All posts in blog

03Oct

join the bandwagon

(photo by Brian Murphy)

With the Washington Redskins in between trips to Dallas and Philadelphia to take on divisional opponents, the timing seemed right to ask a simple question – what do the players think of rivalries against teams like the Cowboys and the Eagles? We know how much these games mean to fans, but do the players actually care? Do they look at this game any different than a matchup with the Houston Texans or Seattle Seahawks?

“Oh yeah,” said safety LaRon Landry. “As soon as I got here I was introduced to this rivalry and all the hatred towards these guys. I just joined the bandwagon.”

Really? It happens that fast? As soon as you show up, someone like Redskins trainer for life Bubba Tyer sits the players down and brainwashes them into hating Dallas and Philadelphia? I went to track down one of the rookies to see if they’ve been educated on these historic rivalries yet.

“I think for the guys who have been here for a long time, they understand what it is,” said safety Chris “The Predator” Horton of the rivalry. “I’m new, so I’m just now getting into it. But I understand what a rivalry game is, playing USC every year. It’s starting to grow on me. I just know we’ve got to play real physical, because it’s going to be a physical game.”

Pretty much all of the players I talked to agreed that the fans are what make this rivalry so meaningful.

“This is huge for the fans,” said tackle Jon Jansen, the longest tenured Redskins player. “This is the game that everyone talks about for the entire year.”

Seriously? A full calendar year is at stake when hated division rivals do battle? How do you not let it affect you when you’re on the field?

“You know, obviously the fans remind you of the rivalry,” said center Casey Rabach. “It’s always in the back of your head. But you’ve got to approach this game as just another game. You can’t get wrapped up into all of the history and stuff. You’ve got to just go out and play your game.”

Since he set himself up for it, I followed up with a question asking what the heck happened during the Cowboys game, when Rabach was called for two penalties that negated Redskins touchdowns.

“On the first one they called me for, I don’t know what they saw or what they called,” he said. “Zack [Thomas] said he tripped when I talked to him about it afterwards, but they called it. The second one, I think they called me for being downfield. I was just trying to be aggressive and finish a block, and it happened.”

Since the ‘Skins were still victorious, I didn’t feel the need to kick Rabach anymore. Why be a downer when the rest of the locker room was enjoying a hard-fought win over a quality opponent?

“It’s great,” said defensive end Andre Carter. “This experience, by far, is big for the Redskins organization and for myself. Out of all the times I’ve played Dallas, I’ve never won a game in Dallas. With this being the last game for us here in this arena, it’s just something special.

“You try not to think of it as a rivalry,” Carter continued. “But at the end of the day, when you see the Dallas and Redskins fans, you see a little bit of tension. At the end of the day, there is a rivalry.”

And what did Carter say to the Cowboy fans sitting behind the Redskins bench just moments before the ‘Skins had won Sunday?

( Laughs). “You guys wanna be Redskins fans,” Carter asked the dejected Dallas faithful as the final seconds ticked away and the Redskins were victorious for the fifth time in the last seven meetings.

I guess the players get into the rivalry a little bit more than they’re letting on. Here’s hoping Carter and friends are able to recruit a few new ‘Skins fan this weekend in Philadelphia after another win.

02Oct

note: music city miracle 2

Things couldn’t be better for fans of the Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills these days, with both franchises playing great football and off to a 4-0 start. Coming into the season, most people would have predicted the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts or Dallas Cowboys to get off to such a fast start, but these two smaller market teams are the ones standing out a month into the season.

The Titans franchise has been around for nearly 50 years, and yet, this is the first time they’ve ever starts a campaign 4-0. What’s more impressive is that they’re doing it without the face of the franchise, quarterback Vince Young, who at last account was, at best, going through some personal issues and at worst, considering retirement at 25 or contemplating suicide.

With Young faltering, Kerry Collins followed the lead of his “brother from another mother” Redskins quarterback “The Tasty Drink” Todd Collins, transforming from backup to big shot seemingly overnight. Collins came in for an injured Young in week one and has the Titans offense playing with a swagger that’s been lacking since Steve McNair left town.

A rookie running back named Chris Johnson, out of East Carolina University, is staking an early claim for rookie of the year honors, racking up 337 yards and two touchdowns in four games. More importantly, Johnson is throwing the Titans a lifeline for drafting LenDale White, an overweight running back out of USC who is only averaging 2.7 yards per carry, but is flourishing as a goal line back with five touchdowns now that his role has been reduced.

The absolute hallmark of this is that the Titans defense is the nastiest defense in the NFL. They’re not just winning games, they’re beating opponents into submission – giving up a league-best 11.5 points per game and are tied with the Washington Redskins at plus six in turnovers.

But most importantly, they’re leading the AFC South and the Colts are not. Peyton Manning and friends had led the division for 56 consecutive weeks before their season opening loss. Now, the Titans hold a two game lead over Jacksonville and a three game lead over the Colts. As long as this defense is playing smash-mouth football and the offense is taking what their opponents give them, there’s no reason to think that the Titans won’t continue to roll.

As for the Bills, they, even more so than the Titans, are the feel-good story of the 2008 season. Mainly because they’re run by an inept owner, Ralph Wilson, who at 89 should be sitting around in his boxers doing the crossword puzzle and eating tapioca pudding instead of trying to run an NFL franchise.

Click here for the full article.

(courtesy photo)

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

02Oct

caption this: movie edition

(courtesy of Park City Skins)

We here at Homer McFanboy highly encourage fan participation. Whether you agree or disagree with something you come across on the site, we always enjoy hearing back from fellow sports fans. So when I learned that Park City Skins had taken my photo of “The Predator” Chris Horton and had a little fun with it, well, I felt obligated to share it with the class.

So instead of coming up with a witty caption to accompany one of my photos, I thought it would be fun to switch it up a little and challenge the masses to think up a tagline for the movie poster shown above. As always, you might not win any cool prizes, but you’ll be formally recognized for being better than your peers and will get some love here on the blog.

Here’s my humble offering to get folks started:

“Still ain’t got time to bleed.”

Or maybe the humorous route is better:

“Horton Picks Off Who!”

Think you can do better? Leave a comment below with your best caption.

[Editor’s note: The winner is Joel, with a caption of, “To catch (like) a Predator.” Thanks to everyone who contributed.]

01Oct

predator 2

This needs to be said up front – Redskins rookie Chris Horton had a grand total of four interceptions during his entire college career. That’s right, in 41 career games at UCLA, Horton picked off four passes.

So naturally, Horton, who we lovingly refer to as “The Predator,” has three interceptions in his first four NFL games. This past weekend, with the Washington Redskins in an intense battle with their hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys, it was Horton making the game-changing play with time running out in the third quarter. In a battle of a Pro Bowl quarterback and an unheralded seventh-round rookie, “The Predator” struck again.

“We had been running that defense all day,” Horton said. “You know, just trying to get that guy to throw the ball in that spot. I just kind of baited it up. I knew where I was supposed to be, got myself into position and read the receiver’s eyes. He threw it, and I picked it.”

He, of course, would be Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo, the gun slinging media darling who attempted a short pass to wide out Miles Austin down the right sideline. Horton hung back just long enough to lull Romo into a false sense of security and then sprinted to the ball before Austin even knew what hit him. The ‘Skins went into the final quarter with a 23-17 lead and never looked back.

“That’s a really good team we just beat over there,” Horton said. “There’s some things that we’ve got to go back and correct because we do play these guys again.”

Back to the interceptions. Seriously, how does a guy with four picks in college suddenly become a ballhawk seemingly overnight?

“I’m feeling very comfortable,” Horton said. “I don’t know what it is. I tell my teammates all the time that my hands have gotten a lot better since I got to the NFL. I’m catching a lot of balls that in college …”

Can we get you to work with Fred Smoot and Carlos Rogers?

(Laughs). “When the ball comes to those guys, they’ll make their plays,” he said. “I think I’m just making plays right now and I’m doing whatever it takes to help my team win.”

After the Saints game I told you that you should be starting, but you disagreed. Fast forward to this week and the Redskins actually named you a starter against the Cowboys. That must mean you’re doing something right.

“I am, but … in the second half I got pulled,” Horton said. “I got pulled from the game, but I know my coaches believe in me. I just got to continue to get better every week.”

When asked why he was pulled, Horton said he was responsible for the Cowboys’ first two touchdowns. Horton said he was out of position on the touchdown catches by tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Terrell Owens, prompting the coaches to rotate Horton and safety Reed Doughty throughout the rest of the game. But Horton wasn’t worried about that. He was simply pleased that the ‘Skins got the win.

The team has a 24-hour rule, so how are you going to enjoy this win?

“I’m going to go home, relax, you know, tomorrow I’ll forget about it and go back to practice,” Horton said. “I’m excited. It’s a win, and wins are hard to come across in the NFL, so just to get that win is exciting.”

Is this a statement win?

“It is,” he said. “No one gave us a chance, but we believed in ourselves. That’s all that really matters. When we step on the field between those white lines, we’re going to play some physical football.”

(photos by Brian Murphy)

01Oct

numbers game

(photo by Brian Murphy)

It’s no secret, I’m a stat nerd. I can’t just watch a game, see a statistic at the bottom of the screen and be content. No, I have to take that small nugget of information and run with it, using it as a starting point to try and gauge what to expect the rest of the season or figure out a historical comparison.

So when the NFL Network says that Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell led the NFL in fumbles last year and points out he hasn’t turned the ball over once this season … well … that’s my starting point. You can bet on me spending the next hour or two digging around to see just how much better Campbell is playing these days compared to previous incarnations.

Bottom line – Jason Campbell is playing his ass off. I mean, there’s no real other way to put it. He’s the fourth highest quarterback rating in the NFL, at 102.2. His completion percentage of 65.3 is eighth best in the NFL. But let’s take a deeper look at just how much Campbell has progressed. Here’s a breakdown of Campbell’s numbers after four games in each of the last three seasons:

In 2006, Campbell completed 63 of 122 passes for 713 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His completion percentage was 51.6 and his QB rating was 68.8.

In 2007, Campbell completed 67 of 113 passes for 869 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His completion percentage was 59.3 and his QB rating was 84.3.

In 2008, Campbell completed 81 of 124 passes for 878 yards with 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. His completion percentage was 65.3 and his QB rating was 102.2.

We’re a quarter of the way through the season, and if we look at what Campbell has put up thus far, he projects to finish with the following statistics:

Completing 324 of 496 passes for 3,512 yards with 24 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Those kind of passing yards and touchdowns are typically good for a top 10 finish among NFL quarterbacks. I think it’s safe to say that at some point this season Campbell will throw an interception, but the rest of the stats are numbers Redskins fans would be thrilled with.

While Campbell is leading the air attack, running back Clinton Portis is getting it done on the ground. He’s currently fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 369 and is ninth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with three. Here’s how Portis has started each of the last two seasons:

In 2007, Portis rushed 66 times for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In 2008, Portis has rushed 86 times for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Portis is on pace to finish the 2008 season with 344 carries for 1,476 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a refresher, Portis finished 2007 with 325 carries for 1,262 and 11 touchdowns. Last season Portis was picking up 3.9 yards per carry, while this season he’s averaging 4.3 yards per rush. While some folks quietly grumble that Portis is coming off the field too often during games, the numbers show he’s still being very productive. Any way you look at it, the Redskins are in good hands with Portis.

But the biggest reason opposing defenses are beginning to fear the Redskin newfound potent offense is Santana Moss, who ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards with 421. He’s caught 27 passes for an average of 15.6 per catch and he’s averaging 105.3 yards per game. Let’s compare those numbers to each of the last three seasons:

In 2005, Moss had 84 catches for 1,483 yards and 9 touchdowns.
In 2006, Moss had 55 catches for 790 yards and 6 touchdowns.
In 2007, Moss had 61 catches for 808 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In 2008, Moss is on pace for 108 catches for 1,684 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Couple things to point out: Art Monk had 104 catches in 1984. If Moss can stay healthy, he’s on pace for 108. And let’s not forget that Moss set the Redskins single-season receiving record in 2005. Moss’ current pace would blow that number out of the water, which is even more impressive when you remember that this is a 76-year-old franchise and Moss is trying to break his own record.

And here’s a special section for anyone who works with a Dallas Cowboys fan. Simply put, Santana Moss owns the Cowboys. We’re reaching Pedro Martinez, “Whose your daddy?” territory here. Seriously, just say his name and watch a Dallas fan wince. Here’s what he’s posted against the Cowboys the last three times these two teams have faced off:

Nov. 18, 2007: 9 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown
Dec. 30, 2007: eight catches for 115 yards and a touchdown
Sunday: eight catches for 145 yards

And unlike Terrell Owens, you never hear a word out of Moss. As previously stated, his numbers do the talking for him. But Moss isn’t the only Redskin getting it done. Jim Zorn became the first Redskins rookie head coach to win in Dallas in 37 years, joining the great George Allen as the only ‘Skins rookie head coach to win his debut in Dallas since 1971. (That’s not the only thing those two coaches have in common).

Here’s two other areas that are a direct reflection of Zorn’s identity on this team:

The Redskins offense is ranked 9th in the NFL averaging 342 yards per game, up from 15th a year ago when they averaged 333 yards per game.

The Redskins are tied for the league lead with a plus six turnover differential, and have not had an offensive turnover all season long. The Washington Post reports that the last time the ‘Skins went four games without a turnover was 1990.

In the Dallas post-game press conference Moss spoke about all of the wacky drills Zorn has come up with for Campbell and the other quarterbacks. While it seemed odd at first to see Zorn making his QBs play dodgeball and go through other random drills, it now makes sense. Campbell is able to sense the pressure, step up and deliver the ball downfield to Moss, Chris Cooley or one of his other targets. The coach might not be conventional, but no one can argue with the results.

So needless to say, the offense is a cause for celebration in D.C. We’re seeing a side of the Redskins that’s been missing for a while now, especially if the ‘Skins continue to score 26 points per game like they’ve done during their three-game winning streak. Things are going so well on offense that we don’t even need to mention the defense.

The defense, a unit that’s been asked to carry this franchise for much of the ‘Skins recent history, is playing well in their typical bend-but-don’t-break style. Linebacker London Fletcher is playing his dominant brand of football, ranking second in the NFL in tackles with 36. He’ll get snubbed again this year for the Pro Bowl, but Redskins fans know how valuable he is.

Rookie safety Chris Horton (known in this neighborhood as “The Predator“) continues to overachieve, and is tied for second in the NFL in interceptions and leads all rookies in the same category with three. Horton had four interceptions in his entire college career and has three picks in his first four NFL games. That’s called stepped up when it counts.

But the cause for celebration would be the Redskins 3-1 record. While it doesn’t guarantee anything, the last three times the ‘Skins have made the playoffs they started the season 3-1. There’s a lot of football left to be played this season, but unlike in St. Louis, Detroit and Cincinnati, there’s actually a reason to tune in each week to watch the home team in D.C.

29Sep

a star is born

(courtesy photos)

Terrell Owens loves to be the center of attention. That’s what we in the business refer to as an indisputable fact. He’s also a temperamental diva who has eventually turned on everyone who was ever dumb enough to trust the guy. So far, all has been well with T.O. in the “Big D.” But that might be starting to change with Owens making comments about not getting the ball enough after losing to the Washington Redskins 26-24 Sunday.

Asked if he felt he got the ball enough in the Cowboys’ loss, Owens had what we’ll call a momentary flash of honesty.

“I would say no,” he said. “I’m a competitor and I want the ball. Everybody recognized that I wasn’t really getting the ball in the first half. I’m pretty sure everybody watching the game recognized it, people in the stands recognized it. I think my team recognized it. I didn’t quit. I kept fighting and trying to keep running my routes and trying to get open.”

While Owens only had two catches for 11 yards at halftime, he finished the day with seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. For the day, the Cowboys threw 17 passes at him and handed the ball off to him two other times. So out of 58 offensive plays, T.O. was targeted 19 times (33 percent). Needless to say, everyone else in the NFL would be ecstatic if they were involved in a third of the plays. Not T.O. though. Mark this down as the day things start to go bad for the Owens-Romo-Cowboys love triangle.

And what does all of this have to do with a Redskins blog? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s simply an excuse to post this photo of me celebrating after the game:

(file photo)

Terrell Owens might not have been able to get it done Sunday, but I sure as hell did.

[Editor’s note: an emailer brought up that this isn’t the first time I’ve decided to partake in these types of shenanigans, reminding me of the time I snuck onto the Richmond International Raceway for a few laps. What can I say? Guilty as charged.]

29Sep

cowboys playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Sorry for the delay. Would have had this week’s playlist up earlier, but I was actually flying home from Dallas. Without further delay, here’s this week’s recap:

1. “The Underdog” by Spoon

Las Vegas is in the business of making money. Whenever possible they prefer to win, not lose money – especially on the National Football League. When the lines came out early last week, the Dallas Cowboys were favored over the Washington Redskins by 11.5 points, which was the largest line of the week, Vegas’ way of saying “blowout.” Much like the rest of the country, Vegas gave the Redskins virtually no chance of winning in their final regular season battle at Texas Stadium.

“You got to play the game,” said rookie safety Kareem Moore in the locker room after the ‘Skins 26-24 win. “You can’t just play the game on paper.”

Heading into the contest, Cowboy fans were quick to point out that the Redskins had only won once in their last 12 trips to Dallas. So it’s with great joy that I point out that the ‘Skins have now won five out of the last seven contests overall in what was supposedly a one-sided rivalry. Actually, looking at that streak, it might be one sided after all, just not the way the “experts” think.

2. “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Last time the Redskins played in this building, Jason Campbell cried. In the locker room when no one else was around, the Redskins quarterback let his emotions get the best of him after failing to rally his team from behind in a 28-23 defeat.

This year, the Redskins were victorious plain and simply because of Jason Campbell, who went 20 of 31 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 108.4. The Cowboys defense had given up just two passes touchdowns all season long. Campbell threw two in the second quarter. Through four games he’s gone head-to-head with Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner and Tony Romo and each game he’s posted a higher QB rating.

For the season, Campbell has assumed a role previously played by Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. Don’t try to win the game single handedly. Just make smart decisions, take what the defense gives you and put your teammates in a position to make plays. How’s it working out for him? Through four games, Campbell’s thrown six touchdowns with no interceptions or fumbles. That, my friends, is redemption.

3. “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West

Since 1971, Cowboys fans have said that the hole in the roof of Texas Stadium was designed so that God, himself, could watch his favorite team on Sundays. Well, if that’s the case, then the big guy had to be pleased watching two of his biggest fans, receivers James Thrash and Antwaan Randle El, each catch a touchdown in the Redskins’ win.

4. “Remember The Name” by Fort Minor

If you looked up the definition of the phrase “Redskins football” in the dictionary, it would say “run and stop the run.” For as long as our nation’s capital has had a team, that’s been the gameplan. Well, this week, fans were treated to vintage Redskins football with the ‘Skins racking up 161 yards on the ground while surrendering just 44.

Let’s not forget that these Cowboys were averaging 150 yards rushing per game this season heading into this rivalry game. But on Sunday, Marion Barber rushed the ball just eight times for 26 yards, while Redskins running back Clinton Portis ran 21 times for 121 yards for the good guys. In fact, Portis was the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Cowboys in 18 games. That’s called getting it done.

5. “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter

“We had opportunities early in the game and we just couldn’t take advantage of them,” said Cowboys head coach Wade “Bum” Phillips. “I thought they outplayed us. I thought they outplayed our offense. They outplayed our defense. They outplayed our special teams and our coaches. Take your pick.”

Nuff’ said.

HomerMcFanboy background image