Lack of Monday Mourning Led to Promising Week

By Michael Wilbon
Monday, November 5, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. What happened six days earlier, on the Monday after the massacre, won't show up under yards rushing or tackles made. There's no way, exactly, to tell how serious self-examination six days earlier affected time of possession or a place kicker's accuracy in overtime Sunday against the New York Jets. But the Washington Redskins, particularly the coaches and old pros who've had to recover from football humiliation a time or two in their lives, knew the overtime victory here in the Meadowlands over the Jets couldn't have happened without some honest soul-searching 24 hours after Sunday's embarrassing loss in New England.

"People think bouncing back is more about effort," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "But bouncing back is more mental than physical. Folks think games are won on Sunday, but this game was won last Monday as much as it was today. Monday was critical. It's not like we had to beat the Patriots, but to lose like that? We didn't stand up as men last week, so there's no bouncing back without coming to grips with some things. We had to sort things out."

Of course, clearing the air doesn't mean a thing if the running game doesn't come together to produce nearly 300 yards rushing or if Shaun Suisham doesn't make that 46-yarder in overtime to win it. And we are talking about the 1-8 Jets, not the Patriots or Colts, or even the Packers or Cowboys. Still, the Redskins were smart enough the day after being whupped by the Patriots to know that they had to get their team in order, emotionally and psychologically, to bounce back to beat even the Jets.

Joe Gibbs, whose demeanor was "What, me worry?" was a poker face early in the week. But he admitted as much after sweating out the victory over the Jets.

"Everybody was so distraught and down," Gibbs said. Instead of grading the horror flick and dismissing everybody Monday, which is more or less customary in the NFL after such a putrid game, Gibbs put the players in pads Monday for practice and they took his cue.

Instead of moping or lashing out, the players did the smartest thing they could. They got introspective and beat themselves up pretty good. Smoot said the defensive backs began to meet with each other, then were absorbed into a bigger group when London Fletcher said everybody on the defense had to be accountable. Pretty soon, the offensive units joined in, and after that players met individually with each other to air issues. Then some met with Gibbs individually, then collectively, and individually again.

There's no way to keep track of all the meetings that took place Monday at Redskins Park. "They were there all day meeting with everybody," Gibbs said.

What impressed Gibbs most after the worst loss of his career was, "They took it dead serious and it showed on Monday."

As a result, what showed against the Jets on Sunday was a patience that has been absent too often this season and a resolve that shows up occasionally but not enough. The Jets were desperate, too, and surely thought they could have a moment of joy in their sorry season by beating the still unproven Redskins. They wanted to jump on top and did.

What we've seen too often from the Redskins after a game plan is set is quick abandonment and a jump to Plan B. Not Sunday. Down 14 in the second quarter, it would have been easy (and silly) to start throwing the ball all around the yard.

Instead Gibbs and Al Saunders stuck with running it. Portis, still the team' s best runner, responded with his best rushing day as a Redskin, 196 yards.

Ladell Betts ran nine times for 64 yards. Jason Campbell ran twice for 31 yards. In all, the Redskins ran 48 times for 296 yards, which allowed Campbell to throw it only 23 times. "That's more the look of what I envision Redskin football to be," Gibbs said.

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