Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Skins and blowout losses

It's no revelation to point out that fans aren't fond of their teams getting blown out, especially in big games. But except for a select few elite teams, every team loses big at one time or another, like it or not. Now, I'm not saying the Redskins are an elite team, or even close to one, and I'm also not excusing their terrible, embarrassing performance against the Eagles on Monday night. But judging by some of the crazy reactions from fans, you'd think this kind of thing never happens to the Redskins, or at least hadn't happened for a long time.

But that's not true. Just going back a few seasons, the Redskins suffered two such losses that rival the 59-28 debacle against the Eagles.

Patriots 52, Redskins 7

On October 28, 2007, the 4-2 Redskins traveled to Gillette Stadium to take on the 7-0 Patriots. The undefeated Patriots were definitely thought of as the better team, but some still gave the Skins a fighting chance. Unfortunately, that hope didn't last long; the Patriots took a quick lead and didn't look back. At halftime, the Patriots led 24-0, and they kept their foot on the accelerator, eventually leading 52-0 with just a few minutes left in the game. With about three minutes left, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Chris Cooley cut the lead to 52-7, which ended up being the final score.

On that day, the Skins were completely dominated in every phase of the game. Here's the tale of the tape (Patriots numbers listed first):

Total yards: 486-224
Pass yards: 334-177
Rush yards: 152-47
First downs: 34-13
Forced turnovers: 4-1

Tom Brady finished the game 29-38 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Oddly enough, he also rushed for two touchdowns. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, was 21-36 for 197 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Oh, and he also lost three fumbles.

Silver lining: The Redskins beat the Jets 23-20 the very next week, but they lost four straight games afterward. But then, with Todd Collins filling in for an injured Campbell and with heavy hearts following the death of Sean Taylor, the Skins put together four straight crucial wins to earn a playoff berth. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round against the Seahawks in Seattle.

Giants 45, Redskins 12

Most fans should remember this game; it took place just last season, on another Monday night (December 21) at home. The Giants came into the game as a decent (7-6) team, but they would eventually finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The Skins, however, were 4-9 and not a good team at all, though they had just returned home from Oakland after a 34-13 win over the Raiders.

Just like in the Patriots game above, the Giants took the lead in no time and were ahead 24-0 at halftime. Right before the half, though, the Skins pulled off one of the worst plays in NFL history. You probably remember it: Instead of opting for a 38-yard field goal to end the half and at least get some points on the board in an awful game, Jim Zorn sent out the special teams unit to attempt a crazy Hail Mary-type pass with punter Hunter Smith -- not once, but twice -- even after the Giants were prepared to stop it (which wasn't too difficult). If the loss in Week 3 to the Lions hadn't already sealed Zorn's fate after the season, that play certainly did.

The Skins scored two touchdowns in the third quarter (with a missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion), but that was it. The Giants scored the final points of the game, a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and ended up with a 45-12 win. A terrible, embarrassing loss? Yes, definitely.

Here's the tale of the tape for that game (Giants numbers listed first):

Total yards: 387-302
Pass yards: 273-213
Rush yards: 114-89
First downs: 23-15
Forced turnovers: 3-0

The Giants didn't necessarily dominate statistically, but they dominated the Skins in every other way possible. Also, Eli Manning was 19-26 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Campbell, though, was 15-28 for 192 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.

Silver lining: Sort of. The Redskins lost their next two games and finished the season with a 4-12 record. But that also led to Zorn's firing and, more importantly, Vinny Cerrato's overdue departure. So yeah, losses aren't fun, but sometimes they lead to good things.


Is there an overarching point in all of this? Maybe, maybe not. But it's clear that the Redskins are not an elite team, and they won't be until they stop making horrific personnel decisions and start keeping draft picks instead of giving them away for overrated, older players -- especially ones that don't fit a certain scheme that the team will run.

It's hard to watch Albert Haynesworth laying on the field against the Eagles (and in other games too) and think that the primary problem isn't effort or a lack of heart. But really, that's not it. The Redskins are too old at too many key positions, and they don't have solid backups behind them. That's not a defense of Haynesworth -- far from it. But until the Skins start operating differently -- and there are a few signs that maybe the Skins are, in fact, changing for the better -- these types of losses will continue to happen. And no amount of yelling or insane ranting is going to change that.

It takes time to build a consistent winner; Band-Aids rarely work.

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