Monday, October 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Halves and My Gameday Experience

Skins Win 16-13
(......and my sanity is restored for another week)

* Skip to the Game Time section of this post if you want to read about only the game and not the adventures of your pal Walking Deadman

My day started at 4:45 AM. I had already packed most of my stuff for the game (grill, cooler, chairs, jerseys, football, tables etc.) and just had to pack up the food, drinks and any other items that I can think of before we leave (yet, I always still find a way to forget something that I could use when tailgating).

By 6:15 AM my friend, lets call him SHD, shows and we load up his stuff into the car. We're on our way by 6:30AM (on time to be there at FedEx by the time the gates open).

The ride to FedEx is about the same as normal. We make a stop about a half hour out to get some ice, some coffee (Caffeine is our friend!!!!!) and some breakfast (to quote Homer Simpson: Ummm Donuts). The only difficult element of the day was the fog on the 'shore side of the trip. I nearly ran a red at one intersection because I couldn't see the light until I was right on top of it. As you make your way to FedEx, you normally see fellow Skins fans make their trek as well and there is the occasional honking of horns or fist pumping/saluting it's pretty easy to tell where I'm going since my car is adorned with flags, decals and helmet magnets.

So we get to the gates off of Morgan Blvd. at around 8:50 AM. There's some guy on Sportstalk 980 ranting about making us big money if we call his 1-800 hotline. Of course, he's giving away many of his picks for free all we have to do is call the number. SHD says "Well if he's giving them away for free why won't he just tell us on the air"? The radio guy screams "I WILL MAKE YOU LOTS OF MONEY!!!!! If you only had the insider info about these games that I do!!!!" We had some off color jokes and Simpson's references made about the rantings of a guy that seemed to know as much about football as any other person. I do admit that I love these prognosticator infomericals....they're hilarious.

They opened the gates about 5 minutes early, which was a blessing because the coffee was catching up with us. It always pays to get there early because then you have the pick of the lot and we found a nice place away from the traffic over by a fence. Some interesting things of note:
1) It seems like everybody shows up to ask you for money. We had people asking to help the homeless/hungry, people selling candy bars for prom and a guy playing sax for tips (he played Hail to the Redskins well). 2) The sorority handing out the Think Pink ribbons were out in the parking lots handing them out. 3) Despite the utter frustration and pretty much consensus opinion that the Redskins are a mediocre bunch at best, a large crowd showed up. Maybe because tailgates are the best party in town, I suppose. Maybe, the fans thought the Skins might actually have a chance to win? It's clear that the fans aren't happy, just read the Sports Bog's take on the game but they showed none the less.......I guess the tickets are already paid for, might as well go. That was my opinion.

Game Time
Frankly, the Redskins are a lousy, lousy team. Time, poor judgement and bad moves in drafting and personnel have caught up to us and it clearly has shown with the 2009 Redskins. On the opening drive, Jason Campbell is sacked twice and fumbles. The resulting play leads to Tampa's only touchdown.

Complete miscues by the offense including two Jason Campbell INTs, poor blocking by the O-line, predictable play calls (the Skins only ran stretch plays to the left and right and the occasional draw play in their run least that's what I saw) and poorly run routes by many of the WRs.

Only the play by the defense kept this team alive. While giving up some yardage on the ground, they kept Tampa far enough away on most drives to force Mike Nugent to kick field goals. Luckily, with some of the wind and Nugent struggling, Nugent was only 1/3 in his 1st half attempts. We're at halftime down 10-0.

At this point I'm having a mild Mike Valenti rant up in Section 403.

My voice was already starting to crack from all of the screaming in the 1st half. No, I didn't boo if you were curious. As I have said before, I don't boo my team. However, as I have said before for those who have I don't blame them. Especially when you pay what you have to pay to see this team and that's not counting if you buy food/merchandise/drinks, the drive time to get to FedEx and the effort to make the trek there.

"Make Plays!!!!!" "I did my job, I showed up to play!!!" I was saying in my best hoarse Valenti voice. Sure it was in jest, but I was pissed what a way to end a weekend off. What a waste of my time. I could be at home watching the Red Zone channel. Somehow, we decided to stay for the second half and finally my team showed up. It wasn't pretty but there were some moments.

Portis ran the ball in spurts and the O-line gave him some holes to get yardage. It's been rare this season to see gains of 5-7 yards but we were finally seeing it. A nice pick by Hall set up the Redskins first score and the Skins were down 10-3. Then the Skins finally had a effective drive and Campbell hit Cooley for the TD (I need to re-watch this drive on TV, SHD dropped his phone and we were in the process of finding it when Cooley scored). Of course, for every good play the Skins make, they tend to make a bad one. Ronde Barber came around untouched and blocked the extra point, so the Skins remain down 10-9.

It was the bomb to Moss that made it for everybody as Campbell heave a ball that hovered enough for Moss to get ahead of the corner and make the catch. Moss still has that great speed and you have to hope that this play and the play last week in Detroit will help the Skins open up something for players other than Cooley and Randel-El. 16-10 Skins.

The D continued to hold their ground and stop the offense from scoring a TD despite letting Nugent convert another FG. The crowd noise at this point was great and again, I need to re-watch this game to see how it sounded on the TV. In the end, it was the D that finished it off with a Jarmon forced fumbled that was recoved by Chris Horton. Who knew that the kneel down is one of the best plays of the game? Skins win 16-13.

The defense had a much better game as they held the Bucs to 2/13 on 3rd down conversions (15%). Much better than the 51% they were averaging in the prior three games. Jason Campbell made plays in this game both good and bad. He needs to be better at preventing fumbles. The 3 INT game is a rarity for him (and a good performance by Tampa's Aqib Talib) and you wonder if Campbell was trying to force the ball to make a play (2 of the three INTs I'd say was the case, the third I wonder if it was a bad route by Kelly). I still wonder about the playcalling by Zorn as some of the plays were predictable, but I did like how Zorn turned a stretch play (used only a dozen times in this game) into a play action bootleg to Cooley for a big gain. The O-line blocking still looks average to poor in many cases and it doesn't look like their is a big push on run plays. Chris Samuels looked like he was struggling and that is a major concern. Hunter Smith's injury (groin) is also a big concern as he's been one of the few reliable players this season.

A win is a win, but we have to remember that this was against a team that other good teams have relatively destroyed. Also, for right now and the next few seasons (heck, maybe until Snyder is no longer the owner) never take the Skins if they are favored to win by more than five.

Here's some things I'm thinking about this team right now.
1. Clinton Portis- I'm convinced that either CP is more banged up than we know or has hit that 30 year wall already (yes, I know CP is 28 but for football he's an old 28 and has been in this league for a very long time) or a little of both. He fought for those yards and is still one of the toughest players on the field, but he has clearly lost some of that burst and speed from previous years. I have a feeling that he'll be averaging around 3.5-4.0 yards per carry this season.

2. It's time to start Marko Mitchell- Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis have been non-factors. The Skins aren't really using Kelly's height advantage, so why not bench one of these guys and give Mitchell a shot. He was the most productive WR in the preseason. Could he really be any worse than what we're seeing with these guys right now? Also, let's see more of Todd Yoder. He's a better blocker than Davis and seems to be a good target for Campbell in the Red Zone.

3. Carlos Rogers will never be an elite corner- You can argue that Rogers is the best corner on the team right now. He is the best cover corner. He tackles and hits better than any of the other guys. He plays the run well. However, he has hands of stone and can't hold onto anything. Rogers dropped another INT that could have easily been a TD. Every time he does this I think of the Rock Eater from The Neverending Story:

(They look like good, strong hands don't they?)

4. Brian Orakpo and Jeremy Jarmon will be the Skins starting defensive ends for a long time- Orakpo got sack #2 of this season and his career yesterday and Jarmon saw a decent amount of playing time at DT and DE and forced the game ending fumble. It's nice to see a few of Vinny's draftees pan out. Now if they would just move Orakpo to starting DE and find a SLB, then I'd be happy.

5. Was the PA announcer tailgating? The PA announcer at FedEx made a few blunders at the game and while he normally is excellent it was kind of funny. He called Clinton Portis "Porter". He gave credit to DeAngelo Hall for a really nice hit by Carlos Rogers (Really? I can't ever tell them apart from each other. Their styles are so similar *note sarcasm*). The play/drive of the 1st half was a 15 yard pass from Campbell to Moss........that's not the PA guy's fault it's just sad overall.

6. Shawn Suisham can punt (well enough)- After the injury to Smith, Suisham came out and punted three times for a mediocre 25.3 average. Mind you, that's not that much worse than what the punters on the team last year were doing. The key punt however came on the last Redskins offensive drive. With the Skins around mid-field, Suisham punted the ball out of bounds on the Tampa 19. It forced the Bucs to play hurry up offense and gave the Skins opportunities to make some plays. Overall, it wasn't pretty but it was well enough for this game. Skins better hope Smith gets healthy quick or can find a really good punter off the street.

Only two things of note happened for us post-game. One was that myself, SHD (who is a Ravens fan rooting for the Skins BTW) and some of the people around us were being thanked for being so loud when the team was on defense. It was a highlight for me personally since as many of you know my goal is to one day have FedEx rocking the way RFK used to (of course you need a winning team to help with that) rock with the crowd noise. Second, was the quote of the day. It was on a sign held by two ladies as they were walking out of the stadium.

"Don't hate the playas (or the game). Hate the owner."

Very interesting commentary on the Skins and their organization, don't you think?
Finally got home around was a very long day to say the least.

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