- - Sunday, October 7, 2018

We got magic, good and bad

Make you happy or make you real sad

Get everything you want, lose what you had

Down here in New Orleans.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden will be looking for the good kind of magic Monday night in New Orleans, the kind that makes you happy.

The last time he was there, he thought he found that good magic when his team led 24-13 going into the fourth quarter. But in the end, his team got caught up in that bad magic — 18 fourth quarter New Orleans points, followed by a Saints game-winning field goal for a 34-31 loss in overtime — and it made him sad.

“I think it was a pretty solid game for what it was at 55 minutes probably on both sides of the ball,” Gruden said, recalling last season’s trip to the Crescent City. “On the road, it was a tough environment, but offense, defense, special teams played well.

“Then the last five minutes, we failed to get a first down and they scored two touchdowns and 15 points in five minutes,” he said. “Obviously that will be addressed again. We will work on our two-minute coverages and our communication and our techniques and our fundamentals which is huge against a team led by Drew Brees. He’ll find a mistake and make you pay, so we’ve got to try to give him as little mistakes as possible and continue to get the pass rush on every down, and know where [Alvin] Kamara is, know where [Michael] Thomas is and go from there.”

It’s the same kind of bad magic that has plagued Gruden in his time as Washington coach — the ability to have his team ready to play four quarters, or beyond that a stretch of consistent performances that end in victories.

That has been the identity of the Redskins — good magic, bad magic, not enough magic to make you happy, but just enough to make you sad.

But there is a sense that, going into this Monday night game after the bye week with a 2-1 record, coming off an impressive win over the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, that this Redskins team may be ready to exorcise that bad magic and perhaps change their identity. A group of young talented defensive players, led by defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis — along with the calming veteran quarterback influence of Alex Smith over a limited offense — has conjured up the spell of hope early in this season for these Redskins.

There is hope that perhaps this squad will have a different identity than Gruden’s teams have had to date.

“I know we are talented,” Gruden said when asked about his team’s identity going into New Orleans. “We are going to have to play extremely hard to win every week. Every team has their talent, but I feel good about where we are with skill. I think we are going to continue to be in a process each week of finding out what we like on offense, what we’re good at, and we’re starting to feel pretty good about the balance that we have. Defensively, we are starting to get the key pieces in there more, playing more playing time, getting guys out there. I think it’s just continue to gel. It’s a process of getting guys to play together and communicate together.”

New Orleans can be a tough place to find your identity, though. It can create the illusion of good magic.

Six years ago, the Redskins believed they found their new identity for years to come when celebrated rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III made his first NFL start to begin the 2012 season and laid waste to a favored Saints team, delivering shock and awe on the way to a 40-32 upset win. But, as we all know, that magic didn’t last.

Since then, it’s been bad mojo for Washington, with the aura of self-destruction engulfing this franchise. Now, with perhaps the most talented roster we’ve seen in Washington for quite some time, there is a feeling that a win against a powerful Saints team on the road, on the heels of the victory over Green Bay, could give the Redskins everything they want — a new identity — instead of losing what they had.

A loss would leave Washington with indigestion. You find that down in New Orleans too.

You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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