(photo by Brian Murphy)
1. “We Made It” by Busta Rhymes
The fact that the Washington Redskins were able to defeat the Green Bay Packers 16-13 in overtime Sunday is newsworthy in itself. The Redskins hadn’t beaten the Packers since 1988, and hadn’t beaten them at home since 1979.
So yeah, just getting the win is a big deal. And sadly, the victory was also noteworthy because it marked the first time Washington won back-to-back games since halfway through the 2008 season (when the defeated doormats Cleveland and Detroit in consecutive weeks).
Now the Redskins stand at 3-2, with their three victories coming over Dallas, Philadelphia and Green Bay – all of which made the playoffs last season, while the Redskins were just 4-12.
Forget that Washington would have to lose 10 of the last 11 games to match last season’s futility. This team, while still very much a work in progress, is finally starting to form an identity. They refuse to quit and, for the first time in recent history, they actually believe they can battle back if things aren’t going their way in the early stages of a game.
“This isn’t a game we would have won a year ago, a month ago or maybe even two weeks ago,” said linebacker London Fletcher.
Of course, a year ago this team didn’t have Mike Shanahan as the head coach and Donovan McNabb as the quarterback. Those two have proven track records and simply having them around has done wonders for changing the culture at Redskins Park.
“I just think it’s the whole new atmosphere around here,” said center Casey Rabach. “It’s what Coach Shanahan brings to it. It’s what the players in this locker room, with the character in this locker room, bring to it. I just think we have confidence in the scheme of this system, and confidence in each other. When the chips get down, you know in the past, we kind of cashed them in. Now, we finally have the leadership we need.”
2. “Written In Reverse” by Spoon
The way this game started, it could have gotten ugly quickly. Even after the Redskins created a turnover on the second play from scrimmage – with safety Kareem Moore recovering a fumble for his third turnover this season – the Redskins still couldn’t get anything going.
The offense gave the ball right back to Green Bay, who in turn marched right down the field and promptly took an early 7-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Packers had more than 200 yards of total offense and the Redskins had to feel lucky they weren’t down by three touchdowns.
“I looked up at the scoreboard and, I think it was not even the second quarter, and they had 200-some yards and I think we had 20,” Shanahan said. “They got on us early, got that big run, got a little momentum going, then we had a goal-line stand and we started playing consistently for the rest of the game.”
Instead, Green Bay was only up 7-0 after the first quarter and 10-3 at the half.
“You know what was special about this week’s game,” asked safety Reed Doughty. “If you think about it, this game was like the Houston game in reverse. The Texans, we should have blown them out. We had them down. We had them on the ropes. We should have put them away. This week, they got us down early and we could have gotten blown out.”
3. “Prevail” by Pete Rock and Smif-N-Wessun
The question has to be asked: how does a team give up more than 200 yards of total offense in the first quarter of a game and only give up 13 total points? What in-game adjustments were made to slow down the Packers’ hot start and keep the Redskins into the game until the offense finally remembered it was a 1 p.m. start time?
Well, for starters, the Redskins entered the game content to read and react. They weren’t blitzing much in the early stages and weren’t doing much to make Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the opening frame.
At halftime the decision was made to play in more nickel and dime sets and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett also decided to start getting more aggressive. Suddenly, Green Bay had to deal with a formidable puss rush, led by linebacker Brian Orakpo (two sacks and three quarterback hurries) and an unstoppable offense suddenly became much less lethal.
After kicking a field goal on their first drive of second half to take a 13-3 lead, here’s what the Packers did the rest of the game – missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, interception. If you’re a Redskins fan, you’ve got to be happy about that.
While Moore and Orakpo did their part to keep the Redskins in the ball game, it was strong safety LaRon Landry who stepped up when it mattered most – intercepting a Rodgers pass in overtime. For the game, Landry also had 13 tackles, which further illustrates how good he can be when his defensive coordinator is willing to utilize his strengths.
Somewhere in a log cabin in a remote location far, far away, Greg Blache is planning his next deer-hunting adventure. I only hope he puts himself a better chance to succeed than he did his players. Otherwise he’ll be standing around, waiting for a deer to charge him while he holds nothing more than a dull pocket knife. Good times.
4. “Out Here Grindin’” by D.J. Khaled
No less than four offensive players told me in the post-game locker room that the first half was the worst half of football they’d ever been a part of. Considering that most, if not all, of those guys were around for the Jim Zorn era, that’s saying something.
But, according to Rabach, the offensive players looked at each other at halftime and essentially said, “We can’t play any worse.” They shrugged off the awful first half and then started to put together some halfway decent football.
All of the sudden, receiver Anthony Armstrong hauls in a much-needed 48-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the second half and the pressure was no longer on Washington.
“Man, I was floating,” Armstrong said. “I had a Red Bull and it gave me some wings. I was up there for a little bit and the ball hit my hands and I just wasn’t going to let it go. I couldn’t let it go.”
Now the Redskins were back in a game they had no business having a chance to win and it was Green Bay who suddenly had the weight of the world on their proverbial shoulders. Not to take anything away from the Packers, but they let the Redskins hang around and it cost them in the end.
Because the Redskins defense had done the heavy lifting early to keep the score close, the offense knew that they still had a chance. And once they did actually pull off the come-from-behind victory, many of the players spoke about how one win like this can really convince players that they’re capable of winning no matter the situation.
“It’s very big,” said McNabb. “I think that after a couple of games like this, this is an opportunity where you’re in the huddle, guys are just waiting for that opportunity to make big plays. I think Anthony [Armstrong] really got things going for us which lead to a lot of big passing plays for us. Santana has been consistent over the years and there’s a reason why he’s been doing what he’s doing, he and Cooley both. Again, I’ve got to clean up some things. We correct those mistakes and I think it’s a whole different ballgame.
5. “Bodies” by Drowning Pool
Let’s try to go back and count all of the established players the Redskins defense has roughed up this season – through the first four weeks there was Houston receiver Andre Johnson, St. Louis running back Stephen Jackson, Philadelphia quarterback Mike Vick and Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy.
Well, I’m not sure how the Packers were actually able to field a team by the end of this week’s battle. Here’s the unbelievable list of Green Bay players who were injured against Washington on Sunday: tight end Jermichael Finley (knee), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), tight end Donald Lee (shoulder), defensive lineman Ryan Pickett (sprained ankle), safety Derrick Martin (knee) and Rodgers (concussion).
Seriously, with the sheer number of injuries the Indianapolis Colts have already had to deal with this season, they should probably hold quarterback Peyton Manning out next weekend just to be safe. It’s probably best for everyone involved.
Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of this punishing Redskins defense.