For example, last season, I recall thinking that the Redskins were bad, then good, then bad, then possibly very good, then bad, then at least okay, then astoundingly bad — and that was just during the first half of their win at the Giants! No, but really. And so after the season ended, I kind of promised myself not to be such a spas this season. You know: make the big conclusions after 16 games, not one. Don’t decide whether Kirk Cousins is a star or just a guy until December or January. Don’t even think about judging draft picks before Thanksgiving. Don’t be such a simpleton that when the Redskins win, they’re good, and when they lose, they’re bad.
During the first half in Kansas City — when the Redskins were actually, genuinely threatening to ascend to the No. 1 spot in NFL power rankings — I googled February flights to Minneapolis and wondered whether it was too soon for another Bandwagon retrospective. And right now — with 13 injured players, assuming no one has gotten hurt during the typing of this sentence — I’m having trouble imagining better than a 7-9 record. Though even imagining a 4-5 finish probably makes me an optimist right now.
That said, and injuries aside, could the Redskins have played better Sunday?
I mean, I guess they could have gained more than nine yards on three plays after a gift fumble on Dallas’s opening drive; not committed a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty; not dropped a long pass to a open receiver; not overthrown a different open receiver; not given the Cowboys three chances for a game-clinching interception; not allowed a field goal attempt to be blocked; not allowed that blocked field goal to be returned nearly for a touchdown; not fumbled a kickoff; and not missed an extra point.
A lot of those things seem to involve special teams, huh?
You said it. Although don’t think those special teams issues were distinct from the injury epidemic.
Was there another agonizing special teams miscue?
At least one, anyhow. Late in the third quarter, Tress Way launched a brilliant 63-yard punt that was downed at the Dallas 13-yard line. But an illegal touching penalty against a Redskins rookie caused a re-kick, and the Cowboys wound up with the ball at the 43. It doesn’t go in the books as a crippling 30-yard special teams penalty. But it was a crippling 30-yard special teams penalty, and it led to a field goal that turned a one-score game into a two-score game as conditions were deteriorating.
Game analyst Chris Cooley also dinged Chris Thompson for not stepping out of bounds while fielding a short kickoff to the corner later in the third quarter, which would have given Washington the ball at their own 40. But that would have been a very, very tricky maneuver.
Why did Jay Gruden call a timeout with 1:45 left in the first half and the ball near midfield, a decision that eventually resulted in the Cowboys getting the ball back with 59 seconds still on the clock?
Why did Jay Gruden call that timeout? Really, why did he? I guess he assumed his offense wouldn’t be able to go 53 yards — or 20 yards to get in field-goal range — in a minute and 45 seconds? That just doesn’t seem to be how most NFL teams operate, though. Most teams seem to wait until the need is acute and the situation more clear, especially if their offense has a bit of two-minute momentum.
Anyhow, after a bad second-down play, and an incompletion, the Redskins had to punt with a whopping 70 seconds left in the half, and 70 percent of fans likely assumed something terrible would result. There was no damage, as it turned out. But still, why would you call that timeout? I don’t understand.
Why does it bother me so much that the Redskins have made a tradition out of a “Sweet Caroline” sing-along?
Why does that bother me so much? I guess it’s because it seems like such a brazen attempt to latch on to a tradition that’s already entrenched in other cities, an attempt so inorganic and top-down and derivative that you almost feel guilty enjoying it. I spent last week watching insane D.C. United fans scream themselves hoarse in the RFK concourse, which felt as different from a canned “Sweet Caroline” sing-along as RFK does from FedEx Field.
But maybe I’m crazy. People seem to enjoy it. Maybe I should just go sign up for a Redskins Rewards credit card and keep quiet.
Will either team in this rivalry ever again have a true home-field advantage?
That’s an open question. We’ve seen Redskins fans invade Dallas’s monstrous new stadium repeatedly in recent years, staying until the end and dominating the sideline views when Washington is winning. And by the end of Sunday’s game, it felt like maybe 80 percent Cowboys fans in the lower bowl. Even Cooley described the crowd as 50-50 Redskins fans at best, which is not the ratio anyone in Washington was looking for.
But that’s the new normal. This modern era, these huge stadiums, and these erratic teams have just destroyed home-field advantage in this series. The home team has gone 1-6 in the past seven Redskins-Cowboys games, and 4-9 in the last 13.
If the Nats got rid of Dusty Baker because, as their GM put it, “winning a lot of regular season games and winning divisions is not enough,” what exactly does that mean for the new guy? Does that mean the first-year manager will not be brought back if he merely wins a lot of regular season games and a division? I mean, doesn’t that have to be the implication: that if the Nats do anything other than win at least one playoff series next fall, it won’t have been enough, and the manager will be to blame?
Right question, wrong sport.
Why did the Redskins throw two short passes during their final, desperate drive in the game’s last minute, when they still trailed by just a touchdown?
This is actually a question with a real answer, if you’re curious.
“I think first of all, we stood around on the sideline after that initial drive where we scored with Josh Doctson,” Cousins said on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant and Danny program Monday morning. “We stood around on the sideline, just trying to balance trying to dry and trying to stay loose. It’s hard to stay loose, so it’s hard to just jump off the bench and then just launch a ‘go’ ball, especially when they’re dropping 40 yards down the field in max coverage. You hope that maybe in the rain there’s a missed tackle, there’s a chance for Chris Thompson to get out of bounds, get a little bit further down the field and then we can start to take a shot.
“But it doesn’t do much good to just take a shot for the sake of taking a shot,” Cousins continued. “You actually have to have a chance at something down the field or closer to the end zone and come away with something. [So] I felt better about just getting the ball in somebody’s hand, with the way they were rushing the passer and the way I couldn’t grip the football, just trying to get the ball in somebody’s hands and hopefully they can make guys miss and see what happens.”
I dunno. I guess it doesn’t matter. But they got the ball back with 54 seconds left, needing 88 yards for a game-tying score, and with no timeouts. The first play they ran took 24 seconds and gained four yards. The second play seemed on track for a similar ratio. The conditions were horrific, and the odds were grim. But using 24 seconds to gain four yards should be a non-starter.
Since we’re all mature enough not to look at #QBWinz as a stat, should we agree that Kirk Cousins’s future with the Redskins has nothing to do with this team’s final record?
Uh, I’d have said that at various points in the past few weeks. And maybe it’s still true. But imagine a poor finish, even if it’s marred by these uncontrollable and improbable injuries. The Redskins would have then made one playoff appearance in Cousins’s three years as the starter, would have gone backward two straight years, and would likely be facing dramatic changes at several offensive skill positions. How would an already restless fanbase deal with the suggestion that Cousins is then due yet another significant financial investment, without necessarily yet knowing whether he’s the long-term answer? It’s only Week 8, but don’t you already play that scenario out in your mind?
What happened to staying medium until the season is actually over?