(photo by Brian Murphy)
1. “When the Music Stop” by Eminem
One week ago, the Washington Redskins pulled off an improbable 27-17 victory over the Denver Broncos, thanks largely to the inspired play of backup running back Ladell Betts and a patchwork offensive line.
Betts rushed 26 times for 114 yards and a touchdown behind the fifth-different offensive line combination the Redskins have been forced to use this season, and the ‘Skins offense finally cracked the 20-point plateau for the first time in recent memory.
Heading into a rivalry game against the Dallas Cowboys, it was safe to assume that any real chance at a Redskins victory would depend largely on those same six individuals having similar success.
So of course, in a season in which nothing has gone right for Washington, Betts and offensive lineman Chad Rinehart were both injured during the game and lost for the year. Adding insult to injury, the Redskins lost to the hated Cowboys 7-6.
Betts lasted just five carries into the bout before suffering a knee injury in the first quarter, while Rinehart suffered a broken fibula and had to be carted off the field in the third quarter. We later discovered Betts tore his ACL and MCL, which means he won’t be playing football for the foreseeable future.
With Betts sidelined and Clinton Portis still not fully recovered after suffering a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons a couple of weeks ago, an already beleaguered Redskins offense was left wondering who exactly would be able to provide the offense against an aggressive Cowboys’ defense.
2. “Overcome” by Bubba Sparxxx
During Rock Cartwright’s eight seasons in Washington, he’s been primarily known for his above-average kick returning abilities. He’s also listed as a running back, but you’d have to take our word for it – as evident by his 12 carries for 29 yards over the last three seasons.
Well, once Betts was forced out of the game, Cartwright stepped in as the primary ball carrier and was easily the best thing the ‘Skins had going for them on offense. Cartwright carried the ball 13 times for 67 yards (5.2 per carry) and also chipped in seven catches for 73 yards. That’s 20 touches for 140 yards, which means the Texas native was basically good for seven yards every time he touched the ball.
The question of the day was simply – how was Cartwright able to step in and carry the ball in one game as many times as he had the previous three seasons and look like he hadn’t missed a beat?
“Regardless of the situation, I prepare each week as if I’m the starter,” Cartwright said.
Listed at 5-8 and 213 lbs., Cartwright is one of the smallest Redskins on the roster. But it’s days like these when Skins fans realize just how lucky we are to have such high-character guys like Rock. He doesn’t bitch or moan when he’s not given the ball. He simply practices harder and waits for his time, knowing full well that once he gets his shot, he’s going to make the best of it.
“The perception of me is that I’m just a special teams guy,” Cartwright said. “But I know in my heart I can run the football. I can catch the football. I can do a lot of stuff. I can offer a lot to anybody. I just go out, try to execute, play at a high level and try to do my job. I’m just trying to do my part.”
3. “Keepin’ It Tight” by Busta Rhymes
Even as the losses pile up, the Redskins defense continues to perform at a high level. Did you realize that in the last seven quarters, the Skins defense has allowed just 10 points?
Remember Michael Turner running for nine yards a carry as Redskins defenders bounced off of him? Or Brandon Marshall running circles around the ‘Skins secondary? Yeah, well those big plays seem to be a thing of the past. For nearly two full games, the opposition has struggled to put together much of anything in the way of offense against the burgundy and gold.
Through three quarters, Cowboys Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo was held to just eight completions on 17 attempts for 98 yards. The Cowboys’ offense, which averages more than 23 points a game this season, was held scoreless and had barely 200 yards of total offense. The only thing Dallas really had going was the play of running back Marion Barber, but his fumble in the first half certainly didn’t help his team’s cause.
And yet, somehow the Cowboys still picked up the win.
4. “World of Two” by Cake
The game came down to two players – Romo and Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham. Romo made plays when his team absolutely needed them, while Suisham could not.
With time winding down in the fourth quarter and his team trailing 6-0, Romo led the Cowboys on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a Patrick Crayton touchdown catch. Sadly, the Cowboys shouldn’t have been in position to take the lead. And they wouldn’t have been, if Suisham had been more accurate.
On a day when points were at their premium, Suisham converted just two of four fieldgoal attempts. One of his misses came on a 50-yard try, which history shows he’s not likely to make, but Suisham also missed a 39-yarder that would have given the Redskins a 9-0 lead.
So even if Romo marches Dallas down the field and scores that touchdown with less than three minutes remaining, the Skins still would have held the lead, 9-7.
“You hold Dallas to seven points and they walk away with a win, something’s wrong,” said assistant coach Jerry Gray.
Truer words have never been spoken, Jerry.
5. “The Drugs Don’t Work” by Ben Harper
The Redskins now stand at 3-7. They’ve been held without a touchdown in three games this season. Their injured list – which currently features Albert Haynesworth, Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, Chad Rinehart and Chris Horton – has more talented than most expansion teams. Some might say the situation has gotten bleak.
“I think just from the emotion of losing that game, it’s just a heart-yank for our players,” coach Jim Zorn said. “We felt like ‘here we go, we’re climbing ourselves out of it.’ I just told them I was proud of all of them. To lose that way at the end, in a hostile situation, is just so hard. It wasn’t any one thing, but at the particular time that things were happening, you were getting stabbed every time something happened, even with our injuries. Yet, we hung in there. I really believe this is a special team of players who will not just check things in being 3-7. It is bleak. Being 3-7 is bleak, and yet we’re going to come back. We’ve got a big game next week. We’re going to look at our roster, patch it up and go again.”
While fans are left to debate just how “special” the 2009 Washington Redskins are, Zorn is correct when he says this team won’t quit.
“I think everybody has too much pride just to say it’s over,” said wide out Malcolm Kelly. “Everybody in here is a grown man – half of them grown men with families. You’re not going to go out there and put your family name out there on that field just to lay down. You’re not going to let another man just bulldoze you because you think the season’s over. That’s just not going to happen.”