Monday, December 31, 2007

Playoffs!!!!!: Volume 2, Issue 20

Braves on the Warpath,

I've tried to be religious about sending out one Skin Serv per week as to not flood your inboxes with spam, but exceptions must be made sometimes.


Congratulations to all Skins Servers!!!! What a huge victory yesterday. Playoffs in 2007. Who would have thunk it????


After what has been the most trying year in franchise history, the Skins have battled back from near extinction and now, somehow, find themselves in the post-season for the second time in the last three years. This is a team of destiny, and this is a story we'll be all telling our children for a very long time.


And by the way, in case you live in a cave somewhere (and still get Skins Serv), the Skins are the hottest and most dangerous team in the NFC (but we'll get to that on Thursday).


For now, soak it up. Make a toast (l'chaim) to the Burgundy and Gold as we bring in the new year tonight, and make sure to give some appreciation to ole' Coach Joe and his group of fighters for this amazing miracle they have given us.



Wild Card Game versus Seattle.

4:30 PM ET Saturday.




Friday, December 28, 2007

Achtung Baby!!!!: Volume 2, Issue 19

Braves on the Warpath,

As has become traditional on Skins Serv over the last month, it would only be appropriate that we take a moment of appreciation for our beloved Redskins, the position they have put themselves in, and the magical ride they have taken us on. Never in our wildest dreams could have we scripted such a turnaround - a destiny-filled, emotionally-fueled run at, dare I say it, a post-season birth. The entire Redskins organization, from the kickoff kid right up to the big Danny, has provided all of us happiness, joy and most importantly, hope during the holiday season.


This team is a wellspring of inspirational stories, as they have re-defined the human triumph over adversity. From Todd Collins's ten years as a NFL nomad to Clinton Portis and Santana Moss's revitalization in the name of a fallen friend, the Skins have given even the most cynical hater reason to believe. Regardless of what happens this Sunday at FedEx, the Redskins have done enough - they have managed to erase the bitterness and tears, and have left all of us with a taste of how sweet this whole NFL thing can be. This team has literally crawled through 10 football fields of the most foul-smelling sh%$ and come out better for it. Thank you, Redskins.


But yes, unfortunately, there is still a game to be played. And yes, as fans, it is our duty to be as mentally ready as possible for this monumental showdown with the Cowboys on Sunday. There are no free passes in the NFL, so don't expect the Cowboys to hand us one now. I would like all us Skins Servers to approach this Cowboys game as the Redskins players will.


Monday and Tuesday - the players days off - are OK for celebration and playoff dreaming. Even Wednesday, when the Skins only had a walk through, could our minds be cluttered with thoughts of back-ups, no Romo and TO, and red-eye flights back to Seattle in time for work next Monday (Guilty as charged). But by Thursday, when the players strap on the pads and start hitting each other over in Ashburn, our minds need be solely focused on those shiny silver helmets with those stupid blue stars. For the next four days, its Cowboys and Cowboys only. Please don't mention that city with an "S" - not in front of me, not in front of anybody.


Yes, the Skins are the hottest team in the NFC and yes the Cowboys have nothing else to gain on Sunday, but to the 22 Cowboys who play offense and defense against the Skins this week, that won't matter one bit. If it's the starters, they'll want to play spoiler and ensure they don't have to see the Skins again. If its the bench players, they will try to use the opportunity to prove themselves to their coaches, and show off their abilities on a national stage. Football players are competitive beasts, and in no way should we think that those players and their coaches are going to let the Redskins run it all over them. Pride is a very strong human emotion and there will be plenty of it on Sunday.


Remember new years day '05? Remember how the Eagles were done and without Donovan? Did it matter? Nope. The Eagles went up early and scared the ba-jesus out of us (when we all thought it was a gimme) and not until Sean swooped in and saved the sons and daughters of DC, was that game in the books.


This game will be just like that one: a hard-hitting, cold, bitter affair between two of the biggest rivals in the NFL. It will be closely contested. It will be scary. The Skins are one game from the playoffs, but you better realize that it will be one long, hard game. I hope by the end of Skins Serv, you'll believe me. 


One game at a time,






First: Minnesota Gameballs


1) Elan Fredman - Many of you don't know Elan Fredman. A good boy from St. Louis, Elan was wed on Sunday to one Sara Sebrow of Teaneck, New Jersey. In their great Wisdom, Elan and Sara scheduled their wedding at 3:30 PM, so us Skinservers attending could still watch the game at 8:15 PM. With Elan's encouragement and screams of "Skins control their own destiny...wooooo," Skinservers in attendance were sent home after the first dance. Thank you, Elan and Sara.


2) The Coaches - All 300 Redskins coaches earned their combine 3 billion dollar salaries last week. What scheming, what preparation, what genius (in Bill Walton voice). First and most importantly, on the defensive side: Greg Williams delivered. According to a report today, the Skins used 10 different packages on defense. Normally the Skins come into a game with 6 or 7 packages and don't use all of them consistently. Not in this game. Using all 10 packages, including Buddy Ryan's famous 4-6 run-stopping defense, the Skins shut down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and confused the heck out of Tavaris Jackson (who was an angel sent from the heavens) and Brad Childress (aka Uncle Allen). The Skins had every gap covered, every pass defended, and got pressure on the QB. It was a coaching performance for the ages.


On offense, the law firm of Saunders, Buges, Beraux and Gibbs finally got it together. The Skins schemed the perfect run/pass mix and didn't back down from the Vikings great front four. Instead, the coaches attacked the Vikings on the ground - first at the edges and eventually up the gut. The Skins game plan tired out the Vikes defense, kept them off balance, and enabled the Skins to set up the play action - which came up huge on big TD passes to Cooley and Moss. The Skins could have opted to abandon the run altogether, but instead took it right at the Vikes defense - it paid off. Also, give credit to the Skins for pouring on the big plays late in the first half instead of being comfortable up 9 or 16 points. The halfback option call late in the first half was the perfect play call for that situation. Kudos to the boys upstairs for that one.


3) The Trench Warriors - This game was won in the trenches. On both sides of the ball the Redskins line play was marvelous. On defense, the Redskins got great push - moving a strong and successful Minnessota o-line backwards all night. Kedric Golston set the tone early with his stuff of Richardson for the safety and Montgomery and Griffin kept the heat up the middle throughout the game. The Skins also got great performances from Carter and Daniels, who didn't let Peterson get outside. Carter, who isn't the best run-stuffer, was tremendous in wrapping up Peterson on the outside toss plays.


On offense, the Skins o-line created creases for Portis and had the Minnesota front-line on their heels. This makeshift group seems to be gelling at the right time - if the Skins can muster 100+ running yards on that Minnesota front four, than they can do it on anyone. The o-line is also doing a great job in pass protection. Collins is comfortable and has enough time to read through all his progressions in the pocket. Heyer and Samuels continue to protect well on the sides and Rabach, Kendall and yes, Scrubini have been solid up the middle. Lorenzo Alexander again made his presence felt Sunday, pulling to both directions on Portis runs.


4) CP Baby!!!! - First, congrats to Coach Jenky Spanky on winning the NFC offensive player of the week this week - the first Redskins RB to do so since Stephen Davis in 1999. Sheriff Gonna Getchya was fantastic Sunday night - fighting for the extra yards and using his cutback ability to gain crucial yards on the outside. Dolla Bill was also excellent with yards after the catch, gaining numerous first downs after catching the ball in the backfield. Kid Bro Sweets seems to be moving quicker and better than he has since the 05 run and his threat alone is opening the field up for everyone else.


5) Santana - Some breathtaking catches, including the TD grab and the sideline acrobatics late in the game. I forgot how good he is when he's healthy.


6) Collins (No. 1 Gameball) - It's almost unthinkable for anybody, in any profession, to be inactive for 10 years and then come in and perform at such a high level. Collins's understanding of this offense, his ability to wait in the pocket, and his deadly accuracy have led to over an 100 QB rating thus far. Collins is making clutch throws, hitting important third down plays and throwing the ball deep - everything you could ask of a QB. Most importantly he hasn't thrown a pick (poo poo poo). Collins is Coach Joe's dream QB - a smart, unflappable veteran leader.


7) The LBs - This group's tackling on Sunday was flawless. Fletcher, Godfrey, Blades and Marcus didn't let anyone by them. They are playing sideline-to-sideline, they're hitting hard and they're fast. It's a scary group right now.


8) Smoot and Springs - These guys have been blankets for weeks now. They haven't given up big plays and are starting to force some turnovers. They're looking as good as any CB tandem in the league.


Dallas: Reason to be Nervous


1) Recycling - Remember Skins Serv before Skins/Boys I? When I showed you that history says the team that is supposed to win usually loses in this matchup? Well, in case you forgot...


2) History (zachor et asher asa Dallas) (note that all the below games took place at home) -


A) 12/5/1982 - The Skins, the eventual Super Bowl champs, are shocked at home by the Boys 24-10. Joe Theismann is sacked 7 times.


B) 9/5/1983 - The Cowboys come back from 20 points after halftime to beat the defending champs 31-30 in the season opener at RFK on Monday Night Football.


C) 11/5/89 - The Cowboys, who finished the season 1-15, get their lone win at RFK against a playoff-bound Redskins team, 13-3.


D) 11/24/91 - The Skins, who came in undefeated (11-0), lose to the Cowboys at home thanks in large part to an Alvin Harper-caught Hail Mary just before halftime. As we all know, the Skins went on to with the big one.


E) 9/12/99 - The Redskins blow a 35-14 lead and lose on a Rocket Ishmail OT TD catch, 41-35 in the season opener. The Skins would go on to make the playoffs and the Cowboys would finish at 8-8.


F) 9/18/00 - In a Monday nighter filled with huge expectations for the Skins (they got Deion and co. after making the playoffs), the Skins crumble at home 27-21 to a Cowboys team playing without Troy Aikman. Dallas would go on to win the next 8 out of 9 meetings.


3) Brad Johnson - For those of you licking your chops over 3 quarters of Brad Ball, please let me remind you of one score: Minnesota 19, Washington 16. Remember last year's opener? A sure-win game between the Super Bowl contender Skins and the rebuilding, new head coach-led Vikes? Remember their starting QB? That's right, it was Brad Johnson. He was angry at the Redskins then and he's angry at the Redskins now. You don't think he's itching for the chance to knock the Danny out of the playoffs? The guy who cut him for Jeff George after a playoff appearance in 1999? I don't care if Johnson hasn't played a snap all year - he diced us up for 223 yards and a TD last year in route to a win, he could do it again.


4) The Bench - I want to quickly address the notion of NFL bench players: to think it will be easier against the Cowboys bench than their starters is stupid. Was it easier for the Bears when Collins came in for Campbell? Was it easier for the Giants when Blades came in for Rocky or when Heyer came in to check Strahan? Absolutely not. If you're in the NFL, you can play - that's the bottom line. The Cowboys will sport a healthy, fresh and motivated roster on Sunday, and none of them like Redskins.


5) Starters - Last thought on this issue. The Boys ain't sitting everyone. Pro Bowlers Marion Barber and Jason Witten are going to play. DeMarcus Ware and Roy Williams are gonna play. Those four players can change a game by themselves. Barber will be breaking tackles, Witten will give our LBs fits and Ware and Williams will be looking to take heads off. That's scary stuff.


How The Skins Can Win


1) Establish the Run - Just like last week against the Vikes, the Skins will have to look to CP to ignite the offense on the ground by attacking the 'Boys 3-4 defense. The Cowboys will be without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff - the anchor of the 'Boys 3-4 - so the Skins need to attack that front seven by going right up the gut. If the line can get push and CP can accrue some early yards, Saunders will turn things over to Collins to work the play action...


2) Attack the Corners - Even with starting cornerback Terence Newman, the Cowboys secondary has been vulnerable to the big play. With Newman out this Sunday, the Skins are going to have to test backup corner Jaques Reeves just like they did Sunday night with the Vikes Marcus McCauley. Moss is back to full speed and will be able to get room on Reeves or Anthony Henry. If the Skins can get some big plays early, they should be able to dictate what they want to do on offense for the rest of the game.


3) Knock Out Romo - I know I spent time shpieling about Brad Johnson, but I still would rather have him in there than Romo. If I am Gregg Williams, I force the issue with Wade Phillips. If Romo trots out on the opening drive, blitz the heck out of him. Get some body blows and even a late hit if need be. Philips has no reason to keep Romo under attack in a meaningless game and if he sees Williams sending the house, he'll put a very short leash on his Pro Bowl QB.


4) Stuff the Run - With no Terrell Owens in the lineup, Marion Barber becomes the top threat on the Dallas offense. The Skins need to take him out of the game early similar to what they did against Minnesota. The Skins have to make the 'Boys QB (whoever it is) throw the ball. Crayton and Terry Glenn are not TO and can be stopped in man coverage. If the Skins can avoid being burned by Barber (another Pro Bowler) they should be able to force some turnovers and slow the Dallas attack down. The Skins rund defense will get a boost as Cowboys Pro-Bowl center Andre Gurode will sit this one out too.


5) Cooley - Remember this guy having a field day in the first half against the Boys and Pack only to go silent in the second half? The Skins need to get Cooley the ball early and often - he can beat any Cowboy linebacker in coverage and his threat should open up the offense even more for guys like Portis and Moss. Cooley needs to have a monster day (see Skins/Cowboys December 2005)


6) Turnovers - Even though the weather forecast is changing for the better, the Skins still need to focus on ball protection. One of the easiest ways for a heavy favorite to give a game away is by turning it over. If the Skins limit their TO's to zero and stay positive in the turnover ratio, they can win this game.


7) Being Ready to Play - This is the most important factor on Sunday. If the Skins come out hungry, mentally prepared and with an edge, the will dominate this game. If it's the same Redskins team as it was in New York and Minnesota, than the 'Boys will get crushed. Any NFL team would struggle against those Redskins teams. But that's a big "if." The Skins might be in playoff cruise control already and it could prove fatal. This is the ultimate trap game. I know Coach Joe will do everything to get them ready, I just hope they are.




1) Skins - The Skins put jumbo guard Mike Pucillo on IR so he's done for the season. Todd Yoder was in pads today so he'll probably be available. Mike Sellers will also be ready after that scary play Sunday night. Everyone else should be ready to go.


2) Boys - The Cowboys will definitely be without TO, Ratliff and Gurode and most likely without Terence Newman. The Cowboys will get Terry Glenn back (he's missed all season) and he'll probably start alongside Patrick Crayton.


By the Numbers (I gotta get you guys a little hopped up)


61-23 - Coach Joe's career December record


2005 - The last time the Skins had a four game winning streak. That year the Skins advanced to the post season.


2 - The number of playoff appearances the Skins have had since Joe Gibbs retired after the 1992-1993 season.


9 of 15 (60%) - Years in which the Washington Redskins have made the playoffs under Joe Gibbs


11 of 55 (20%) - Years in which the Washington Redskins have made the playoffs under every other coach.


5-0 - Coach Joe's record in the wild card round.


1982 - The last time the Redskins faced the Cowboys in the playoffs.


Prediction - The Redskins are going to make us nervous - they always do. Whether its a slow start out of the gate or hitting the late 3rd quarter wall, they make us sweat. On a cold winter day against the arch-rivals on national TV, I can't imagine the Skins make it that easy on us. But as they did on New Year's 05 and as they've been doing throughout this magical run, the Skins will prevail when they're backs are to the wall. At some point on Sunday, the game will turn into a celebration of 75 years of Redskins football (I just don't know exactly when). Redskins 28  Cowboys 10


Pump Up Video - Make sure to watch this 5 times before Sunday at 4:15.


Parting Shot - If you're going to the game on Sunday, please be loud. FedEx Field usually sounds like a hotel lobby - under these circumstances, that'd be a terrible shame. Get jacked up and bring em' out, baby!!!!!



Friday, December 21, 2007

2 Down, 2 to Go: Volume 2, Issue 18

Braves on the Warpath,

First let me say that I was even nervous writing this Skins Serv. Do you know what its like writing a Skins Serv with so much on the line? Coming up with a title that captures the spirit of a late December playoff run? Not so easy.  I hope I didn't fail you, the reader (hineni aneni).


Again, like last week, I think its only fair that we first show some appreciation to the burgundy and gold. What a group of guys on this squad. For all the issues that you may have had this year with the coaches, players and those in the front office, you must put those things aside now and just admire how hard this team has fought, how much resilience they have shown and how much they have raised their games with their back against the wall (more cliches welcome). Most teams would have curled up and crawled home after what the Skins have been through, but not this team. If there was ever a football team you could really love, it is this 2007 edition of Washington's Warriors. No NFL team has as much heart as these guys have.


This team came out on Sunday night in a hostile environment, in a place they never win, in terrible conditions, and put together their best overall effort of the season. The simply wanted it more than the Giants and it showed on both sides of the ball. The Skins were the hungrier team - fighting for that extra yard and stopping the Giants on many crucial 3rd and 4th and one situations.


I don't know if the Skins can keep up their energy levels and come out with the same ferocity as they did Sunday night, but if they do, than many NFC teams will have a hard time stopping them - not just the Vikings.


So what now? Well for starters, the Skins play in their biggest game since January 2005. It is the biggest game on the NFL docket this week, and again, it is in front of a national TV audience. The playoffs are on the line and the season's on the line. It will either be the heartbreaking ending to a tragic season or step three of this most magical, most improbable playoff run.


And what stands in the way? The Skins must go on the road again, must go into a very loud and hostile dome and must stop the hottest team in football. Who, by the way, have the most prolific running attack in the league and are the best at stopping the run. And the Skins ask their 36 year old, 2nd string quarterback to lead them again. They are going to need a little more than karma to win this week.


But let me also say that this isn't an impossible task. This isn't Foxboro in October. The Skins can win this game. Only 3 more days until we find out if they will.


One game at a time,






The Skinny 

Skins Serv ran some serious numbers this week. Tracked many patterns and tendencies. Even did an algorithm or two. And guess what? I came up with the same thing everyone else has. But I'll break it down for you anyway. Before I do, I need to make light of a couple of things from this past Sunday.


1) Gameball to Silver Spring Skins - Great showing Sunday night by Skins Servers on the road. It is the first time I can remember that Skins fans and the Skins players brought it equally for a game. Kudos all around.


2) Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Lorenzo Alexander - If there is one person you can thank for the Skins turnaround, it is number 79. Who? The second year man out of California - who wasn't on the active roster last year and wasn't supposed to be this year either - is having an impact on three sides of the ball. Alexander is a special teams whiz, can also be found stuffing the run as a D-Tackle, but most importantly, is now the front man on many of Dolla Bill's scampers. Lets go to the video tape...Alexander is skyrocketing up the Skins depth chart. Going from defense to back up offensive line to extra tight end in jumbo sets to now his latest role, starting right guard! Yes, the coaches have plugged the more athletic, more mobile Alexander into right guard in many of the Skins running packages because of his ability to pull block and get out in front of running plays. The Skins are still lining up Fabini on the majority of downs, but if you go back and look at CP's biggest runs Sunday night, he was following Alexander's lead. This is a major turn of events in the Skins offense and running game, which has been suffering since losing Randy Thomas (one of the best pull blockers in the game).


3) A Healthy Tana Goes a Long Way - You just can't overstate how important Santana is to this offense. His big play ability forces corners and safeties to drop back, which either leaves openings in the running game or leaves the middle of the field wide open for guys like Cooley. The Vikings run defense is great because their corners pinch up on the edges and stop the outside runs. If Santana can have some early success down field, this will force the Minnesota corners to play further back and out of the running game. Santana should also get props for two spectacular sideline catches on Sunday night - both of which lead to scores.


4) CP!!!! - You know I have to give a shout out to CP for his performance last week. I am sick of people saying the guy is washed up. He was shot out of a cannon on most runs Sunday night. Give this guy some space and some creases and he'll get you lots of yards (the turf helps too).


5) Smoooooot - 2-7 might be playing the best football of his career over the past three games. I was seriously down on Smootsie at the beginning of the season. He was giving too much cushion, was getting beat under and over, and couldn't stay out on the field for an entire four quarters. It's a different Smoot now. He's playing much more physically, staying with receivers at all depths of the field and breaking up plays or wrapping up his man immediately after the catch. Smoot shut down Plaxico Sunday night, as Greg Williams kept Smoot on Burress man-to-man for the entire game (usually the Skins corners play a specific side of the field). One play in particular jumps out - in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Giants threatening to cut it to five, Manning sent Plax deep into the corner on a fade. Smoot stuck with Burress and timed his jump perfectly, knocking the ball out of bounds. If Smoot can be trusted to man up this week, it will go a long way in letting everyone else on the defense focus on stopping the run.



1A) Stopping Peterson -  In the Vikings 8 victories they have gained an average of 190 yards on the ground. Their smallest total in victory was 125 yards on the ground. In the Vikings six losses their running yards per game was a mere 121 yards per game. Quite simply, this team wins on the ground. If the Skins can contain the run and force the Vikings to convert first downs through the air, the Skins have a great shot. I will put the magic number at 120 rushing yards. If the Skins can hold the Vikes rushing attack to 120 yards on the ground, they win.


It's a lot easier said than done. The Vikings running offense, which is best in the NFL, is lead up front by pro bowl center Matt Birk and left guard Steve Hutchinson. These two guys are the best in the game in their positions. The Vikings also have veteran lead blocker Tony Richardson (also a pro bowler) and left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who is also as good as anyone in the league.


What this means is that the Skins defensive right side, Andre Carter, Anthony Montgomery and linebacker HB Blades, are going to have to put in their best efforts of the season. Randall Godfrey, who is better suited to stop the run, might spell Blades in that role. The Skins might also be concerned about Carter, who isn't as effective against the run - look for Peterson to run right at 99. It is possible the Skins might go to some five man fronts, bringing in Kedric Golston to help support Carter and Montgomery on the right side. No matter which personnel make up the formations, the Skins must keep the line of scrimmage packed with defenders: they must get Reed Doughty playing at the line and must get their corners pinching the edges. This will take a great effort from all 11 men on defense - but at least the Skins don't have to worry about being burned on the pass, because Jackson just won't be able to do it.


The Vikings have the 30th best passing offense in the league -which is even more pathetic than the number indicates considering how much the play action should help them. Despite the great ground attack, they're still inept in the air. Stop the run - win the game.


1B) ToddBall - Just like the Vikes are the best at running the ball, they are also the best at stopping the run. The number one run defense is led by pro bowl nose tackle Pat Williams (317 pounds) and pro bowl tackle Kevin Williams (311 pounds). The Vikings are also anchored up the middle by LB EJ Henderson who comes in with 105 tackles on the year. The Vikings run defens is also supported by LB Chad Greenway (88 tackles) and by great run stopping from their top cornerback Antoine Winfield  (67 tackles).


Amazingly though, the Vikings compliment their run defense with the worst pass defense in the league. If you consider that teams look at many pass-only downs against the Vikings because of how successful their run stopping is, to be dead last in pass defense is truly horrendous. The Vikes know the pass is coming and they can't stop it anyway. In the Vikings six losses, opponents have averaged 307 yards through the air while only mustering 77 yards on the ground.


The Skins are going to have to air the ball out. There is no other way to do it. The Vikes haven't given up more than 130 yards on the ground and we shouldn't expect anything different this week. The Vikings will likely be without their best corner Winfield (who has a pecs strain), so their corners and safeties will be vulnerable. Santana and Randle El are playing at full speed so they will be able to spread out the field and open space up for Cooley - who you can expect to have a huge game this week. The Vikings have run-stopping LBs, who will be more focused on staying in the box than pass coverage.


I can't stress how important Collins will be in this game. His timing, his accuracy, his ability to control the offense in a loud environment will all be huge. He's going to have to make lots of plays and pass for TDs.


If the passing game is successful early, Portis might have some room to work with. Especially if he can run effectively to the right side behind Alexander. Running left at Greenway, Henderson and those tackles will be tough, but if CP can get to the outside on the right, and force Winfield's rookie replacement to make plays, he might have some success. But only if the pass sets it up first.


2) No Turnovers - In the Vikings five game winning streak, they are plus 8 turnovers, but more importantly have scored 4 touchdowns off of turnovers. The Skins cannot afford to let the Vikings play on short fields and even more so, cannot let them score defensive points. If the Vikings are able to get a single defensive score, this thing will be over. Collins must make great decisions and guys like Portis and Moss cannot afford mental lapses that have hurt this team throughout this campaign.


3) Scoring First - I know the Skins have been very susceptible to blowing leads this year, but in this case, they have to take that risk. The Skins need to score first to win this game. Yes, I'm convinced the biggest play of the game might be the opening coin toss. I am usually pretty adamant about the Skins receiving in the second half, but I will make an exception this time. The Skins have to get the ball and have to score. Because the Vikings are such a running powerhouse, they are not as comfortable playing from behind. They have scored first in 6 of their eight wins, and in four of the five games in this winning streak. In the Vikings six losses, they only held the opening lead twice. If the Skins can somehow get early points (which they usually do), it will be much tougher for Jackson to orchestrate a comeback by handing the ball off.



1) Winfield - If Winfield doesn't play, this could be a huge plus for the Skins. Winfield gives them shutdown capability on the outside and is tremendous at run stopping. If Winfield doesn't play than Rookie Marcus McCaulley would fill in. With second year man Cedric Griffin (0 Ints) lining up on the other side, the Skins will have to take advantage of these matchups.


2) Sydney Rice - The Vikings will definitely be without their number two receiver Sydney Rice. The loss of  Rice, who is Minnesota's biggest down field threat, will help the Skins secondary focus even more on run stopping. The Vikes will likely line up with Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson (who didn't see a snap last week).


3) Rocky - I don't think the Skins will feel the loss of Rocky this week as much as they will throughout next year. It is unclear how much time Rocky will miss, but by most indications, this ACL/MCL tear will keep him off the field for a while. Because the Vikings don't have great pass-catching TE's, HB Blades and Godfrey will be able to focus on run stopping - hopefully the rook and the savvy vet will be able to make some plays.


4) Griff - Griffin hurt his hand Sunday night and was benched in the second half. Griffin will start this Sunday, however, JLC seemed to indicate that Griffin's benching might have signaled a changing of the guard on the Skins D line. I would expect the Skins front four next year to be Montgomery, Golston, Carter and a new end to replace Daniels.


By The Numbers (meant to get you jacked up)

28-42: The Combine Record of the Vikings opponents in their five game winning streak. If you take out the Giants victory (which Eli handed to them on a platter) than that record goes to 19-37. In their run, the Vikes barely edged out the Raiders at home and had the benefit of a INT TD in the first place from scrimmage against the 49ers. The Skins will pose as their toughest test in the last 6 weeks.


60-23: Joe Gibbs career record in December.


5-0: Joe Gibbs career record at the Metrodome (including Super Bowl 26). The last time Gibbs coached at the Metrodome was a 10-7 wild card playoff win in 1992.



As usual this game comes down to the wire. The Skins break a tie game half way through the fourth quarter and then the defense makes a huge stand. Finally, the offense slams the door on the game after converting two first downs through the air.

Redskins 23 Vikings 20


Parting Shot

I don't think Skins Serv has done a good enough job expressing the excitement and appreciation I have over the Redskins current situation. For this team to be playing meaningful games with playoff-like atmospheres this late in the season is something Redskins fans aren't usually privy to. 1999 and 2005 were it for this generation. Somehow this year we get to be part of something special again - at least for one more week. Soak it all up.




PS - for those who need some Skins vids to get the blood flowing before 8:15 Sunday, try this: 

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Meadowlands Miracle?: Volume 2, Issue 17

Braves on the Warpath,

As we approach the holiday season, I think we must show some appreciation to our beloved Redskins. Despite a myriad of heart breakers, a four-game losing streak during the stretch run, the death of a star player and a roster full of severe injuries, our Skins have still given us reason to hope with three weeks left to play. I can write proudly, albeit hesitantly, that when the Skins lace them up on this Sunday, December 16th, in front of a national TV audience, they will actually be playing for something. That is more than we could have ever asked for in this, the most tumultuous year in franchise history.


So what are there chances? Honestly, not so good. But that doesn't bother me or keep me from hoping. In fact, because the Skins situation looks so dire on paper, I have more reason to believe they could pull it off. You see, so many weeks of this season I have felt that the Skins should have beaten teams. And in most those weeks, the Skins have outplayed their opponent and still lost. Karma, my friends, Karma. The Skins had awful karma for most of this 07 campaign and it has always bit them at the most inopportune times. Games they should have won, they ended up losing (citations unnecessary and inappropriate).


But since last Thursday, I believe the Skins Karma has done a 180. This entire country, not just those of us in DC, are pulling for our boys. We are the true underdog story - and you know what, I think we should relish in it. Our franchise player goes down with a season-ending injury, and the Skins still overcome the odds to beat the Bears with a guy who hasn't started in 10 years (in the same week they lose on a heartbreak and all attend a funeral in Miami).


And there was much more to this story. In that same Bears game, CP overcame stomach poisoning, Shawn Springs fought severe back pain and Fred Smoot escaped the Skins training room (Jack Bauer style) and got back on the field for the end of the game. This team showed heart, grit and character and actually pulled out a tight one. Karma's starting to turn (or at least they remembered how to win).


And if you look at our opponent, they are eerily similar to us, yet still diametrically opposite. They have a very strong defense, a lackluster, underachieving offense and an ole' coach. Yet the Giants, unlike the Skins, have overcome poor performance after poor performance and squeaked out close games against inferior opponents. That's exactly what the Skins couldn't do this year.


Here are some numbers to chew on: in games decided by 8 points or less, the Skins are 5-6 this year (including all four games in their four game losing streak). The Giants, on the other hand, are 5-0 in games decided by 8 or less, including pulling out tight games in their last four victories. The opponents in those games had a combine record of 16-36. The Giants, despite playing less than mediocre, have found ways to win. The Skins, on the other hand, have found ways to lose. And we must look back to September to see when this trend started. Remember, it was week 3 when the Skins blew a 10 point lead to the Giants and couldn't get into the end zone on the game's final play. Hopefully the Skins reverse both teams trends and pull off the upset.


And so here we have it, with three games left the Skins have an opportunity to turn this thing around. Yes, their QB hasn't started since I was a sophomore in high school. Yes, the Skins haven't won in the Meadowlands since Gibbs took the helm. Yes, the team is decimated with injuries and is even more vulnerable going into a cold and snowy Giant stadium. But maybe, just maybe (in William Wallace "Braveheart" voice), karma will be good to the Skins this week and Sunday will be the start of a magical ride.


So need to discuss scenarios. It's all about one week at a time here. Win and move on.


Keep Prayin',





The Skinny 


1) Hello Goodbye, Hello Goodbye - You catch Randy Thomas on the field for two series on Thursday? Yup - that was ole 77 all right. Poor Randy fell on the arm a couple of times and realized he wasn't close to ready. Our best lineman is now on the shelf for good. Hopefully he'll be ready for OTAs in March. It's Scrubini time. God help CP.


2) Heyer V. Strahan - Saw an unnerving stat this morning. I can't remember the exact numbers, but it went a little something like this: When Todd Collins was a starter in Buffalo in the mid-90's he was sacked a lot. Saw a different stat that also sent chills down the spine: the Giants lead the league in sacks by 6. Eish.


And to make matters worse, the Skins have undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer manning up Michael Strahan on the outside this week. Let me just say that Heyer has filled in admirably for Jon Jansen and Todd Wade this year. Heyer is a huge boy and will be a big wall for Strahan to get around, but his technique and footwork are still very raw, and the savvy vet will find a way to get around the rook. The Skins are going to be asking Yoder, Cooley, Sellers and CP to chip on Strahan and with Samuels having to deal with another great rusher in Umenyiora on the other side, Collins could be in for a long day.


3) Watch for the Giants Scheme - I'm really not sure how the Giants will approach Collins. I assume it will be a constant mix of pass and run blitzing. The Giants, as all other teams have done against the Skins, are going to plug the gaps with their 3 LBs and make sure Portis can't get past the line of scrimmage. The Giants might also bring up their safeties and throw some all-out blitzes at Collins, hoping to rattle him early and force him to make mistakes. The Giants are going to try to make sure this game is played at the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether Collins drops back to pass or hands it to CP.


4) What do the Skins do- Part 1 - The Skins are going to have to take shots up field, and many of them. If the Giants are going to have 7 and 8 men fronts coming at CP and Collins, the Skins will get man-to-man opportunities on the outside. Both Moss and Randle El should be able to get open space against aging corner Sam Madison and inexperienced rookie Aaron Ross. Unfortunately, the weather conditions and the swirling winds will make throwing the ball much tougher for the weak-armed Collins, who might have trouble finessing the ball to the Skins WRs.


5) What do the Skins do - Part 2 - The Skins other hope to win this game is to marginalize Collins's roll. That means do all the other things well. 1) Get to Eli - the Skins have to make Eli throw off his back foot. Eli is rattled by pressure and makes lots of mistakes. If the Skins can win the turnover battle and play on shorter fields than they'll have a chance. 2) No TOs - even if the Skins offense is stagnant, they can still keep the game close if they don't turn the ball over. In every big loss this year (especially on the road), turnovers have killed them. If they can somehow avoid it completely this week, they might be ok. 3) Special Teams - I know its hackneyed, but if the Skins can steal yards on kicks and have good coverage, they could find a formula for winning in this environment 4) Running the ball - the Skins are going to keep it on the ground, especially in inclement weather. If somehow CP can find some holes and get some push, it will ease the pressure under center. 5) Collins can help himself by combating blitzing with effective hot routes and screen passes. Just like the Betts TD late Thursday, if Collins can remain unflappable and find open under guys, maybe the Skins will be able to move the ball a little but.


6) The Weather - You gotta assume the bad weather helps the home team. Giants stadium is hard enough to play in for the Skins, but having to face a potential ice storm could make it worse. On the other hand, inclement weather could even the playing field. Eli Manning isn't exactly a bright dude, and maybe he'll make some mistakes and turn the ball over even more than he does already. It's also possible that the cold and icy conditions can marginalize guys like Plaxico, Brandon Jacobs and Antonio Pierce who all have been nursing injuries and might be averse to doing some things in wet conditions. If the weather is as bad as they're predicting, this game will come down to holding onto the football. Remember Green Bay? That cannot happen. If the Skins are the benefactors of Giants turnovers, than their fortunes could change. But it could easily go the other way also.


7) Huge for the Giants - Something else that concerns me about this game is how big it has become for the Giants. Forget our scenarios for a second. If the Giants somehow lose to the Skins than they have to face going up to Buffalo and playing New England at home in order to make that last playoff spot. If the Skins, Vikings and Giants all finish 9-7 (which is possible), the Giants would be left on the outside. They realize how badly they need this game.


8) Injuries - Skins will likely get James Thrash back but might not have Philip Daniels. Heyer's in for Wade and there's nothing else of concern to report. Also of note - ARE is the third string QB.


9) Prediction - I'll be there and many of you readers will be there. All I can predict is a jolly ole' good time. Snow. Cold. NFC East Grudge Match. Impossible to predict. This thing can go any which way.



Thursday, December 6, 2007

Putting the Pain in Perspective: Volume 2, Issue 16

"Shver tsu zayn a Redskins Fan"  - Scott E. Zakheim, 12/2/07, 4:15PM ET         


For Those Still Reading,

Let me first start by saying that I understand the pain felt from Sean Taylor's tragic death in incomparable to any feelings rendered by a football team's success or failure. That being said, Skins Serv must go forward this week, and as inconsequential and meaningless as it may appear in light of Sean dying, I feel I must try to contextualize how awful the last four weeks have been on a football front.


Quite simply, 2007 has become a total nightmare.


Somehow, someway, a season that started with such great hope, has slipped away in just one month. But the Skins 07 undoing did not happen decisively, a self-destructing of monumental proportions due to the oppositions blitzkriegs, but instead, in the most torturous and twisted way possible: 4 winnable games, 3 blown leads, 4 opportunities to win or seal a win with in the last offensive possessions. 0 victories.


If your memory is a bit rusty right now - let me jog it for you.


Philadelphia 11/11 (The Skins are 5-3): The Redskins blow a 9-point 4th quarter lead and give up the go-ahead TD after the Redskins settled for a FG after having 1st and Goal from the Eagles 3 yard line (a TD would have given them a 10 point lead with 4 minutes to go).


Dallas 11/18 (The Skins are 5-4): Down 5 points, The Redskins have first and 10 from the Cowboys 19 yard line with under two minutes to go. On 3rd and 10, Jason Campbell is intercepted by Terence Newman to seal the Skins fate. Campbell, who had yards of daylight ahead of him on the play, could have run for a first down and possibly a TD.


Tampa Bay 11/25 (The Skins are 5-5): After laying an egg in the first half, the Redskins, down 6 points, are given two opportunities to win the game inside of 5 minutes. On the first drive, Campbell is intercepted by Ronde Barber at the Bucs 28 yard line (with just under 4 to go), and on the ensuing Redskins drive, with 25 ticks left, Campbell is again picked - this time in the end zone.


Buffalo 12/2 (The Skins are 5-6 and still very alive): The Redskins blow a 8-point fourth quarter lead and had an opportunity to run the clock out on the game with a single first down. Unable to convert, the Redskins gave the Bills the ball back with 56 seconds left down 2 points. We all know what happened from there. 


Looking at it from strictly a football perspective, the last four weeks might have been the most painstaking weeks in the history of the Redskins franchise (pretty shocking considering everything else the Skins have had to cope with).


Be a lousy team and tank it for four games - fine. Get blown away by superior opponents - fine, I can handle that too. But to play tight games over the course of a month and have a good chance to win them all and not come away with one single victory? No team deserves that. Not even a high-priced, big-market team with a sometimes-greedy owner.


I'd venture to say that these last four might be the toughest stretch of losses for any team in this league's history. Most teams who lose heart-breakers fold at some point, so getting the opportunity to lose four straight in this manner rarely comes around. There's usually a blow-out or two mixed in. To the Skins credit, they've hung tough. Unfortunately for them and us, the pain of all this losing and they way they're doing it is just too much. Enough already - I'm too old to cry this much.


Mix in the fact that these players are coping with Taylor's loss, and even the biggest Redskins haters are sympathetic to the run of bad luck this team has hit. It's official - November 2007 has transformed the Redskins from the obnoxious underachievers to the lovable losers. Uch.


But the Skins have a caught a break - yes, despite everything that's gone wrong, the Skins are somehow only one game out of the playoffs with four games to go. And they have an opportunity to hold the tiebreak on every single team vying against them for that last spot. Of course, after all that has befallen this team in recent days, I'm not saying they'll take advantage of the opportunity. But what I am saying is that for tonight, they're still in it. And if they can pull out a victory, then they'll be in it for another 10 days (that would at least keep us hoping till 12/15 at 8:15 PM). Meaningful games, people - that's all I'm asking for at this point.


Yair sent me along a tidbit from a previous Skins Serv and I thought I'd be a nice way to end the preamble today:


"Parting Shot: Sean Taylor - Sean is finally becoming the player we all dreamed of when the Skins drafted him. He's hitting, he's intercepting, he's covering, he's limiting stupid penalties and he's becoming the leader of the defense. The guy has not let anything behind him yet and when it looks like he does, he breaks to the ball and stops the play. I know he got roused in the media for dropping 3 potential picks, but that kind of thing comes with time - the more opportunities he gets the more relaxed he'll be when the ball's in his hands. ST is in all the right places - he has defenses scared to throw deep and scared to throw over the middle. I wouldn't want to have any other safety in the league playing back there. If the Skins manage to sneak into the playoffs, he'll get major votes for defensive MVP."


Hang in There,





The Skinny (This'll Be Quick)


1) Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Baaaaack - If there was ever going to be a game where the Skins might have some offensive romance explosion, this would be it. Tonight will be the healthiest this team has looked all year. Randy Thomas, yes Randy Thomas, will be starting at right guard (cause anything else would be uncivilized). Mike Sellars will be back lead blocking for Mr. Portis. And my boy from Indiana, ARE, will be back lining up as the number 2.


2) More on Thomas - I was thinking today that if you broke the offensive playing field down into four quadrants (bare with me) - pass right, pass left, run right, run left - then the defense has a 25% chance of picking what area of the field the offensive play will be going to. Now (this is where it gets good) the Redskins, who are usually averse to throwing the ball at all (see Buffalo second half), give opponents an easier time guessing as they eliminate half the field off the bat. It's either run left or run right -50/50. Now (the kicker), once Randy Thomas went down, the Redskins had only one choice when calling plays - run left! That means defenses never had to guess and could stack all their defenders on the short left side of the field. I know I've simplified things a bit and appear sarcastic, but if you watch games, I couldn't be more right. Buffalo was actually keeping 7-8 men in on every play and pushing all their defensive momentum to the right. Results: CP - 2.0 YPC, Redskins lose. With Thomas back, opposing D's are back to a 50/50 guess, and heck, if they decide to throw the ball than it's back to 25%-  just like everyone else.


3) Stop Hester - I assumed Suisham crappy kicks on Sunday were in preparation for Hester. Kick it out of bounds or to the front men and let Sexy Rexy beat you. If Hester touches the ball, look for me to come out of the stands to make a play - somebody has got to stop this guy (like a Hawk and a Chihuahua).


4) Rex Scares Me - When I approach a game, I like to know what I'm getting into. With Brian Griese at the helm, you know you're gonna get a watered down, ball control offense that limits mistakes - he won't beat you but won't let you beat him. With Rexy, although he's prone to make a lot of mistakes, he's also got a rocket arm and the ability to beat you deep on every play. Rexy was a hair off on three or four deep throws to Berrian that could have buried the Giants - they connect on those tonight and we're in trouble.


5) JC: Stop Giving Up the Ball - JC is starting to worry me. On Sunday I noticed a lot of sloppy footwork, happy feet, and of course, a lack of ball protection. We are on the verge of a major turnover crisis here, and it must end tonight! Jason's gotta feel pressure, has to know when to tuck the ball and has to make better decisions. The Skins cannot afford to let teams play on short fields - the offense isn't strong enough to recover.


6) My Boy Bro Sweets - CP deserves better than this. The Bills shot every gap on Sunday. There were zero holes, zero push and zero places for 2-6 to run. The guy's still got young legs and he needs something to work with. I hope Thomas and Sellars open some lanes - Dolla Bill needs to go over 100 tonight if they're gonna win.


7) Prediction - Tight game all the way. Defense dominated and ball control oriented. Typical NFC winter stuff. Redskins have the ball at the end with a chance to win the game...lets see what happens this time.



Friday, November 30, 2007

R.I.P 21: Volume 3, Issue 15

Skins Servers,

Most everything that can be discussed about this awful tragedy has been discussed, and most everything that can be reported has been reported, so I will not use this forum to discuss Sean's life, the horrific magnitude of the tragedy, and the nightmarish consequences for the people that he leaves behind - that would only add to our, and frankly, I don't think I can read, write, listen or watch much more about this senseless story. It is far too depressing.


Instead, I would like to address something else that has been weighing on my mind over these last tumultuous days, and honestly, has been eating at me more than anything else. That is figuring out why this is so hard on all of us. I understand that emotions cannot be justified or explained - every man deals with pain and anguish differently and there is no such thing as a correct emotion -  yet, somehow this fan base, this city and even this nation grieves harder and more passionately over Sean than for other tragic events that befall us on a daily basis.


For the hours that I have spent in a cloud  thinking about Sean's great potential, his growth as a person, his being a great father and teammate, I spent as many hours trying to figure out why I was so upset.


Most of us have never met Sean Taylor, never knew him on a personal level, never really understood his persona and many, it seems, even questioned his demeanor. Yet we mourn, we cry, we sit still in shock, we turn to our loved ones for support and answers. This isn't 9/11, this isn't Pearl Harbor. Sean wasn't someone we could touch or lean on, he wasn't our own flesh and blood who had been stricken with cancer, leukemia or a heart attack - our mother, father, sister or brother - never to be seen again. Yet we all lost our breath, we all waited in anguish on Monday, we all lost a part of us when we heard the news on Tuesday, and we all still mourn for the passing of someone we barely knew. Why?


A few answers have come to my mind and I will share them all with you. You may think some of these answers are weird and over-the-top,  you may relate to some, and some of these answers might hit on a feeling you haven't been able to put your finger on this whole week. These are in no particular order:


1) Sean Taylor was a 24 year old human being. There is nothing wrong with weeping over the loss of human life, yet alone someone so young with so much potential for greatness professionally and personally. Sean Taylor was just a baby. Still learning the world, learning about himself and changing every day. As many of us who grind through those same struggles, those same growing pains, hoping to one day get "it" right, it is unfair to see someone who will never realize his full maturation. That is terribly sad.


2) In my life football is a constant. It is something I can depend on and know is always there. I spend months looking forward to it in the off season and 6 days looking forward to it during the season. Every autumn Sunday for over 75 years football has been there for America, if and when we needed it. For that three hour break, for that escape from everyday life, for a tailgate party with our family or a pile-on with our friends after a big touchdown - Football is always there. And for the last four years, Sean Taylor was part of football's dependability. We all got used to seeing Sean, we all expected him to play ferociously and always knew he was putting himself on the line for us, the fans of the burgundy and gold. Every home game we had the pleasure of seeing Sean's Samsonian body up close and personal, cheered for him, screamed for him and made him our own. And now he will no longer be there. Football is no longer dependable.


2) As I touched on above, Football is America's great escape. Football is the greatest way for me to shut the real world out. No wars, no tragedy, no trauma, no sorrow, no terrorist threats, no fear of death. . A Sunday without stress, a tough week at work made easier because of the ability to look forward to Sunday. Football lets many of us shut out the world and put our unused, built-up emotion, aggression and passion into a football team we come to care so much about. And then, with one piece of news, the wicked world that we use football to ignore rears its ugly head - sabotaging the game that is supposed to protect us from it. When Sean died, football became real for me. It was no longer a hideaway, a safe haven, no longer a fantasy land. Football became another depressing tale on the 6oclock news: a soldiers never coming home from battle, a child being murdered on the street and wild men with guns running amok on our nations streets. When Sean Taylor died where were we supposed to turn? What means could we use to seek refuge and tuck the emotions deep down to deal with it later? We were left to turn to nothing, and instead forced to engross ourselves in the tragedy that befell Sean, his family and the Redskins. We had to deal with this harsh world it because our fantasy world had been hijacked, it had become real.


3) Many of us are die-hard Redskins fans. That's the bottom line. I, like many of you, make the team my own, make the team like my family. You build a bond with the players that wear your colors and you familiarize yourselves with them as much as possible. You learn what they're like, you get glimpses of their personality, you expect certain things from them when you watch them on TV. Sean become a part of our sports family. We grew close to him in our own ways: we cheered for him, wore his jersey, bragged on him to our friends. All these things made the pain of losing him that much worse.


4) Similarly, we feel pain for those who must now pick up the pieces. For Sean's family, his fiancee, his orphan child. And we probably feel those emotions even more for the Redskins players, Sean's teammates - because they're the ones we know. We never want to see our heroes weep, we never want to worry over their mental state. They are the ones who ease our worried minds, and now we worry over theirs.


5) Sean as a superhero. It's possible something like this is so hard on us because Sean epitomized the indestructibility of an athlete. He was the strongest and he was the scariest. Every player feared him. He was an immortal.


6) Personally, I found this so hard because over the years Sean brought us Redskins fans great joy. We high-fived after his hits, hugged after his interceptions, and screamed his name after a 3 and out. Even more poignant was thinking about the fact that Sean brought us Skins fans two of our happiest sports moments over the last 15 years. In Philadelphia, on new years eve 2005, Sean swoops in like an angel from above and picks up a fumble, gracefully carrying the ball to the end zone and clinching a playoff spot for the Redskins (I was there with my family and friends, and I believe that was the happiest moment of my sports life. I don't know if we'll ever recapture those feelings). And then, just one week later, Sean did it again, as if he was almost destined to, and his TD lead the Skins to a playoff win. Now these memories are tarnished, now they are bittersweet. 

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wake Up, It's Cowboys Week: Volume 2, Issue 13

"Do you believe in miracles???...Yes!!!"           

- Al Michaels, 2/22/80


"Do we need a huge won???...Yes!!!"

- Scott Zakheim, 11/16/07


Cowboy Hunters,

First, let me just say that for the first time in recent memory, there is zero buzz in this city over Cowboys week. It's truly sad. And well, maybe it's justified. The Skins are three games behind the Cowboys for the division, they will play without their best defensive player, their top outside weapon (again), and are coming off what amounts to the most egregious home defeat this decade (and we all know there have been many). The Cowboys, on the other hand, are white hot. Their offense is a juggernaut, Tony Romo has solidified himself as a top-5 NFL Quarterback and Terrell Owens is the most intimidating receiving threat in the league (and we haven't mentioned how good Marion Barber is). Their defense is 5th in the league against the run and have a fierce pass rush led by DeMarcus Ware. And oh yeah, they've just come off convincing road victories against the Eagles and Giants - two NFC East foes we couldn't take care of at home. The Boys are true Super Bowl Contenders.


On the flip side, the proverbial poopie is hitting the fan at Redskins Park. The Skins were six feet away from taking an insurmountable lead with five minutes to play on Sunday, and in a heartbeat were down eight points and looking at 1-2 in the division. Coach Joe, who has never taken so much heat from the media in his entire career, nearly got into fisticuffs with the DC locals at his Monday presser. Santana Moss and his bummed heel couldn't even bring themselves to watch practice yesterday. James Thrash, coming off a two TD performance, is on crutches. Sean Taylor is out for three weeks. And even Brandon Lloyd, who was penciled to be the number three this week, broke his clavicle on the last play of practice yesterday and is now down for the year. Wow. And it's only Thursday! Can it get any worse for the Skins? (Have no fear, Jimmy Farris is here)


Well, to be honest, this dreamer and yellow journalist is revelling in this situation and is about to create a hell of a storyline for my beloved Skinsservers.


The Skins are 10.5 point dogs, DC couldn't care less about this game, the Skins are losing headlines to a presidential debate in Nevada (where people still don't have the right to vote), and the season is slipping from their fingers.  And yes, even though I believe deep in my innards that the Redskins have less of a chance to win this week than they did against the Patriots, they do have one amazing thing going for them: they're playing the Cowboys.


The Blue Stars are great, The Braves are playing poor, They're the Brady Bunch, we're an "E: True Hollywood story" - it just might be the perfect storm.  Remember, after about a 10-year lull in joyous Skins Cowboys games, the last two years have been blissful. Do I need to remind you about Tana's 2 TD's in two minutes in 2005? Or Troy Vincent's block last year? The Skins have won 3 out of the last 4 of these matchups and shocked the world twice. This rivalry has become a true rivalry again, and just like the old days, the team who isn't supposed to win, usually wins. A Cowboys fan said something interesting to me today "If the Skins can keep it close, I'm really nervous. Anything can happen, it's the Redskins." They're actually scared of us! If for no other reason than the fact that our boys will be wearing the burgundy and gold.


So yes, on paper they should get creamed. But that never makes a damn bit of difference when indians go hunting for cowboys.


Don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys,




In Case You Don't Believe Me, Here's 25 Years of Proof


1) 12/5/1982 - The Skins, the eventual Super Bowl champs, are shocked at home by the Boys 24-10. Joe Theismann is sacked 7 times.


2) 9/5/1983 - The Cowboys come back from 20 points after halftime to beat the defending champs 31-30 in the season opener at RFK on Monday Night Football.


3) 11/5/89 - The Cowboys, who finished the season 1-15, get their lone win at RFK against a playoff-bound Redskins team, 13-3.


4) 11/24/91 - The Skins, who came in undefeated (11-0), lose to the Cowboys at home thanks in large part to an Alvin Harper-caught Hail Mary just before halftime. As we all know, the Skins went on to with the big one.


5) 12/13/92 - The Redskins come up with a miracle at home, defeating the eventual Superbowl champs, 20-17, thanks to a sack-6 of Troy Aikman in the Washington end zone late in the fourth quarter.


6) 9/6/93 - Fittingly, the Redskins quickly took down the Super Bowl champs in the season opener, crushing Dallas 35-16 at home. The Skins went on to a 4-12 record and the Cowboys went on to win another Super Bowl.


7) The 1995 Season - The Redskins sweep the Cowboys in a year the Boys lose only two other games in route to another Super Bowl. The Skins only won four other games to finish at 6-10.


8) 9/12/99 - The Redskins blow a 35-14 lead and lose on a Rocket Ishmail OT TD catch, 41-35 in the season opener. The Skins would go on to make the playoffs and the Cowboys would finish at 8-8.


10) 9/18/00 - In a Monday nighter filled with huge expectations for the Skins (they got Deion and co. after making the playoffs), the Skins crumble at home 27-21 to a Cowboys team playing without Troy Aikman. Dallas would go on to win the next 8 out of 9 meetings.


11) 9/18/05 - On ring of honor night in Dallas the Skins go flat, finding themselves down 13-0 with two minutes to go, before Mark Brunell finds Santana Moss in the back of the end zone for a TD on fourth down and then again, just a minute later, for another long TD score. Skins win 14-13. The Skins finish one game ahead of the Cowboys and make the playoffs.


12) 11/5/06 - After missing a potential GW field goal, the Skins block a 35-yard Cowboys FG attempt and Sean Taylor returns the block to the Cowboys 44 yard line plus a 15 yard facemask penalty, setting up a game-winning 47 yarder by Nick Novak.  Redskins 22, Cowboys 19.


Some Additional Thoughts


13) If They Lose - Losing in Dallas does not mean an end to the season by any stretch. A loss (or a win) would still set up a huge tilt in Tampa next week (who, by the way, have somehow  become our other true rivals). I figure Tampa, New Orleans and Detroit to be our biggest #6 seed competitors, having a tiebreaker on 2 of 3 teams is huge. If we beat Tampa and head home to face Buffalo and Chicago, we're still looking pretty good for the post season.


14) Williams, not Gibbs, Should be Getting Slammed -

Gibbs has been getting killed for the third down call and the timeout situation. I believe that the offense actually turned a corner on Sunday and looked good for four quarters (for the first time all year). Gibbs should get credit for that and some of the blame for the debacle should go elsewhere.


Sometimes my natural Sunday commentary is curbed by the time Thursday rolls around, but one lingering criticism I had while at the game still resonates: why the heck didn't we blitz McNabb? We payed him way too much respect. The guy's accuracy is terrible, he has limited threats on the outside and does not escape the blitz like he used to. And yet, the Skins sat back and didn't force the issue at all. One specific play, a 3rd and 21, late in the third quarter could have been a huge momentum changer in the game, instead of blitzing, the Skins gave McNabb all day to convert a 20 yard pass, and gave up a QB sneak for the first down on the next play to extend the drive. Amazingly, the one time the Skins called for an all-out blitz, the Eagles knew it was coming and set up the screen for the go-ahead score. If you're so scared to blitz because Westbrook will burn you, why not spy him and send everyone else? I just don't get it. The Redskins defensive scheme let them down big time - 25 points was enough to win the game.


15) What do they do on defense?

After shpeiling about how we need to attack more on defense, I will tell you that if I'm scheming a game plan for Dallas, I would only rush three. Blitzing Romo doesn't work. If the Skins rush three and camouflage their coverage schemes, maybe they confuse the guy. The Cowboys love taking big shots and will not alter to the dink and dunk like the Patriots did. TO and company need to be fed the ball downfield and Jason Garrett will find ways to do it. If the Skins drop into coverage (pulling Landry further back in the cover 2 or 3 to help Prioulou on the big stuff) and show some different things than usual, Romo might do something stupid, as he did when Buffalo confused the heck out of him on MNF.  I think Romo is way too good on the run and escapes the rush well so forcing him outside the tackle box will not work.


16) What do they do on offense?

Keep it balanced and stop showing their cards. I wish for one full game, the Skins would only pass on running downs and run on passing downs (except for 3rd and goal at the 7). I really feel CP has the hardest job in football - he's the only back who has to gain yards when everyone in the stadium knows the run is coming. They need to run CP out of spread formations, and on second down and not on first. The no-huddle had the offense moving against the Eagles so they might as well stick to that, although I don't know how affective it will be on the road. Somehow, the Skins will have ARE, Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell in their three receiver sets this week, and I hope that doesn't deter Joe from throwing because the Skins need to keep the Cowboys off balance.Hopefully if Campbell can get hot early then running lanes will open up for CP, similar to how they did against the Eagles (another very good run defense). A CP note - Sunday was the quickest I've seen him run it since he's been here. Choo Choo's really coming along nicely.


17) Injuries -  If you ignore the fact that the Skins lost Taylor, Thrash and Lloyd this week and 'Tana is still hobbled, the injury situation is looking pretty good. The O-line keeps trucking (and is getting better with every week) and the Skins will get Marcus Washington back into the lineup (finally). Fred Smoot didn't have any setbacks with the hammy on Sunday so he should be in better form. On the other side, the Cowboys may not be with their best Guard, Leonard Davis, who hurt his ankle in practice yesterday, and might also be without starting corner Anthony Henry (cross your fingers). BTW - if Taylor plays this game is a different story, and it wouldn't take a miracle to beat them. That's a huge loss.


18) Prediction - No need. They keep it close, they win on a miracle. They go down 2 TD's early, you might as well start watching film on Tampa.



Friday, November 9, 2007

I Hate Haters: Volume 2, Issue 12

"Haters Suck" – Scott Elisha Zakheim, 11/9/07


Mr and Mrs. Halfways,

I first would like to apologize for the interruption to Skins Serv last week. Please don't be misled - it had nothing to do with the Patriots defeat, but was rather a ramification of a severe time crunch due to a Skins Family wedding in Miami this weekend (mazal tov). In fact, I was more driven than ever to write Skins Serv last week, with the majority of my planned missive to be aimed at Redskins fans, and not the Pats game or X's and O's. So here, now, 10 days after the Foxboro Swirly, I would like to comment on a certain breed of Skins fans who have reared their ugly, cowardly, incest-produced faces in the last week and a half: Skins Haters.


I define a Skins hater as someone who uses every opportunity they have to get down on our team. Criticizing coaches, players, the front office and the Funky Four, Skins haters are those who make themselves feel good by pouncing on our beloved heroes as a mere defense mechanism to protect against future losses and a fall in the standings (stupid cowards). And of course, when the Skins come back and prove those haters wrong, they are the first to cheer for the burgundy and gold, buy Redskins performance fleeces, and flaunt the accolades of their amazing team to their friends and loved ones. These type of people make me sick (literally - I had a fever last week).


And, as can be imagined, Skins Haters were out in force last week, literally kicking the Skins while they were down (according to Dave Feldman of WTTG Fox 5, a Skins hater was actually seen punching Santana Moss just outside the Skins Ashburn facility last Monday - typical). Instead of sticking with their guys, their soldiers, their warriors, their flesh and bloods, Skins haters packed it up and went home for the season. Just called it quits. And why not? For heartless deadbeats, it's so much easier. I hope Skins haters don't treat their wives and children the same way, because if they do, divorce rates and orphan cases will skyrocket in the DC area.


So the Skins got run out of town by the Patriots? Big freaking deal. Who hasn't? I know 52-7 is astronomical, but please consider the fact that they were lining up David Macklin, Leigh Torrence and Pierson Prielou against Moss, Stallworth and Welker - was that really going to work? But never mind excuses - the Skins lost to what possibly could be the greatest team ever. Does that mean the defense is bad? Nope. Does that mean CP's career is over? Nope. Does that mean the Skins can't be one of the best teams in the NFC? You got it - no.


And when those evil haters peered their disgusting heads again after the Jets victory, I hope you punched them in the mouth, kneed them in the balls and sent back to hibernation until Norv Turner is coaching here again. Why? Because despite what it may have looked like to a plebes eyes, beating the Jets was a good win. The Skins gave up a special teams touchdown and allowed another three points due to a stupid personal foul call before they even had a chance to catch their breath. They ended up dominating the game in the trenches and only gave up 13 points on defense - to a quarterback who showed great escapability in the pocket and who was able to zip some passes to his receiving threats (something previous Jets opponents didn't have to worry about with Chad at the helm). The Skins also were minus Griff - a defensive stalwart who helps the front four with pocket push - and yet they still contained the Jets and kept pressure on all day.


Portis carried the ball 36 times! Explain to me how some washed-up, knee-crippled, fast-food eating punk could do that? Push. That's it - push. I know they did it against a bad run defense, but the offensive line is actually getting better. They've played together as a unit for 4+ weeks now and it's starting to show. CP ran behind Samuels and Kendall most of the game, but actually had some nice bursts behind Fabini and Wade (who got a game ball). A lot of this stuff is continuity, communication and timing: as CP gets used to this O-line and they get used to one-another, the running situation will only improve - 196 and a TD is a great start.


So what's it going to be? You can be a cowardly (third time I've used that word) hater and turn your TV off for the rest of the season - CP is done, the defense is reeling and they can't move the chains enough to win games against good teams - so don't even mention playoffs. OR - you can look at the fact that they're 5-3 at the midway point, have a tiebreak against Detroit, have lost to teams with a combined record of 22-3, have a star running back who is in prime form for the first time in two years, a defense that is lightning fast who will be getting their anchor back this week, an offensive line that is gelling, and a receiver (Santana Moss) that might actually be getting healthy again. And oh yeah - Randy Thomas WILL play against the Giants on December 15.


We're halfway through the marathon and I'm sticking with my boys. Are you?


Haters Out,




Looking at Week 2 v. Philly

1) CP the Workhorse - Don't expect to see CP running totally wild against Philly this week - he'll have to earn all his yards. Philly's run defense is seventh in the league and CP ran it 17 times for 69 yards (about 4.0 a clip) in their first meeting. Remember, that was the first game with the new O-Line (Thomas got hurt early) so we might see some improvement to those numbers. I see this one playing as a grind-it-out NFC battle and if CP can get 4-4.5 per carry and they can run him 25-30 times, they should be just fine. It seems like Gibbs is going to stick with the running game and has clearly made CP his top dog.


Interesting side note: Word around the NFL is that Gibbs has taken back the game planning and offensive direction of the team from Al Saunders - so don't expect anything cute going forward, just a lot of downhill running mixed in with some play action. Many believe Saunders's contract will be bought out after the season - if that's the case, I assume he'll marginalized more and more as the season goes on, especially if the offense improves.


An additional note on CP - whether you think Portis's early season struggles were due to the o-line, injuries, or him getting back into playing shape, I will admit this: whatever it was, it shattered his confidence. Against the Pats and Cards Portis wasn't running with any belief. It was as if he knew holes weren't going to open and he might as well brace himself for a big hit from an oncoming LB or Safety. Heck, CP hadn't had a 100 yard game in over a year and was struggling to get 3 yards a carry, why should he have had any confidence? Portis, who has all the swagger in the world off the field, wasn't running with the same swagger on it. CP put himself out on the line last week by saying he could carry the team against New York - whatever he knew ended up being right. Portis ran with aggression and spirit and I think he will use Sunday to propel him to better things (chayil to chayil baby).


2) JC Must Get it Done - Looking back at Skins/Eagles I, Jason Campbell was solid. He passed for 209 yards, but more importantly he spread the ball around and converted third downs (they were 8 of 15). Moss had his best game with 6 for 89, Randle El was big on third down and Cooley had that big TD before the half. It's gonna have to happen again. CP will get Jason to those 3rd and 3s and 3rd and 2s and the young man is going to have to make plays. Moss will be 100% for about 25 snaps, so JC will have to take advantage of 89 when he's in there, he's also going to have look to other targets (Yoder, McCardell and dare I say Lloyd). To be frank, Campbell hasn't been good of recent. He doesn't look confident in the pocket and his accuracy has faltered a bit. The kid's going to have to make plays to get the chains moving. The Eagles are more susceptible to the pass and their linebackers aren't good in coverage - the Skins will get opportunities and Jason must convert.


3) Front Four Must Get Push - Going back to Skins/Eagles I, the front four was excellent all night. They got in McNabb's face, forced bad throws and took him down. The same must happen again. I think we might see a little more safety blitzing to help the big guys out (the Eagles WRs are pretty weak so that isn't a concern), and Griffin's return should help Carter, Daniels and Montgomery collapse the pocket, making it easier for the guys behind them to force turnovers.


4) Containing Brian Westbrook - Brian Westbrook was very very good against us in the first go-round and the Eagles didn't use him when it mattered. He was getting major chunks in the first half and Reid (in typical manner) went to the pass throughout the second half. Reid will get smart (especially after seeing what Maroney did in the first quarter last week) and Westbrook will get a ton of carries - the Skins are going to have to stop him. The defensive gameplan will be different than in most previous weeks as the Eagles have a weak aerial attack but instead hand it to Westbrook and pass in the flat. The Skins will bring Landry and the LB's up to stop Westbrook and let Taylor worry about Brown as their lone down field threat. If the Skins stop Westbrook, they win. Easier said than done though.


5) Injury Update - The Skins are taking a different approach to Moss this week. They're gonna let him rest (sit him out of practice) and as I mentioned, limit his snaps so he isn't slowed later in the game. The strategy paid off against the Jets as Moss looked quicker than in weeks past. I hate making excuses for the anemic offense, but Moss's injury was a lot worse than people thought and he hasn't been the same WR - that's killed the passing game, and I think it will improve as he gets healthy. The Skins sat Griff today in practice, but all signs (JLCs blog) indicate he will go Sunday. Marcus Washington did conditioning drills, but the Skins don't seem to know if he'll go. Lastly, Smootsie (who missed most of the 4th quarter) won't be practicing all week in hopes of resting the hammy for Sunday. He'll be active, so we'll see how long he makes it. I think they actually can afford to take it easy with Smoot this week because of the lack of Eagles receiving threats, Springs and co. should be ok if Leif Ericson Smoot is still hobbled.


6) Prediction - I am convinced that Sunday will go just like the first matchup, except Portis will be more of a factor. As I mentioned, Dolla Bill will get a nice workload and help keep the Skins on the field more than we've been seeing. I also think the Skins are going to have to take some more up field shots if they want to score (as they did nicely up at the Linc). The Skins could get some fits from Westbrook, but I think a bad Eagles passing game will help the Skins out. Look for the B&G to get a nice boost from being back at home - they'll force at least 3 turnovers and work with much shorter fields than they did over the last two weeks. Redskins 24 Eagles 13.


Remember: Down with the hatas, up with the playas.