The only one taking a pass on the funky chicken is the Monday Morning Quarterback, who’s got a belly full of perspective as he two-steps his way into the 2004 season.

Q: Let’s count the ways to be happy this morning. One, Gibbs is back. Two, Gibbs is back. Three, Gibbs is back. Are we missing anything?

A: Don’t stop there. After 11 years of anger, dejection and frustration, it was surprising there weren’t some cars overturned and set on fire in the wake of going 1-0. But don’t get too carried away with beating the Bucs. The Redskins failed to seize victory, and against a better offense they might have come away with one of those painful coulda, shoulda losses they mastered in the years Gibbs was gone.

Q: Gotta love the defense, though. A buck-sixty-nine — could it play any better?

A: The problem wasn’t the performance, which was dominant. It was the competition. Brad Johnson deserves respect for the understated way he succeeds in this league, but that offense has big problems. Charlie Garner looked slow to the hole. Joey Galloway pulled up lame. And Tim Brown should have taken a hint from Al Davis this summer. Washington has better tests coming.

Q: Not from the Giants, though. Aren’t we as good as 2-0?

A: That much is a fact. Getting whipped in Philly yesterday, New York put up as much resistance as a rent-a-cop. It’s only a matter of time until that team unravels under Tom Coughlin. The Redskins should win big in the Meadowlands and have a head of steam headed into the Monday night game against Dallas. And looking ahead, there really is no team on this schedule — even the Eagles — that is scary.

Q: So Portis could go for 2,000 by the time this thing is done, right? Who’d you rather have this morning — President Clinton or Stephen Davis?

A: Too early to say. Portis averaged just 3 yards excluding his 64-yard touchdown. Measuring stats without big plays is always dangerous, but you almost have to in this instance. The Bucs parted like the Red Sea on his first carry, virtually running themselves out of the play. Davis dominates with 4-yard runs that turn into 6- and 7-yarders in the fourth quarter. Portis broke off a few nice runs late but got stiffed too often between the tackles.

Q: What about Gibbs? What did he think of the win?

A: The coach was genuinely elated, and he looked so much more relaxed. His giggle, for better or worse, is back. Last week, he was so tight he might as well have been airport security. Months of scrutiny had worn on him, and he had grown frustrated with having absorbed so much public attention. Winning in Week1 should be a boon, because the pressure was likely to remain until he picked up his first victory.

Q: What happened to Sean Taylor? We figured the over-under was two picks if he had actually gotten on the field.

A: Taylor played a bit, particularly after Matt Bowen suffered a stinger. But Taylor looked tentative, and Gregg Williams might have been trying to send some kind of message by elevating Andre Lott to first string. The defensive boss swore that wasn’t the case, and he attributed Taylor’s scant playing time to last week’s illness. It’ll be interesting to see how the rookie performs at Giants Stadium.

Q: We didn’t even miss Mike Barrow at middle linebacker. Why not just name Antonio Pierce the full-time starter?

A: That’s not a bad idea, but Williams loves Barrow, who played for him back in Tennessee. In addition, this defense is predicated on a variety of sets, and even when Barrow returns, both linebackers should get extensive action. Pierce is an extremely smart, young player, handling the defensive calls with aplomb, and he showed against the Bucs that he can play, too.

Q: Is Chris Samuels back for good?

A: The left tackle has been inspired throughout the offseason, showing just the spark that extremely talented players need to become great. This game was a great start. He stonewalled Simeon Rice (who had four sacks in last year’s meeting) in one-on-one matchups and got out into space to block on screen passes and sweeps. Samuels’ effort led a very solid opening performance by the Dirtbags.

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