- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week’s topic: Tim Layden wrote a story recently in Sports Illustrated that talked about the single wing and how it’s gaining adherents on the high school and college levels. Could it be pulled off in the NFL, too — and if so, how would a team go about it?

Dan Daly: It would be difficult. The argument against it, of course, is that even if you found somebody who could run and throw proficiently — Florida’s Tim Tebow is often cited as the ideal tailback — he would be subjected to so much more punishment than the T formation quarterback. And the whole pro mentality is to protect the QB, sometimes to the extent of keeping seven and eight guys in to block. There’s something else to consider, too: What about your defense? They will spend significant time every week practicing against an offense that nobody else runs but you. Will that hurt them? Still, it’s a fascinating possibility.

Ryan O’Halloran: The physical aspect of playing quarterback in the NFL means the roster would need to be stacked with a dozen quarterbacks if a team went with the single wing or the “spread” offense. We will see more of the Wildcat in the league next year (including the Redskins with wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, a former college quarterback) because it’s tough to mimic in practice. Tebow will be a fascinating story to follow during the draft process. Michael Vick and Vince Young have proved that run-first quarterbacks can’t make the transition to the NFL because they can’t throw. Will a team in the top 10 take a chance on Tebow?

DD: You’re absolutely right about that. A team would have to commit to the single wing all the way. It couldn’t have, say, a conventional quarterback in reserve, because then you’re talking about running two different offenses. Frankly, I would love to see some coach take the plunge. As the Florida Gators and some other colleges have shown, it’s an exciting system with the right personnel. What most people don’t realize about the single wing is that, in the NFL of yore, teams like the Packers and Redskins did plenty of throwing out of it. All the receiving records Don Hutson set, especially the one for touchdowns (99) that lasted almost 50 years, were in the single wing. And in 1940, when the Bears beat the Redskins 73-0 in the championship game and sparked the T revolution, Chicago actually ranked third in the league in yards behind the Redskins and Packers. The single wing never really stopped working — the game just went in another direction.



RO: Ultimately, the direction of NFL offenses isn’t likely to change. Some Wildcat? Yes. But a coach and owner and general manager willing to take the plunge? Unfortunately, no. One last thing to consider about using unconventional offenses. If the NFL ever abolished the “inactive” rule and made it OK to dress all 53 members of the active roster, that would create a chance to draft and/or sign a third quarterback to develop solely for special situations that could throw defenses for a loop.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (7-5) AT RAVENS (8-4)

Sunday, 8:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 4, 11

Line: Ravens by 5

Outlook: Yards will be at a premium in a matchup of the league’s sixth- (Redskins) and second-ranked (Ravens) defenses. The Redskins and Ravens have the third- and fifth-ranked running games, respectively. But with Clinton Portis nursing several injuries, this isn’t a great time for Washington to face a defense like Baltimore’s. The Ravens won’t do much offensively, either, but will send the Redskins to another defeat.

The pick: Ravens 14-10

GAME OF THE WEEK

COWBOYS (8-4) AT STEELERS (9-3)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5, 45

Line: Steelers by 3

Outlook: At some point, won’t the Steelers — because of the head-hurting games they have played — run out of gas? Probably, but they have been impressive since losing to the Giants, and last week’s win at New England should have been by more than 23 points. But Dallas is on a roll and will play on long rest. Tony Romo throws a late touchdown.

The pick: Cowboys 21-19

UPSET WATCH

CHIEFS (2-10) AT BRONCOS (7-5)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

Line: Broncos by 9

Outlook: Denver is the only division leader without a winning home record. The Broncos are 3-3 at Invesco Field, and the last loss was to the 3-9 Raiders. Denver ranks second on offense but 28th on defense, which means it’s headed to a home playoff defeat. But not before the Chiefs complete the season sweep.

The pick: Chiefs 31-27

THIS WEEK’S LOCK

PATRIOTS (7-5) AT SEAHAWKS (2-10)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 4 1/2

Outlook: New England has followed each of its five losses with wins by at least nine points. The Patriots turned it over five times last week against Pittsburgh, so expect them to be more on point against Seattle’s 30th-ranked defense and 31st-ranked offense. Statistically, the Seahawks are as bad as Detroit.

The pick: Patriots 30-12

FRIDAY’S FIVE

There have been 11 99-yard touchdown passes. Here are the most recent five:

1. Nov. 30, 2008: Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian, Minnesota vs. Chicago.

2. Oct. 17, 2004: Jeff Garcia to Andre’ Davis, Cleveland vs. Cincinnati.

3. Dec. 22, 2002: Trent Green to Marc Boerigter, Kansas City vs. San Diego.

4. Sept. 11, 1995: Brett Favre to Robert Brooks, Green Bay vs. Chicago.

5. Sept. 18, 1994: Stan Humphries to Tony Martin, San Diego vs. Seattle.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

A look at one statistic from last week’s games. This week: interceptions.

7-2 Record among teams that had more interceptions than their opponent. Tampa Bay, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Minnesota won; only Cleveland and Oakland lost while having the advantage.

INSIDE THE AFC

*The Colts have won five straight games but sustained a big loss when linebacker Gary Brackett suffered a broken bone in his lower right leg. He is expected to miss at least two games. Indianapolis could get back safety Bob Sanders (right knee), who has missed the last three games.

*A bedrock of the Pittsburgh offense for decades — the run game — hasn’t materialized despite a 9-3 record. The Steelers rank 22nd in rushing (106.7 yards a game) and are on pace for the second-fewest yards since 1970. They’re winning because of the NFL’s top-ranked defense, which has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher or 300-yard passer this year.

*Down to one healthy outside linebacker (Mike Vrabel), the Patriots re-signed Rosevelt Colvin this week. Colvin posted 26.5 sacks playing for New England from 2003 to 2007, signed with Houston during the offseason but the team released him during the preseason.

*Redskins safety Chris Horton isn’t the only seventh-round pick making an impact. Denver rookie fullback Peyton Hillis, called upon after the Broncos lost five tailbacks, rushed 22 times for 129 yards in last week’s win over the New York Jets. “He’s the man by elimination process,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

INSIDE THE NFC

*Interesting move by Dallas coach Wade Phillips on Wednesday. Even though the Cowboys were off for four of the previous five days, Phillips didn’t just let veterans Terrell Owens, Greg Ellis, Flozell Adams, Zach Thomas and Marc Colombo sit out practice; he sent them home after the morning walkthrough.

*Huge Monday night game this week — 9-3 Tampa Bay at 9-3 Carolina for the NFC South lead. Jeff Garcia has won five straight against Carolina, but the Panthers are 6-0 at home this year, outscoring opponents 166-78.

*Prediction: If Monte Kiffin joins his son at Tennessee as expected, Rod Marinelli will return to the Buccaneers to serve as defensive coordinator if Detroit fires him. He was Tampa Bay’s defensive line coach before going to the Lions.

*The Giants (11-1) can wrap up the NFC East title with a win over visiting Philadelphia. New York has shown no hint of distraction since the Plaxico Burress fiasco, which ended with his suspension Tuesday. The Giants are 6-0 at home a year after going 3-5.

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