All Things Being Equal, Game One Doesn't Add Up

Coach Joe Gibbs, center, looks for clarification from the officials during the second quarter. After going winless and scoreless in the preseason, Washington's first-team offense showed little improvement in the first game that mattered.
Coach Joe Gibbs, center, looks for clarification from the officials during the second quarter. After going winless and scoreless in the preseason, Washington's first-team offense showed little improvement in the first game that mattered. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Washington Redskins have too many talented players and too many creative coaches to lose to the building-from-scratch Minnesota Vikings. It shouldn't come down to a 48-yard John Hall field goal attempt to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, not at home in the season opener.

Losing down in Jacksonville, as the Dallas Cowboys did, or to Indianapolis, as the New York Giants did, is one thing. The Jaguars and Colts were playoff teams a year ago, proven entities with legitimate championship aspirations.

The Vikings, while 9-7 last year, are trying to figure out where they are as the team nobody anticipates doing much of anything this season. The Vikings, coming into Week 1, were Brad Johnson and some guys, mostly journeymen.

Perhaps we'll look back in eight to 10 weeks and the Vikings will be the story of the first half of the season. But it's unlikely. The Vikings have a rookie head coach and virtually everything about them is new, right down to the uniforms.

But if the Redskins don't get a sense of urgency about them -- and even if they do -- we're likely to look back in a couple of weeks and wonder if the Redskins are on the wrong end of an early-season story line.

Perhaps this is why Joe Gibbs was so high-strung in the days leading up to the game. Big things are expected of the Redskins. Why else would they start the season on "Monday Night Football" in Week 1, then be on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 2? Perhaps Gibbs, maybe even the entire coaching staff, sensed this team isn't close to being all it's hyped to be.

The Redskins ought to score more than 16 points at home against the Vikings and ought not give up as many as 19 to the Vikings.

Yet it was a losing struggle for the Redskins to score (again) and stop the Vikings from scoring. And the whole thing collapsed in the fourth quarter under the weight of critical defensive penalties that assisted in Minnesota's winning drive.

There wasn't a spectacular failure on the part of one unit or any one player, there was just an overall dullness. Nothing about the Redskins in Week 1 hinted at greatness to come, though making any declarations off one week of regular season football should be avoided.

Still, 0-1 with a loss to a team that doesn't figure to be a contender is a bad thing, especially with a desperate Cowboys team on deck Sunday night. Dallas, as Mark Brunell noted afterward, "isn't very happy with their situation."

If any part of the team figured to struggle in the opener one would have thought it would have been the offense. Privately, there were worries that Brunell hadn't gotten the hang of the offense just yet.

And, of course, there was the injury to Clinton Portis, probably the second-most important offensive player.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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